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How Do You Respond to Coaching?

April 27, 2017



Believe it or not there once was a time when each team, and its players, had one basketball coach and one coach only. That one coach was responsible for teaching each player how to improve his skills, organizing practice, conditioning the team, deciding which offenses and defenses to use, and managing the entire game (substitutions, timeouts, foul trouble, strategic adjustments, etc.) all by himself.


Today's game is absolutely entirely different. Every team has a bench full of coaches and many players have their own shooting coach, strength and conditioning coach, ball handling coach, mental toughness coach, school coach, and club coach. A lot of these coaches are paid by the athlete or his parents and so are forced to juggle the sometimes conflicting tasks of helping the player improve and not upsetting him to the point where he will leave and take his money with him. As a result some of these coaches spend much more time entertaining and encouraging than they do critiquing and coaching.


So what happens when you come across a demanding, no nonsense, results oriented coach who spends more time yelling "Again!" and "Hold your follow through!" than "Atta boy!" and "Good shot!" ? First of all be thankful! In this day and age of "everyone gets a trophy" it's the so called negative feedback that can actually help you get better and take your game to another level. So if you're lucky enough to have a coach who is willing to critique and sometimes criticize your game in order to help you improve there are really only four ways you can react. Choose wisely!


1. Ignore it

As long as you are completely satisfied with the way you are playing and the direction in which your career is headed then ignoring your coach's feedback is a viable option. However, most coaches don't like being ignored. You also need to realize that in order to get better something needs to change because if you do the same things you've always done you'll get the exact same results. It could be a minor tweak in technique, more quality repetitions, or an increase in intensity but something needs to change. Would you rather do things your way or be successful?


2. Quit

Some players just can't handle constant criticism and correction, so they quit being coached. I was in Portland, Oregon recently and was able to catch a game while I was there. During one of the media timeouts they had a contest called "Find the cheerleader." A guy was pulled out of the crowd and blind folded and was told to find the cheerleader who was standing somewhere on the court. When the guy was moving in the right direction the crowd would yell "Yay!" and would yell "Boo!" when the guy was getting off track. There was at least 10x more "boos" than "yays" especially in the beginning. But the blindfolded guy didn't take the criticism personal and didn't quit when he was constantly yelled at. Instead, he kept making corrections and eventually found the cheerleader and won the game. Neither would have happened if he had ignored the booing or quit being coached.


3. Hate the coach

I've never really understood this reaction but it happens all the time. A coach will tell a player that he needs to work harder defensively, that he needs to get his elbow under his shot or that he needs to develop his left hand and the player starts treating him like an arch enemy. Supplying feedback in the form of coaching is nothing more or less than providing information. Why would a student ever hate a teacher for trying to help him learn?


There are even some players who will reluctantly listen to their coach, take the necessary steps to improve their game, reap the rewards and satisfaction that come with improvement and still be mad at their coach for correcting them. It happens all the time and just thinking about it makes me shake my head in disbelief.


4. Listen, learn, and apply 

The fourth option is the only one that is really productive and can be game changing in a positive way. When your coach is actually coaching you don't be upset that he's not stroking your ego or telling you that you're perfect. Listen to him, learn from the situation or circumstance and find the best way to apply it to your game. Appreciate the fact that he thinks enough of you as a player to help you make corrections. It's when he stops coaching or correcting you that you should really start worrying!


If you're lucky enough to be around this game long enough, you are going to be coached, criticized, and corrected. How you respond both mentally and physically to that feedback is going to largely determine what kind of player you become and what kind of career you enjoy. Choose wisely!

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