Better Coaches Mindset: Feedback, Criticism and Trust

By Doug Brotherton

This is the third post of the #BetterCoaches Mindset series in partnership with HoopGrind, and was originally published on its site here.  Read the first post exploring the Hedgehog Concept here, and the second post on Passion vs Obsession here.

 

If you attend any basketball practice around the world, you are likely to hear the Coach stressing the importance of communication. It might be talking on defense, echoing a play call, or two players interacting. If you really want to learn about the communication of a basketball team, watch the players and coaches when there is a breakdown on the court. Do the players take the time to communicate through the challenges, or does one player bark instructions at the other? Do the players demonstrate respect for each other, or do they settle for negative body language? Does the coach worry about blame, or finding a solution? Does the player respond well to the coach’s feedback? In most cases, this depends on the culture, trust, and experience of the team involved. Great players and teams have a growth mindset. They are constantly seeking information, which can help them improve and get better.

So, what is the difference between criticism and feedback?

To make it easy for our basketball team to understand, we have used the following to demonstrate the difference between criticism and feedback.

CRITICISM

Communicating a problem, which has already happened, and cannot be changed. Offering nothing to allow the person to improve or adjust their behavior/actions.

We want our team to avoid these messages.

EXAMPLE: “Becca, you have like eight turnovers. What are you doing!?!”

 —

FEEDBACK

Communicating a problem in a way that allows someone to fix the problem moving forward.

This is required for Championship level communication.

EXAMPLE: “Becca, we can’t win the game if we keep turning it over. If you feel sped up, jump stop, and be strong with the ball.”

THE POWER OF TRUST

Another perspective, which comes from Tim Grover, who became famous as Michael Jordan’s personal trainer, “the only difference between feedback and criticism is how you hear it.”

As a coach, the most powerful way to control what your players hear, is to develop trust. Players will take every message as feedback, if they trust you, and believe that you have their best interest at heart. As the saying goes, “Players do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” As a coach, there are few things that are more important than establishing trust with your players.

Trusting people is easy. Whenever a person says, I have a tough time trusting people, they are wrong. We all trust people, every single day. Let me prove it. When you get behind the wheel and drive on a two-lane road, you are trusting a total stranger to control their vehicle and stay in their lane. In reality, you are trusting a random stranger with your life. When you get sick, you are trusting a doctor to prescribe you the correct medicine, to help you get healthy.

As humans, we do not have a tough time with trust. We have a tough time trusting people, who have the ability to emotionally hurt us.

 

This is where players, and parents, have a tough time trusting some coaches. They worry about being emotionally wounded, by the coach. They worry that the experience of playing basketball, which players love, might be damaged. This is the power that a coach must realize, and then use to their advantage. Going back to the earlier message, if a player knows that you care, they will not have a difficult time with trust. When a player trusts you, they will take any message, regardless of the delivery, as necessary feedback. Most importantly, if there is consistent trust throughout the program, then a setback can be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow. This mindset will develop a team that is consistently improving and is bound to play their best basketball late in the season. Trust is a powerful tool. It helps players eliminate criticism, accept feedback, and is a necessary ingredient for a Championship team.

If you have questions, thoughts, or would like to further discuss this topic, you can reach Coach Doug Brotherton via email at: CoachBrotherton@gmail.com

He can also be reached on Twitter at: @CoachBrotherton


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Doug Brotherton
Doug Brotherton is currently the girls varsity basketball coach at The Village School, in Houston, Texas. He has over 15 years of head coaching experience, across multiple levels. He has coached boys high school basketball, girls high school basketball, and started the Men's Basketball program at Mid-Michigan Community College. He is a former NBA Regional Advanced Scout for the Chicago Bulls. He is the founder of Dynamic Coaching Tools (www.dynamiccoachingtools.com). Coach Brotherton was elected as the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Large Private School Board Member. Coach Brotherton helps develop the drill book and coaches packets for Jay Bilas Basketball Camps, as well as participating in its Coaching Development Program and presenting on the benefits of FastDraw. In 2018, Positive Coaches Alliance selected Coach Brotherton as one of the 50 Double-Goal Coach National Award Winners, for his positive impact on his athletes on the court and in life. In 2020, Brotherton led the Village School to the TAPPS 6A State Championship, earning Coach of the Year Honors in Texas. He was also the lead of the TABC Virtual Clinic, which featured over 100 speakers, made up of some of the biggest names in basketball.
December 5, 2017 – Piscataway, New Jersey, U.S. – Michigan State’s head coach Tom Izzo talks with guard Cassius Winston (5) during NCAA basketball action between the Michigan State Spartans and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. Michigan State defeated Rutgers 62-52. Duncan Williams/CSM(Credit Image: © Duncan Williams/CSM via ZUMA Wire)
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