In Handling Failure/Adversity, Out of Control Emotions/Jealousy and Anger, Teamwork

There are several players on the team who play year-round and think that they are God’s gift to creation. Yeah, they may be better than me, but does that give them the right to yell at and criticize me and some of my teammates when we mess up during games?! I find their comments upsetting. They make me uptight, kill my confidence and wreck my play! What should I do?

This is a very common problem on a lot of athletic teams where the better athletes somehow feel that they have a right to get angry at and criticize their less skilled teammates. From the standpoint of team unity and therefore, overall team performance, this kind of situation is extremely disruptive. Criticizing your teammates during and after games will NEVER help them lift their level of performance. On the contrary, it will most often make them nervous, undermine their self-confidence and distract them from focusing on the game and playing their role to the best of their capabilities.

If you’re in this uncomfortable situation of having older or more skilled athletes criticizing you, then you have two options available to you. First, go talk directly to the offending player(s) and try to get them to understand that their during-game criticism is hurting, not helping your play. Let them know that while you appreciate their intention to help you play better, the manner in which they’re going about this is not working for you. Help them understand that you could make better use of their feedback if it came in a more positive package and was presented to you in practice and NOT during games.

Unfortunately, option #1 doesn’t tend to work very well because the offending players are either older and/or more skilled and therefore, they wrongly believe that they have the right to “coach” you. Their belief makes them less approachable and closed to feedback. As a result, you need to then use option #2: GO DIRECTLY TO THE COACH! Tell the coach exactly what is happening!

It’s the coach’s job to maintain a safe and unified team atmosphere. It’s the coach’s job to be on the alert for “team busting” behaviors and when he/she becomes aware of these, to swiftly put a stop to them! To me, there is nothing more destructive to team work and the overall success of a program than having one or more players acting as a “critical coach” on or off the field.

Coaching in any way is NOT the domain of the player. It’s the coach’s job! If anyone needs to be critical of a player’s performance, it’s the coach and the coach alone!

If the coach allows this kind of on-field criticism to continue, then he/she is not doing his/her job! Athletes need to be repeatedly taught that getting down on a teammate for screwing up hurts those individuals and, ultimately, the whole team! Successful teams work together. If you feel that this isn’t going on on your squad, then alert the coach immediately.


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