#21 Critics

The beauty of our world is that no two people see things the same, as we all view the world through a different lens, a lens which has been formed through our own life experiences, opinions and circumstances. Life would simply be rather dull if we all viewed the world as one another did. There would be no room for creativity, flair or uniqueness.
We’d be robots, with nothing to differentiate our lives or passions.
Stating the obvious, these different views mean that there will inevitably be time of debate, disagreement and perhaps even conflict. At the heart of different opinions, are different values. Things that are important to you are less important to me. What you may love, I may loathe.
If there is passion, there is often conflict. Conflict is a sign that people care, which can only be a good thing …
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Masterchef you may, like me, find it comical that even among their ‘expert’ panel of food critics and restauranteurs, you can still get opinions ranging from ‘world class’ to ‘I can’t even finish it it’s that bad.’
The exact same dish, tasted by one panel of ‘expert food critics’ and some people hate it, whilst others love it. Fancy that!
What hope does the average restaurant have in getting rave reviews from critics if even top food critics can’t decide.
More importantly, and relevantly, what hope is there for your athletes to satisfy the opinions of the entire world with their routines and performances?
There isn’t, and you shouldn’t try either.
All that actually matters is the judges score, and even in gymnastics, there is a little room for subjectivity in that. It’s simply impossible to please EVERYBODY.
Do you think that Ricky Gervais worries about the audience that doesn’t enjoy his material when on stage? Absolutely not. He’s interested in the portion of the market that do. I don’t worry about people who don’t enjoy reading my blogs, attending my events or clinics or watching my videos. Those that aren’t my target audience aren’t my concern. I serve a community which loves my content and gets great value from it, all others don’t matter. But when they are ready or willing to to engage in it, the door is wide open, come on in.
Whilst subjectivity and opinion in life is welcome, the problem lies when this leads to direct criticism or hate towards athletes and coaches who follow a path or vision which isn’t in line with their own thoughts and views of the world. And i’m not just talking about coaching of course, this applies to all aspects of our lives.

FEAR
We’re not born with fear, but it doesn’t take long for society to start to engrain it into our daily thoughts and habits. By the time we’re into our teenage years, there are a whole host of newly found fears which cause much mental disruption and anxiety. That’s amplified furthermore into adulthood.
You only have to watch children play for a few minutes to witness an untainted mind in action. Young children believe they can conquer the world (and one day they might too!), they don’t have limiting beliefs, destructive thought patterns or fears. Adults are nothing more than deteriorated children, tainted through fear, society and the suppression of others’ opinions …
Does she like me?
What did he say about me?
What if this happens?
What will they say?
Did they see me fall over?
Did they like my routine?
What are they saying about my athletes?
Why are they laughing at me?
What if I fail?
What happens if he is successful?
What if she beats me?
Fear is one of our most common emotions, and certainly a great suppressor. Like many other emotions, fear isn’t based on fact, it is based on fictional stories, circumstances and worries that we create in our minds.
For clarity, fear is FICTIONAL, not FACTUAL, and creates a whole host of limiting beliefs that either stop us from pursuing our dreams, OR influence the way we see the world.
Leonni (my much, much better half) and I booked a holiday to Turkey last year, which coincided with the coup that was taking place back in July. I lost count of all the people that tried to instil fear into our minds, giving us a whole host of reasons why we shouldn’t, couldn’t, mustn’t go.
We went. We also had one of the best holidays we’ve been on.
I’m writing this on route to Israel, somewhat agitated that I couldn’t upgrade my ticket so i’m sitting next to a baby with bigger lungs than Pavarotti. Better luck next time.
It will be my third trip to Tel Aviv. It’s a beautiful place, and for the next few mornings i’ll be taking a stroll along the beach at 6am to get my head together and do some of my daily rituals. You could be forgiven for thinking that I was in Miami, but that’s rarely the picture which is painted by those who attempt to instil fear into me for visiting the Middle East.
Fear is fictional, not factual.
We’re all imperfect. We’re all flawed in many ways. We all have demons, ‘skeletons in our closets,’ emotional baggage we’d rather forget, moments we are ashamed of and times we wish could be erased from history forever. Whether coaching related or not. I certainly have many.
Everybody also has a story, and has faced some form of adversity (some on a far greater level than others in comparison,) and i’m frequently reminded of the importance of not judging people, after discovering the tragedies they have faced in previous times and understanding more about why people are they way they are.
All coaches and athletes have bad days, sometimes bad seasons, but it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to define somebody and become their identity.
That 10 year old athlete that just failed her grade may be being bought up by a single mum, who is struggling to support her, get her to the gym on time and look after the rest of her family. Her lifestyle is a country mile from high performance, yet she’s turning up each day ready to train and commit to her cause and goals. That’s impressive, even if her level of performance isn’t.
The 12 year old that just fell 5 times in competition may have recently lost her mother to illness, and has shown immense strength by still training and competing, albeit at a diluted level.
We’re often too quick to judge and too eager to criticise, which reminds me of the iceberg principle, that the snapshot we may see of an athlete in training, competition or on the television is a mere drop in the ocean of what they commit to, and that we are oblivious to the conditions or circumstances that they are training in (the remaining part of the iceberg, which accounts to around 90% of it, is never seen.)
We’re human. At any one time, we’re only acting in the best way that we know how. I don’t know anybody who is intentionally reckless or destructive to their own lives or performance. When we make mistakes, it’s through an error in judgement, we simply didn’t know any better.
Can you think of any one coach who wouldn’t provide a better service, better level of support, or coach to a higher standard if they knew how?
Criticism of others is often a bi-product of insecurity, which is a bi product of fear, and all of this creates one thing …

HATERS
‘Haters’ as they are commonly known today, are a destructive breed, who poison the minds of others with their toxic and often distorted view of the world based on their own insecurities and limiting beliefs.
A hater can infect a team or culture in rapid time.
Put simply, haters don’t love themselves, and therefore can’t love others, or publicly express praise or recognition for others.
Haters have low self respect, and therefore can’t demonstrate respect for others either.
On the flip side of the coin, individuals with high levels of self awareness, who are content with who they are, do not need the approval of others to pursue their dreams, nor do they have any qualms about praising others who succeed in their field. They understand there is plenty of success to be gained in life.
Now I hold my hands up, i’ve been on the negativity bandwagon too, but am well and truly off it, having spent a great deal of time in self reflection, self discovery and maturing through personal development and philosophy in recent years.
So where are you at? Are you happy for others when they succeed? Do you celebrate others’ success or does it threaten you? Do you invest time and energy in criticising others? Are you an energy angel of energy vampire?
The worst kind of hater of course is the individual who criticises others for following their dreams or standing up for their beliefs BUT is too fearful to take any action themselves. The very reason they are critical in the first place is often down to jealousy and their insecurities, created by the fictional fear which has paralysed them to take any action.
Even Simone Biles received criticism on Twitter and social media following the Rio Olympics (update – and in recent weeks too!), despite being arguably the greatest female gymnast of all time (i’d say so) and most likely for some years to come. She’s a phenomena, and the world is blessed to have had the opportunity to witness her ‘awesomeness’. I wonder what type of person was investing time in broadcasting a low opinion of her to the world on Twitter? Must be someone really insecure, unmotivated by goals, lacking inspiration, with far too much time i’d say …
There are few adults who can accomplish in a lifetime (in their respectively equivalent fields) what many elite athletes achieve before they even turn 15. But haters always seem to find something to fault.
It’s in our society. Turn on the news or open the tabloids and it’s filled with negativity and all the problems with the world. Wouldn’t it be great to turn on the news to hear about all the good that is happening in the world (there’s plenty of it!)
Limiting beliefs, insecurities and fears paralyse people to move forwards. Successful people (open for interpretation as always) find ways to manage their emotions and remove limiting beliefs from taking charge of their destiny. They optimise their mental state to aid performance. Focusing on hate will make you a more hateful person, and that’s not conducive to accomplish your goals.
I won’t be paralysed by the unimportant opinions of others, will you?
You may instead choose to use hate as the fertiliser to your success …
I’ve received my fair shame of criticism to date, and still do of course. As a young coach of about 16/17, I even received counselling for it (i’ve never shared that before, apart from my closest friends and family, but i’m not ashamed or embarrassed.) Young minds rarely know how to deal with negative criticism, and this only leads to further insecurities.
Not everybody’s comfortable with my vision, energy or accomplishments, and not everyone will be comfortable with your’s either. Some criticism has been rightly so, through error in my behaviour or judgment (we’re all human remember, and we only act at any given time in the best manner we know how) but much has been uncalled for, demonstrating a real lack of professionalism, particularly by people in positions who should be leaders and role models.
As a young coach, it affected me massively, and tormented me for several years. It’s only recently, through self discovery, awareness and being content with who I am that I can now rise above (sometimes even laugh at) the transparent behaviour of others who are throwing out hate and negativity.
When you understand what drives this kind of behaviour, it is easier to ignore.
I’ve had ‘experienced’ coaches who are 50 years old plus rally up to publicly ridicule me whilst delivering a coaching clinic. I’ve watched them high five and laugh with each other afterwards as a form of congratulating each other for being disruptive. I could write a book about the different lengths that some coaches have gone to to cause me some form of harm or to suppress me, but I don’t need to share it, nor do I need to play the victim.
The old Nick would be deflated, intimidated, even paranoid from this kind of behaviour. It’s simply upsetting to be treated in this way. The way I now think, and understand of human behaviour, is that these types of behaviours were brought along due to the individuals’ own insecurities.
Ridiculing me in public helped these coach’s to elevate their own sense of power and significance amongst the group, which is something that insecure people need in abundance. Sad really, but it’s reality, and the more you understand of human behaviour, the easier it is to be more content with oneself.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR ATHLETES
In the information age that we now live in, there has never been an easier time to access content and media. This brings an abundance of positive things along with it, but one challenge that our young generation faces today is the effortless exposure to hate, criticism and negative comments. It’s all over the media, magazines and Twitter amongst other platforms too. People can hide behind a profile without ever being identified. You can see the opinion of someone on the other side of the world, the moment it is published. Times have changed.
I’m aware of several high profile athletes being subjected to aggressive trolls and hateful people, whose sole purpose is to disrupt their emotions.
I’ve watched young athletes break down in tears after reading a blog post which is critical of their performance in podium training (for my non-gymnastics audience that is basically pre competition training in the same arena and conditions as the event will be taking place to familiarise themselves with the equipment, environment etc.)  the day before a major event. The opinion of a middle aged blogger with no competitive experience in any sport, criticising and affecting the performance of an athlete who has represented her country, travelled and competed in over a dozen nations, made friends all over the world and still manages ‘normal life’ all before the age of 16.
Unbelievable.
Words are weapons. Most adults can’t cope with criticism, let alone young minds.
You can’t escape it, you can’t police it. It’s here to stay. Quite frankly, it’s life, and our young athletes will be exposed to it pretty early, commonly at school also.
Our athletes need educating in this area. YOUR athletes need educating in this area.
Our athletes need to know that ‘where focus goes, energy flows,’ so when getting caught up in negativity, be it through the people they surround themselves with, the media they engage in and the thoughts they ultimately run through their minds, they are making a conscious choice to become powerless to external factors.
As coaches, we are our athletes most important critic. Our opinion, carries the most weight. It’s why we are the perfect person to educate them of the way of the world, to advise on best practice, to stay goal orientated and not let the opinion of others paralyse their performance.
I believe it’s critical to demonstrate this kind of mindset to our athletes also. We have to walk our talk.
It’s no good telling your athletes to not get upset about criticism, if we demonstrate a lack of emotional intelligence in front of the athlete when we receive a score we don’t like, or get beaten by a competitor.
Our own self control, emotional intelligence, mental resilience and self awareness comes first.
That means understanding our flaws as coaches as well as our strengths, understanding human behaviour (what causes or motivates people to do what they do,) and understanding our values and thought patterns/limiting beliefs.
It also means recognising that none of us are perfect, we all make mistakes and have dark moments, and we all need to be supported and not suppressed.
When our inner world is complete, our outer world and the way we interact with others improves greatly. Without being content with who we are and where we are going, it’s going to be difficult to demonstrate positive actions and behaviours towards others, or in front of our athletes.
As always, i’d love your feedback to this article. Hop on over to my Facebook page (CLICK HERE) or simply send an email to nick@nickruddock.com
By | 2017-01-05T06:50:19+00:00 January 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|

About the Author:

Nick Ruddock
Nick Ruddock contributed to historic medal winning performances on the international stage throughout his four-year term with British Gymnastics as National Coach, representing Great Britain and Team GB on numerous occasions throughout his national coaching role, culminating with the 2014 Junior European Championships, where the British girls captured a historic six-medal haul including a record Team Silver ahead of European superpower Romania. Nick, a former personal coach to Amy Tinkler; European, World and Olympic Medallist, has been mentored by some of the world’s most experienced and accomplished coaches throughout several influential countries. Nick has lectured as a Technical Expert for the UEG (Union of European Gymnastics) for 7 years, and consults for over 15 international gymnastics federations and a variety of performance sports, with a mission of optimizing athlete and coach performance for the world stage. For more information on Nick’s services, including online courses, conferences, events and coaching programmes, visit www.nickruddock.com