"You don't know what you're doing..."
I'm sure all the coaches out there who are reading this have heard this line before.
I know I have.
In fact, if people are really being honest with themselves, there's probably a few parents reading this right now who have said those exact words about a coach.
Unfortunately, it seems like it has become the norm in sports, hockey included.
If there's one thing that I've learned over the past seven plus years being a head coach it's that it's impossible to make everyone happy.
As crazy as it may sound, I think coming to this realization has actually helped me a ton as a coach.
My first few years as a head coach, I wanted to make everyone happy. It made sense, I was young (24 years old) and inexperienced.
It was like anything you do for the first time... there was definitely a learning curve.
But, also like anything, you learn from your experiences and gain more confidence in your abilities as time goes by. Just like I tell my players, as a coach and person, I want to get 1% better everyday too.
For players, there's always critics too.
From our peers, to scouts, to parents, to coaches... it seems like someone is always judging the way you play.
The reality is that's the world we live in.
So as a player how do you deal with it?
For me, it comes down to two fairly simple principles (and they actually work off of one another...)
1. Be Genuine
Now obviously that's a very wide open answer that can be taken a number of different ways. But, when I say genuine, I mean that you are truthful to yourself and your teammates. That you are honest about the work you are putting in and your commitment to the group. It's easy to say the right things to people, but what are your actions really saying?
2. The Mirror Test
When you look at yourself in the mirror, are you proud of the person looking back at you? I said earlier that these two ideas work off of each other for a reason. If you're being honest with yourself and your teammates, you should have no problem looking in the mirror at the person who's looking back at you. You've laid it all on the line and can be proud of the effort. That doesn't always mean you get the result you, or your team, wanted, but you can be proud of the effort.
Speaking personally, it's amazing how much these ideas have helped me grow as a person, player, and coach.
The way I look at things is that if you can follow these two guidelines then no one has any sort of real justification to be critical of you. You worked as hard as you could and you did the best job that you could... it's pretty tough to argue with that. And the people that continue to be critical are simply just noise. They're the people that aren't going to be productive in your development and aren't going to bring you any value anyway, so why let them and their comments bother you?
That doesn't mean that it always makes things easier. Being told that you're an idiot or that you have no idea what you're doing never feels good. But, the reality is there's always going to be someone out there who doesn't like the job you do or the answer you give. The same can be said with decisions. There will still be tough decisions that need to be made and not everyone will always agree with them. That's the reality of life.
But for me, if I can look myself in the mirror at the end of the night and know that the decision that I made came from a good place with a good intention then that's all I can do. Of course mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned, but for me, they are more manageable when I know that they've come from a place of trying to do the right thing.
Be real with yourself. Be proud of the person looking back at you. And shut out the critics.