How you handle information affects your performance
Separate The Good From The Bad
As an athlete, you are inundated with information every day. Tips, techniques, criticisms, and suggestions— in the heat of competition or during a strenuous practice, how can you process all this information? And furthermore, how can you separate helpful feedback from distracting messages? You might know the answer already-- maybe you heard it from your mom. “Don’t forget to shut the screen door.” A screen door is a filter, letting fresh air in, but keeping insects out-- allowing the good, prohibiting the bad. It’s a great allegory for how you can handle feedback. You don’t have to acknowledge and respond to everything you hear, nor should you block out all advice.
Using WIN To Manage FeedBack
Executing this strategy requires using one of the tenets of the WIN Method: asking better questions. In order to decide what information you should let in through your mental screen door, ask yourself, “is it helpful or harmful?” Information isn’t always clear cut; criticism that’s technically helpful can get in the way of your performance if it’s not said the right way at the right time. If your coach is yelling out a bunch of instructions during a hectic game, for example, what he’s saying might be necessary, but his tone detrimental to your focus. If you “let in” your coach’s attitude along with his instructions, you could feel frustrated, sad, or angry, and your playing will worsen as your confidence tanks. Use your mental screen door to block his tone and focus on the instructions. There are many players with overactive coaches who are forced to learn this skill well.
Some time ago I observed a college basketball team whose coach was quite a screamer. It only took a few minutes of watching them compete to see that many of the women reacted poorly to it. One of the better players managed to stay calm because she was very deliberate with her attention. This player would only look at her coach occasionally, not every time she yelled. If she heard helpful advice, she would take it in and repeat it to the team in a more controlled and calmer way. This player used two screen door skills: she did not let her coach’s voice into her mental game, and she had become an expert and identifying useful bits of information from her coach’s shouts. She had even taken it one step further and repeated this information to others in a better way.
We can’t control what feedback we receive, and that can be really difficult to deal with. The only thing you can do is manage what you’re hearing— consciously choose your interpretation and response. You’re responsible for how you react to information because, ultimately, you’re the only one that can dictate your performance.