Such criticism will often feel very painful; it may even rise to the level of feeling like a betrayal. Sadly, depending on the source of the criticism and how long it persists, it may even get the coach fired.
This is why every coach should have this famous quote, known as “The Man in the Arena”, on their wall and should read it every day:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
President Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910
Most importantly, these are the things every coach should do as the person in the arena:
(1) Be sure the highest priority of what you do every day is developing players of high moral character and integrity, great leaders, and role models, The planning for every season, every training session, every practice, and every game should begin with how the coaches will proactively teach life lessons within the game for beyond the game. The expressions of gratitude from the people who matter most, your players, ten years after they played for you, will not be about the wins and losses; they will be about how you made them a better person.
(2) Be sure the universal goal of getting better every day begins with the coaches - personally, athletically, and professionally. Don’t just preach the standard; be the standard.
(3) Be sure the process and the methodology of how your team, program, league, and sport are operated and taught were better because you were involved. Speak, write, and volunteer to give others knowledge that will elevate what they do so that players far beyond your team and program will benefit from what you know and have done.
4) Be sure you and your team volunteer to serve the disabled and disadvantaged with no expectation of any kind of monetary return.
When you do these things, it will not matter what others outside the arena will say. Those in the arena will know the truth – that you were much more than a coach. You were a teacher, a role model, and a mentor – a true Champion for Life. For whatever time you had the privilege to spend in the arena, you can stand tall and be proud. You have served and served well.