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Conducting A Critique

The Critique Process
       Knowing the basic principles of conducting a good critique will make it possible for judges to effectively analyze and discuss a figure skating program. Take good notes to refer to as you consider what to focus in on and will allow you to create an effective and thoughtful interaction with the coach and skater(s).

       A critique should not attempt to communicate solely with negative statements, even if the intent is constructive criticism.

       The person offering the suggestions needs to be honest in offering their opinion by pointing out both positive and negative elements of the performance.

       Start the process by asking the skater some questions. Their answers will provide cues of how receptive a state of mind they are in and conduct the remaining conversation with that in mind.

    Sample questions to ask skaters:
  • What was most striking about the performance?

  • Were their visual and auditory highs and valleys in the performance?

  • Were parts repetitive?

  • What, if anything, seemed to be missing from the performance?

  • Are all of the required elements performed?
  • Does the skater known and understand the judging focus points?
  • Was there any emotional impact the performance had upon you?

    The following guidelines can help you in conducting a critique:
  • Emphasize that on any given day skaters may perform at their very highest level and not win or make errors and win. It all depends of the skills the skaters deliver when competing - not on the how well they skated on the practice sessions.
  • Establish and maintain rapport with the person you are critiquing.  Immediately cease the critique if you sense the person has shut down and is not responding.
  • Do not criticize if you cannot suggest an improvement.  It is extremely important to know what can be done to improve, solve or eliminate a problem or deficiency.
  • Cover the major strengths and weaknesses.  Try to be specific, and if possible give specific examples.
  • Avoid being maneuvered into the unpleasant position of defending a critique.  If the critique is honest, objective, constructive, and supported, no defense should be necessary.
  • The students should be informed of how the critique is conducted.  This will make it easier for them to follow the critique.
  • Don't be drawn into an argument with the person being critiqued or their coach.
  • Time is generally limited to critique a skater. Don't try to cover everything.  A few important points may be more beneficial than numerous, but poorly developed and expressed ideas.
  • If possible, prepare a written critique that they can take with them rather then depending on an oral critique that may not fully communicate your thoughts and suggestions.
  • Do not extend critique beyond its scheduled time.  The individual being critiqued will become overwhelmed and reach a point where they can't absorb more information.
  • Ideally you should allow time to summarize the critique as you are closing, so you can reemphasize the points they should remember.  The summary should highlight and reinforce what the skater(s) should take away from the critique.

Eight ways to critique without crushing your team's spirit June 10, 2011   Women Talk Sports
posted by Coach Dawn   Friday, June 10, 2011 at 4:31pm EDT


Me: Susie, if you take one more step and face your target, your pass will be right on the money.
Susie hears: You’re a horrible volleyball player.

Me: Betsy, you’re on the right track, just be sure to communicate with your teammates so that they know what you’re going to do.
Betsy hears: Not only do I think you’re a horrible volleyball player, your teammates hate you too.

If either of those scenarios sound a little too familiar, take heart.  According to an article in Psychology Today titled, A Chic Critique (April 2011), “people react strongly to criticism no matter how its delivered.”  That being said, I’m sure none of us is out to squish our team's spirit like a proverbial bug.  Let’s look at how we can critique without being critical.

  8 Rules To Effectively Deliver Negative Feedback

  1. Always lead with questions. In the process of obtaining feedback, ask if the person understands the question being asked.  The hard part about providing criticism is that it threatens that person’s membership in the group.  Ask questions that demonstrate that the athlete is part of a group effort.  As a question such as "Does this make sense?”.

  2. Never give criticism unless it’s been invited. An athlete, by virtue of being on a team, has given permission for a coach to criticize their performance. When a teacher grades a student, a coach gives a pep talk, or a parent guides a young child’s efforts, there’s a tacit agreement that praise and correction will be part of the proccess.

  3. Make sure you are seen as having the authority to give corrective feedback. Have you ever had a freshman give a senior some advice on how to perform a skill better?  Even if their advice is great, the senior probably will not receive it because the freshman has no authority yet.  If you’ve got one of those “helpful” freshmen, you should probably pull them aside and have a little chat with them.

  4. Distinguish whether a demand reflects your needs or is a valid critique of what they’re doing wrong. Coaches have their way of doing things. Since there may be different ways to do a specific task, they coach will benefit if he/she takes the time to persuade the athlete to "buy in" rather than taking an autocratic approach.

  5. Never give feedback when you’re angry. Easier said than done, right?  If there’s someone on your team that drives you crazy, let them become your assistant’s pet project.  I’ve even been known to tell my assistant to listen to my corrective statements during practice.  Like, “Katie is working my last nerve today, please make sure that I’m not picking on her at practice.”  Hopefully this keeps Katie from being a puddle of tears in the locker room.

  6. Know to whom you’re talking. Be prepared that “Narcissists take any criticism as a personal attack and those with feelings of insecurity will lose all of their self-esteem.”  It helps to administer a personality test to identify the optimum approaches to motivated your athletes.

  7. Know yourself. Personally, Coaches are people with different types of personalities. Some are outwardly sensitive to criticism and react defensively when they feel they are being challenged. Criticism stings and everyone would rather receive a steady stream of praise. Some athletes prefer to receive criticism without all of the frills.  However, others really need to hear the frills before they can process the criticism.  It is extremely important for a coach to avoid crushing completely those athletes who are especially sensitive to criticism.

  8. Expect defensiveness. Directness can immediately trigger a defensive response in many athletes, especially those who have an inflated opinion of their abilities. As a coach, the challenge is to overcome the initial reaction and orchestrate the desire change in their behavior.  The best approach is NOT to have the conversation in front of the athlete's peers.  Choose a time and place provides an environment that doesn't escalate the conversation into a highly charged emotional confrontation.

Recommended Reading:

Role of Technique in Choreographing Figure Skating Programs

Role of Music in Choreographing Figure Skating Programs

Role of the Choreographer in Figure Skating

Artistic and Interpretive Events

Showcase Events

Theater On Ice Events

PDF  Judging Systems


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Developing Personality Traits and Character Traits

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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