Professional Soccer Players and Criticism

Recently, several comments have been made in the Mane Land to the effect that athletes at the professional level should be able to take harsh criticism, even from their coaches in a public setting. I disagree.

Professional athletes start with a blank slate as kids, just like all of us, duh! They soon discover that they have a talent. As they mature, they learn that they have an opportunity to be very good. They begin to work: running, practicing fundamental skills, learning, lifting weights---working, sweating, working, sweating, working. And then with a mystical bodda boom-bodda bing, they are a professional athlete.

As a professional they realize that the biological difference between themselves and those athletes who didn’t make it to the major league is very small. The physical difference between running a 9.025 and a 9.35 in a 100-meter race, may come down to an eighth of an inch of twitch fibers, or eye-hand reflexes in the thousandths of a second while playing table tennis, or a slightly wider field of peripheral vision when throwing a football from the pocket.

What combination of physical attributes makes Messi the all-time greatest ever dribbler of a soccer ball? We don’t know, and neither does he.

Professional athletes don’t know what factors in their internals allow them to be a professional. They know who encouraged them, supported and inspired them, and how hard they worked; but they don’t know what makes them physically different than the other thousands of other quality athletes who worked hard, but did not make the Bigs.

Not knowing this leads to feelings of insecurity in professional athletes. That is why simply playing at the professional level should not be a license to coaches or other administrators for harsh, public criticism and/or humiliation of a professional athlete. Athletes at the professional level are just normal human beings. They have insecurities like all of us. Being at the professional level does not mean that they are "strong" enough to weather public humiliation without an adverse effect.