Criticism par for the course for underperforming athletes, but find middle ground, then move on

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics ended on Sunday. I enjoyed watching the Olympics, more so this year due to the friendly timing.

The sports I enjoyed watching were hockey, badminton, athletics, and women’s football.

Beyond the sporting performances – the triumph and despair of the athletes – I noticed this strong clamour online towards acknowledging the efforts of the participants, rather than criticising them if they didn’t perform well.

It is a dream for many sports-loving people to be able to play a sport professionally. But there are many different elements and traits one needs to have – talent, hard work, persistence, and discipline, among others – if they were to perform at the highest level.

Once in the ‘elite’ territory, athletes will quickly realise that they would be showered with praise if they did well, and suffer plenty of criticism if they didn’t.

It’s not right to be excessively critical when an athlete doesn’t do well. And it’s unfair to get personal. But constructive criticism should be allowed if an athlete underperforms.

An athlete needs to feel the fire of criticism and the pressure of having to produce results to do well. Without that motivating factor and extra fire, an athlete would feel it’s acceptable not to do well, and that as long as they took part, that was enough. That mentality would be fine for a child, but not for a world-class athlete.

There have been concerns raised over an athlete’s mental and emotional health in the face of fierce criticism when under-performing, but this is par for the course for an elite athlete; as it has been for generations of athletes before them.

While I understand why some people defend the efforts of the athletes over criticism from journalists, I feel we need to find a middle ground.

Be critical, especially if someone has performed below par, but at the same time, speak about the positives as well, and how they could improve.

After all, there is a silver lining behind every dark cloud.

The criticism should not go on for days. Finish it in a day, and move on.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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