Accountability. What is it? Back around the Summer of 2007, while visiting a friend and mentor, Pete Moore, I heard an often repeated phrase to his son and to the athletes that he trained: “Be a man of your word.” Simple, yet quite surprisingly very hard for many to do.
As I have gained experience training athletes over the past 15 years, the applicability to athletes, business partners, and friendships has only grown and become better understood. If someone does not do what they say they are going to do, how can the person be trusted? How can the person be taken seriously? How can the person grow and actually reach their potential?
Over time, I have learned to incorporate this concept in many things. In this post, we will specifically speak about athletes.
Prime example: Athlete wants to become a better shooter. Great. Assessment shows that, at baseline, the athlete can make 9/25 from 15 ft and 3/25 from 3pt range, and 6/24 for pullups. After discussion, a goal is set that in 1 month, the athletes wants to be able to make 15/25 from midrange. There are tweaks that can be made to make the shot look more consistent. Drills are implemented to build up the components of the larger action. A program is customized for this athlete with constraints in mind (school & family obligations, limited facility access). A schedule is put into place for training on the person’s own time. The athlete can already feel how the program has helped in the first session and is motivated (a temporary feeling) to put in the work. The athlete is educated on the difference between freedom of choice (choosing to do the training to improve and get better, making it priority), and freedom of consequence (making excuses, talking about why it could not happen).
To exemplify holding an athlete accountable, we will take a look at that situation. The tracking log is opened, and literally no work is done. I listen a bit to the athlete, who either is blunt and to the point (“I did not do it”) or dances around the subject (well, ah, you see). I ask the athlete “Were you sick? Was someone dying? Did you have an injury that prevented this?” (In which they should be contacting me to let me know anyways so I can prescribe alternatives). Most often the answer is no, so, they have a consequence that will make them feel very uncomfortable. This can include lunging, pushups, endurance work, etc. for a prolonged period of time, causing extreme physical & mental fatigue & soreness. Accountability can be a wakeup call. And it should be!
As a result of holding others accountable, the VAST MAJORITY of athletes come to the next training sore, but much improved because THEY PUT IN THE WORK THEY SAID THEY WOULD. They better understand the concept of freedom of choice, but not freedom of consequence.
There are people who disagree with this, and if that is the case, I am not the trainer for you. If I come to an agreement with an athlete and the work is not done and there is not a VALID reason (again, sickness, injury, death, serious family issue), I will hold you accountable in a way that makes you feel poorly physically, and possibly mentally. You have growth through ADVERSITY. If every single thing is sunshine and rainbows, there is no growth. I am all for positivity, but being held accountable is not always a positive feeling. There is always a BALANCE between the two. And even more importantly, if the work is not completed that was agreed upon, how will you accomplish your short-term goals (15/25 midrange) that lead to other goals (make the HS Varsity team & later earn a college scholarship)?
In those stages of extreme difficulty, it is then my opportunity to evaluate them deeper from a physical and mental standpoint to see how badly the athlete really wants to continue. If you cannot do what you say you are going to do, if you cannot work through the consequence that we agreed to, how on Earth are you going to be trusted to be focused enough while exhausted and make the right read in a pick & roll situation the coach drew up for you in double overtime? How are you going to be able to stay up and get your homework done for a big project? How are you going to wake up for work where people rely on you when you only slept 5 hours the night before because you had to help someone in the family?
Mindset can be trained and developed, but it needs to be allowed & appreciated through accountability. You can set up the perfect program, schedule things out, but at the end of the day, there is going to be adversity to overcome over the following days, weeks, months, & years as you try to become the best version of yourself. When you do not do your best & what you say you will do, and you are not held accountable, how do you grow and become the best version of YOU??
Very few of us reach our full potential. However, EVERYONE has an opportunity to become the best version of themselves. Accountability is key and needs to be encouraged so athletes and people alike can learn to become the best versions of themselves by overcoming adversity.