Let me begin by saying that I have noticed many coaches (and others) on social media looking for ways to make their players more accountable. So I thought I’d do a little research on the topic and share some things that I found. There’s a lot of good stuff out there on accountability and I was overwhelmed with the amount of good information. I’ve put together some of the material I uncovered and am hoping this helps not only football coaches but everyone, whether in education, business, politics, or whatever. Let’s begin with a few definitions of accountability.
Accountable: Subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable.
Accountability means the willingness to accept responsibility for your actions.
We all want our players to be more accountable and as far as I can tell, many coaches are looking for ways and methods to hold our athletes more accountable. But, not only do our athletes have to be held accountable for performance and habits but so do ALL of us. There are a lot of key words in the first definition above.
- Obligation – We have an obligation to others to be accountable. It’s our duty.
- Report and Explain – To me that means having someone to answer to with an explanation of our actions.
- Justify – Why did we do what we did?
- Responsible – Obligated to do something.
- Answerable – Required to justify or explain.
So, as you can see, there’s a lot packed into that definition. But the question some have is, “How do you hold high school kids accountable? According to Bo Hanson, Director of Athlete Assessments, “Ultimately, accountability in sport means you believe that it is you (and only you) who creates your performance. This can be for the on field and off field performance.” Have we ever heard some of these excuses?
- I didn’t feel good today.
- I was in the wrong lane.
- Wasn’t my type of conditions.
- The refs made bad calls.
- The line didn’t block for me. (one of my NOT favorites)
- The umps strike zone was unfair.
- My mom didn’t wake me up in time.
- My mom forgot to pack my cleats…and the list goes on and on.
These athletes make excuses. So, back to our question of how to hold kids accountable. Well, I like a quote by legendary coach Pat Summit. She said, “Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.” Ah, ownership. The act or right of possessing something. OK, let the kids know it’s their team. In his bestselling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni explains that accountability “refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.” Here are three basic yet essential strategies from Lencioni to help you establish a foundation for accountability.
- Document clear & agreed upon team goals.
- Describe individual roles.
- Articulate standards of behavior.
I really like these three strategies. I’ve always been big on goals, individual and team. Make the kids write ’em down, discuss them, put them on their locker door. And I’ve coached with others who did a great job of explaining individual roles to players. That’s crucial. Finally, let them know the standards of behavior. That goes for communicating with your assistant coaches as well. But coaches, you are accountable to your athletes to give them what they want from a coach, such as:
- Treat them with respect and encourage them as they learn.
- Be a positive role model.
- Be a clear, consistent communicator and listener.
- Know about the game you are teaching. Kids can tell if you really don’t know your content.
- Make it safe to fail and learn.
You are also accountable to parents, to treat their child with respect and dignity. You need to be an encourager, not a discourager. You are accountable for building an environment of love and respect, not fear and intimidation.
According to Greg A. Shelley, Ph.D., Colgate and Lafayette Leadership Academies, “Accountability is about empowering, encouraging, and “pushing” others to accomplish a task. It is a rare person that “enjoys” being held accountable. Who wants to be told they need to gain strength, work harder, commit more, improve their attitude, or communicate more effectively? Holding others accountable is about helping others reach their goals and follow through with what they initially set out to do.” Below are what he suggests are several coach considerations for establishing individual and team accountability.
1. Clarify roles and talk “responsibility”.
2. Post scores, times, grade sheets, and statistics. (I like that)
3. Set agreed upon time frames.
4. Follow up with a call, text, tweet, email, or question
5. Allow “natural consequences”. Every behavior has a consequence. As difficult as it may be, consider allowing natural consequences to be experienced. For the star football athlete that breaks the team drinking policy, they will have to experience the pain of not playing, letting their teammates down, and suffering an unexpected loss having been absent from the lineup.
6. Communication. When a leader can effectively communicate, others can understand what they are accountable for. This requires being able to tell, ask, and listen to others.
Finally, I ran across this admonition to be accountable on twitter. It was in a locker room on a whiteboard. It read:
Where do you stand? Victim ———————————Accountable
Victim – blame others, hope it gets better, personal excuses.
Accountable – acknowledge reality, own it, find solutions.
We live in a society of being “victims” so it’s up to us football coaches to do our part in teaching being accountable.
Stories on Accountability
If you want to hear some stories and learn of holding players accountable from an “old” veteran coach, we’ve got just the guy. Retired Head Coach Donald Herman sat down with the cameras at Chiefpigskin to pass along some of the knowledge and experience gained in his 31 year Head Coaching Career. Under Coach Herman, his football teams won five Massachusetts State Championships and he was selected as the Boston Globe Coach of the Year in 2008. You will enjoy listening to his experiences as well as his ideas and what he has learned.
Remember, we here at Chiefpigskin are absolutely committed to helping ALL football coaches (including ourselves) become better at what we do. As we build our library we hope you’re building yours. Keep checking us out and see what’s new.
Coach L. Albaugh – DBLITY
When you blame others, you give up your power to change. Dr. Robert Anthony