Recently, I had the privilege of helping facilitate a workshop at Beachwood High School for over 100 student-athlete leaders who attend schools throughout the Chagrin Valley Conference. While the purpose of our workshops is to inspire every youth athlete in attendance to become a better leader and Triple-Impact Competitor®, I have to admit I walked away feeling inspired myself.
During one of our exercises that morning, we discussed the concept of effort goals, and challenged the kids to work in sport-specific groups to create their own. If you’ve never attempted this, it can be a daunting task. Most of us are so programmed to look at the scoreboard and concentrate on outcome goals (wins, losses, points), it can be difficult to identify (and figure out how to measure) specific behaviors within the scope of our control that that can influence those outcomes. This task is hard enough for adults – and needless to say, the kids were certainly challenged – but they all rose to the occasion.
As we went around the room and talked about each group’s goals, one young woman in particular, a soccer player from Geneva High School, shared a statement that stopped me in my tracks. She said:
Never let the person behind you take your mistake
She went on to describe her belief that when you make a mistake in a game, you need to take responsibility for it. For example, if a defender steals the ball from you in soccer, instead of hanging your head and allowing her to get past you, you need to stay focused and hustle back on defense to prevent your teammates from having to make up for your mistake.
It was one of those “drop the mic” moments. Perhaps without knowing it, this young woman had effectively summed up the concept of accountability in one short, succinct phrase.
Accountability in athletics (and life) is a difficult concept to learn, and more importantly to put into practice. It’s not easy to own up to one’s mistake, especially if that mistake hurts the ability of your teammates to perform. What I loved about this statement and idea of “taking your own mistake” is that (1) it reinforces the importance of staying in the moment after a mistake and focusing on the next play and (2) it was truly inspiring to me that this young woman had decided to actually hold herself accountable for making sure her mistake didn’t negatively impact her teammates.
If only more of us adults shared the same sense of commitment to our co-workers, friends and families!
So I say to that young woman, and the entire group of student-athletes I worked with that morning, thank you. You’ve inspired me and provided me a new framework for how to define what accountability means in sports – and also in life. To be sure, I’ll be focused on “taking” my own mistakes from now on!