Peak Performance Ingredient: Accountability in Sports

It is no secret that success in any sport involves a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice. But what many fail to understand is that journey to success runs a lot deeper than the actions of the aspiring athlete. Whether it be in an individual or a team sport, a strong support network is vital to the success of an athlete. In fact, nobody does it alone. Whether you realize it or not, there are many people that play an important role along the way.

Whether it be sport-specific coaches and mentors, strength and conditioning experts, personal trainers, massage and recovery experts, physio, doctors, nutritionists, mental performance coaches, sports psychologists, counselors, therapists, direct and immediate family, close friends, teammates, co-workers… and the list goes on, there are a whole lot of helping hands that prime an athlete for success.

If you’ve played a sport of any level, you already know the sacrifices your mum, dad, or even a close family member make to get you to training, games, and everything else that is involved to give you the best opportunity to succeed.

One of the major ingredients to sports success – is accountability. Whether you’re involved in a team sport or an individual sport – a high level of accountability to yourself and others must be sustained in order to excel in your development.

“Accountability is essential to personal growth, as well as team growth. How can you improve if you’re never wrong? If you don’t admit a mistake and take responsibility for it, you’re bound to make the same one again.” – Pat Summitt

So here are 5 ways that you can hold yourself to a higher level of accountability:

  1. Create a vision and break it down into micro-goals.

Getting clear on exactly where you want to go and how you’re going to get there is a key step in providing the direction, motivation, and overall development as an athlete. The brain loves to be in control so when we are clear on our pathway, it is then just a matter of taking the action required. Once you have your vision or goal written down, break these down into micro-steps. Start from the end goal and ask yourself “What do you need to achieve to get to that step. And then what do you need to do before you get to that step”. The clearer you can become on this process, the more deliberate you can be in your action and avoid any overwhelm or procrastination. By breaking down that big vision, the more possible the goal becomes in your mind.

2. Focus on one task at a time.

With all the variables, distractions, and adversity that can be thrown at us – not only along the elite athlete journey but in everyday life as well, there is a lot than can absorb our focus. Whether it is mastering a certain skill, working on a particular weakness, or even just creating new habits that are going to give you the edge, it is important to focus on just one thing at a time. The human mind can only process and store about 7 pieces of information in our short-term memory. Anything over that and we start to feel overwhelmed. Keeping your focus on one task and dedicating sufficient time (and then some) to that task, will fast-track the developmental process.

3. Put rewards and penalties in place.

A great way to hold yourself accountable is by setting up rewards and penalties. Whether you are motivated toward something or away from something, this is a great way to take ownership and responsibility for your actions along the way. One rule to this though is to keep it effort and attitude-based. That is, set your rewards and penalties around the process of your goals, rather than the result of your goals. We don’t always control the result but we always control the process. Not only will this help with taking action and creating momentum, but it will start to develop the mindset that creates mental toughness.

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results” – Kenneth Blanchard

4. Record your progress.

Sometimes we get so caught up in reaching that dream, goal, or big vision for ourselves that we forget to celebrate our progress along the way. Not just the small achievements that help us along our path, but the person we are molded into on that journey. The beauty of recording your progress is that it gives you the necessary information to keep moving forward. If you fail, you learn the lessons of what you can do differently to change the result. If you succeed, you release those feel-good chemicals in your brain that allows you to become addicted to the process. In other words, recording your progress helps to create the motivation to reach that next step of your big vision.

5. Have someone else hold you accountable.

Research shows that when we publicly commit our goals to someone we give ourselves at least a 65% chance of committing to them. However, having a specific accountability partner increases your chance of success to 95%. The power of having someone else hold you accountable for what you say you are going to do is huge!! But before you approach someone to help you along your way, get out your pen and paper and get clear on who is the best candidate to keep you accountable, how they can keep you accountable, and by when. And to take it a step further, dig deep into why you’re doing this.

Not only does a strong team behind an athlete provide a high level of accountability to stick to a training program or eat a healthy diet, etc. But there has been research carried out that proves that a strong social support system can help also help an athlete perform better.

“Having a support network in your life and being a part of other people’s support networks, means you can add their energy and their mental, emotional, and physical resources to your measure of resiliency.” – Teal Swan

Researcher Tim Rees carried out a study surveying around 200 elite golfers (a game that requires one of the highest levels of mental fortitude). about their social support networks. After processing the results, Rees found that during more stressful pressured situations, the players with strong support systems improved their golf score by one shot per hole, and players with little social support actually performed worse adding three more shots to their score per hole.

Rees believes that the encouragement and support of those around an athlete is a key factor in building the confidence that ultimately helps them in high-pressure sporting situations. While confidence is a huge part of driving an athlete toward the opportunities that create success, there are a number of other benefits that having a strong support network can offer:

  • Listening – having someone there who can listen without making judgments or giving advice allows an athlete to share the joys of success as well as the frustrations of failure. Sometimes you feel better for simply getting it out of your system, and having someone you can trust to just listen can be a godsend.
  • Emotional Support – There are many outside stressors that can affect any performance, so having those there who can support an individual during an emotionally difficult time can fast-track an athlete to overcome the emotions and re-gain their focus.
  • Emotional Challenge – Those that challenge an individual to do their best to overcome obstacles and adversity and fulfill their goals. How much emotional challenge and how much emotional support depend on how the athlete is best motivated.
  • Shared Social Reality – Others with similar values, priorities, or perspectives that provide accountability and serve as real-life evidence that they are doing the right things. This can be in the form of a coach or mentor who has competed at elite levels or taken others to elite levels. Maybe even a teammate who has also achieved a level of success and challenges an athlete’s skill-set.
  • Technical Appreciation – This is a type of support most effectively provided by an individual with expertise in sports or a particular sport in which the athlete participates. Technical appreciation is best served by a coach or mentor that acknowledges when a good piece of work or achievement is accomplished. This furthers the belief in the athlete that they are on the right track.
  • Technical Challenge – Those in a position of leadership or mentorship, can challenge stretch, and encourage an athlete to achieve more, be more creative and create excitement around the individual athletes’ workload.

“The strength of the team is each individual team member. The strength of each individual member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

With the world of technology making it even easier to make contact and provide access to industry experts, professionals, and support systems – at the touch of a button… who can your athlete add to their support system to maximize development and performance?

– 𝐶𝑜𝑎𝑐ℎ 𝐶𝑎𝑙.

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