Like the power of setting goals and the importance of teamwork, accountability is another important value coaches help youth athletes develop.
Teams that lack accountability rarely reach their potential and more often resemble a collection of individuals than an actual team. A group climate of unaccountability can be demotivating and provide little reason for athletes to put forth their best efforts or work cooperatively with one another.
While cultivating accountability may start with the coach, it doesn’t end there. As NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Joe Dumars says, “On good teams, coaches hold players accountable. On great teams, players hold players accountable.”
So, what can youth athletes do to foster this kind of accountability within their teams?
One way coaches can help their youth athletes feel they have ownership of their team is to let them take part in creating some of the team rules at the beginning of each season.
Not only does this allow the athletes to establish rules specific to them, they will have a more vested interest in the rules because they played a role in creating them. There are plenty of environments where kids don’t have any control of the rules, but youth sports can be an opportunity for kids to have a say.
Particularly for younger players, it’s natural to make excuses when they make mistakes, especially if teammates make them feel guilty about them. But when athletes actively work to cultivate an excuse-free atmosphere, they create a culture that rewards accomplishment and seeks to prevent or fix mistakes instead of tossing around blame.
Making it clear that mistakes are inevitable but excuses aren’t allowed or welcomed also ends up making athletes feel more comfortable when singled out by a coach or teammate. This helps them understand that critique doesn’t come from a place of pettiness or personal vendetta, but simply from a desire to help the team to improve as a whole.
It’s one of the simplest things youth athletes can do, but also one of the most powerful: arriving on time to every practice, game, and team event. Regardless of the reason, being late to practice or games puts ‘me’ before the team and distracts and delays the team’s progress.
Athletes who make the effort to always show up on time (or early) for games and practices set the expectation for their teammates that the scheduled practice time means the time to show up and go to work.