Unraveling the Accountability Paradox
Something I’ve noticed recently in Youth Sports is everyone makes a team. If you try-out, you’ll make a team. It may not be the “Premier Team” or “Platinum Team” but you’ll be on the “Blue Team” or “Red Team”. I think this is all OK because it gets kids to still be able to play the game. But if your player really wants to be on the “Premier Team” and they don’t make it, and they end up on the “Red Team”, make sure they understand why.
When I was 13, I made the “B” travel hockey team and not the “A” travel hockey team. I really wanted to make the “A” team. I was mad, really mad. But again, my mother and father came in and hit me with some truth bombs: ‘While I was big and strong, I wasn’t as good of a skater as the A-team players.” As most 13-year-olds would, I disagreed and fought with them at the time but the honesty of their feedback stuck in the back of my mind. Without my parents being honest with me and pushing me to be accountable for what I was as a player, I would have never worked hard on skating that season and I would have never made the “A” travel team the following year.
How to Understand Accountability at a Young Age
Parents, coaches, and instructors need to start instilling accountability in their players. If your player ACTUALLY wants to make the all-star team or a select travel team or even get an A+ in school, help them understand:
- The steps it will take to get there
- The level of effort and work they will have to put in
- That they alone will be accountable for their success/failure
This won’t work every time. Sometimes your player won’t actually really want something, they’ll just say they will. Or they’ll start working hard for a couple of days and then it will fizzle out. That’s OK! They’re kids! This is an important note, make sure it is something that your player/kid truly wants and help them understand if they truly want it. For example, I really, really wanted to make the “A” travel team in hockey. In contrast, I didn’t actually want to be the best soccer player because I didn’t even really care for soccer. See the difference?
When Failure Occurs
The final important piece is if they do fail (and complain as I did after the soccer game), be positive and remind them that they are accountable for their actions. They probably won’t take it well the first couple of times but I promise you, it will eventually sink in and it will be a lesson that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.