Next to my parents, the most influential people in my life were athletic coaches. Both made it perfectly clear I was responsible for my actions.
Not once in all my years did I hear them say the word “accountable.” But looking back, they used more synonyms than I could count describing accountability. Take care of your position first. Don’t let your teammates down. Don’t make excuses. The list went on and on.
My high school in Texas was fairly big—3-A based on student enrollment—and the second largest at the time. Fortunately for me, we had a winning tradition in all sports, especially football. Over a thirty-year period, before I started school and after I graduated, we won around eighty percent of our games. Winning was expected . . . every year.
One day I came home after practice and plopped onto the couch, dejected because I wasn’t getting enough playing time.
Dad sat in his chair, smoking his pipe. I can still smell the aroma of cherry blended tobacco. As usual, he was reading the paper and barely noticed.
After several deep breaths and loud exhales from me, he lowered the paper, looked over the top of his bifocals, and took the pipe out of his mouth. “Something on your mind, son?”
That was my chance to vent. “The coaches are being unfair. They’re playing a junior ahead of me. I’m a much better player than that guy. How could they do that?” My cocky, know-it-all sophomore persona boasted.
As I spouted my woe-is-me story, Dad slowly nodded like he agreed. Sure the coaches would get an earful tomorrow, I moved to get off the couch.
“Here’s how I see it.” Dad’s direct look pushed me back into the cushions. “You have two choices. Quit the team or get better and beat out that junior.” Then he leaned toward me with a glare that would stop the heart of a lion. “Don’t come home and complain about this sort of thing again. Do you read me?”
“Yes, sir,” I sheepishly whispered.
Dad put the pipe to his lips, gave a couple of hard puffs, and picked up the paper as if nothing of importance had ever happened.
Accountability Lesson 101—Don’t make excuses.
Our school locker room had a sign over the chalkboard. Winners never quit. Quitters never win. As players, we understood we were accountable to give the effort to win. The coaches told us this. “Do the hard work in practice that unsuccessful teams aren’t willing to do. Get better every day. Strive for perfection.”
What they meant was pay the price in practice to earn the victory on Friday night. This one principal alone applies to any situation in life.
Accountability Lesson 102—Outwork your opponent.
I interviewed for a job once that I thought was a done deal and was turned down. If you’ve ever been rejected, you know that feeling. But humility is not a bad thing. Let it teach you to be a better person. How you face your problems, and what you learn from failure, can sometimes teach you more than winning. Just don’t make losing a habit. Channel your mind in a positive direction after a setback.
Accountability Lesson 103—Be humble.
Life’s not easy. It never has been and never will be. Be accountable for your actions and don’t make excuses. Work harder and smarter than your competition. Learn from your failures and don’t expect anything to be given to you. Appreciate and recognize those who helped you along the way. I don’t know of a single person who has accomplished his goals without the support of great parents, grandparents, coaches, or mentors—so pass on what you’ve learned to others and be a role model they want to follow.
Bill Briscoe is the author of Pepperman’s Promise: Prequel to The Pepperman Mysteries and Perplexity, Book One of the series. Both are available through Amazon at amzn.to/2hlk0Qx.To follow the release of Bill’s next book, sign up for his newsletter at his website www.billbriscoe.com.