There are no Accountability Police.


By Dr. Allison Belger

Last week, a friend of mine suggested that I write an article about accountability.  A mom of four children ranging in ages from five to twenty, she’d been pondering the topic as it related to parents being accountable to their children, no matter the developmental stage.  Days later, as I was doing community outreach with some teams in a competitive soccer club, accountability was on my mind.

Since graduating from college, I’ve coached a number of youth sports teams and have worked as a strength and conditioning specialist, which was my role earlier this week.  In training for team sports, athletes often have the opportunity to be competitive by measuring their workouts against others: sprints, skill work, endurance trials, you name it. One of things that has often puzzled me is how and why some kids complete the prescribed movements and number of repetitions and others “cheat” on the range of motion, number of reps, or both.  If you tell a group of 24 U10 soccer players to do 10 air squats, 10 burpees, 10 toe taps on the ball, and then dribble down and back twice, you would think you’d get from each of them 30 good reps and a dribble the full length and back, two times, every time.  But you’d often be wrong.  There are some kids who simply won’t do the full numbers—they are far too concerned about being first, or at least not being last.  They are less committed to doing the movements well, even when they are told that their improvement as a player lies in following the prescription.

A similar phenomenon can be witnessed in school.  A former classroom teacher and learning specialist, I’ve watched plenty of kids try to skimp on assignments, hoping to finish first in their class or avoid the dreaded last-place position.  No matter how many times they are told that the magic is in the process, the finish line looms large.

Developing accountability in team sports is a critical element of success: teammates must all pull their weight.  If eleven of fourteen players show up for pre-season camp in great shape and ready to roll, the three who haven’t done a thing to prepare have failed in their role as responsible team members.  If a coach brings low energy, a lack of preparedness, or a negative attitude, he has failed to be accountable in his role.  In youth sports, parents have responsibilities, too, and failing to provide support means a lack of accountability to the child and her team.

Accountability permeates our lives.  In each of our roles, we are accountable to someone, for something.  Whether you’re part of a management team at work, hold a leadership position in your religious community, are part of a book club, have children or are someone’s child, or are a member of a band, accountability is part of the gig.

How are you accountable to the people in your life?  Do you ever make choices for yourself that are different because of how they will affect those around you? Do you push yourself harder and persevere when the going gets tough, in part because you owe it to someone else?

Let’s say you’re training for an individual sport.   The accountability that is inherent in being on a team may not apply. However, when you’re struggling through a challenging session–straining to catch your breath at the track, gritting it out to stand up in a heavy squat, or working on your weak backhand in tennis–you might think of the people who’ve helped you get this far.  You may have coaches, fans, or family who have sacrificed something or supported you along the way.  They may not be present, and they will never know if you don’t give it your all, but you will know.  And if you continue to limit your efforts, eventually, they will know too.

Perhaps you’re not in training for anything; your fitness pursuits are health and wellness driven.  Choosing the harder road–going faster, pushing harder, completing the reps, refining the movement–sets you up for better outcomes and allows for increased accountability.  As I busted my butt doing a stair workout today—training for nothing other than life and overall fitness—I realized that my accountability to keep up the intensity related to the fact that I was away from my kids on a weekend morning. If I’m going to take the time to care for myself (and be a better mom for it), I’d better make it worthwhile.  Doing one less round on the stairs or letting my speed decrease with each round means I’m not holding up my end of the bargain—I’m not making the most of of my time away from my kids.

If you’re a teacher and you cut corners on lesson planning once or twice, your students might not notice.  Do that repeatedly, and they will.  If you’re a coach and you show up one morning tired and lacking conviction, your athlete may not be affected.   Do it regularly, and she will pay the price.  Doctors, lawyers, bankers, no matter; your clients need you to give your best effort.  Pet owner, spouse, grandson?  Yep, you get the idea; they all require accountability. Parenting? The top of the accountability food chain.

The tricky thing is that, more often than not, we can cheat the process. Most of the time, there are no accountability police; we must rely on our own internal cues. Even for those U10 soccer players training in a group, accountability is up to each individual. The other players are too busy counting their own reps and running their own race to take note of whether or not their teammates are playing it straight.  In the end, being accountable to ourselves is the best way to know for sure that we’re holding up our end of the bargain. We may need to act as our own surveillance camera: ever mindful, ever watchful.




  1. […] Article: Allison Belger talks about the fact that ‘There are no accountability police.’ […]

  2. […] Article: Allison Belger talks about the fact that ‘There are no accountability police.’ […]

  3. […] There Are No Accountability Police […]

  4. […] written before about taking responsibility for ourselves and about being accountable for our own actions and behaviors.  This time, my message is about taking responsibility for our outcomes as they relate to our […]

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