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Then this is the place for you! Brain SPEC is the product of Mark Simpson. A table tennis player himself he is using his experiences and what he has learned from his sport psychology training to help you enhance your own or your players' performances!



Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Creating Accountability in an individual sport

The Expert in a Year challenge was a huge success! Ok, not a success in achieving its goal of Sam reaching the top 250. Sam will even admit he was not even close to being successful based on his goal...
But it was a success in perseverance, a success in keeping up the challenge even on the days when they didn't want to. Keeping up the challenge on those cold, tired, busy mornings and, to be perfectly honest, nobody would really blame them for taking an extra hour in bed, eating that extra scoop of ice cream, drinking that extra beer. But they didn't, they kept going.
This says a lot about the internal motivation that they possessed. That drive inside them to achieve the goal was undoubtedly strong. However at times even that would fail them, so what kept them going?


One of the big things that kept them going was their accountability. In a team sport, like football you have the rest of your teammates relying upon you to do what you have to do for you all to succeed. That group is with you on the training pitch, with you in the gym, watching whether you are slacking or not. And if they catch you slacking, they are sure to let you know. While this is not the best reason to be your first call for why you do these things, when that primary internal reason fails, this is a very helpful backup to push you through those momentary dark times.
Those momentary dark times, when your primary motivation is failing is when you are most likely to give up, that nagging thought in the back of your mind- `missing one session won't make a difference`- can become even stronger and once that takes hold it can easily lead to a slippery slope to more and more missed sessions, and even giving up. So having that team around you to support you and push you through those particular time can be very helpful.
However, what if you don't have a team around you? If you play an individual sport, sometimes you have those days and days of activities and training sessions where there is not another person in sight. And if there is another person in sight they are most likely just focusing on their own thing and don't care what you are doing. Perhaps it is even beneficial to them to not care if you slack off or miss a session because they may be a direct competitor of yours.
So how do you keep this accountability through these times.

Find `training buddies`

Exercise clubs and gyms have been offering deals for `gym buddies` for a while now. Come along with a friend and you both get a discount. Partly this is for their own gain- getting 2 people in the gym means more money than 1 person- but also it is to help encourage more regular attendance and therefore a fitter population. You can incorporate this into your own plans. Find someone who has similar goals to you and make an agreement to push each other. Wherever possible to train at the same times (together) and keep each other honest about it. Skipping a session should not be ok (unless for extreme circumstances) and you should feel comfortable telling each other that!

Find `accountability supporters`

Make a commitment to inform other people of your progress. Sam had many many people regularly following his progress. If he slacked off, thousands of people would know about it. Ok, telling the whole internet might be a big step, but this can be as simple as telling a few close trusted friends, `this is what I want to do`, and give them permission to challenge you on it, ask about how it is going, this will help them to give you the push when you need it.

Be honest!

If you are not honest about how much you are actually doing, how will your training buddies and supporters know when to push you, when to comfort you, when to congratulate you? If you are not honest with them they are not effective.

(In England at least) I have found that there is a certain pressure to play down the amount of work you are putting in. There appears to be more adulation to be attained from seeming to winning/improving effortlessly. It is seen as good to boast how little training you have been able to do but still win, as if the `natural` ability is to be praised. When people make an honest effort to work hard for their goal and take things as professionally as possible they get shot down and laughed at. If you begin being more honest about how much you have trained, how hard you work, how much you want to win, perhaps others will also start to feel comfortable sharing their effort levels. All of a sudden there begins to be a shift in the `culture` towards one that sees working hard as acceptable.

On the other hand sometimes people like to boast about how much they have done. This is also not helpful, as other people be easily discouraged by comparison or also the lack of improvement seen despite `all this work you're doing` in the end will show you to be exaggerating.

What do you think? Please leave your feedback at the bottom of the page and if you found this interesting check out some of the other posts on the website or get in touch at

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