The one thing we know for certain in sport is unpredictability. You had no way of predicting that "freak" injury, what moves the organization will make in the off-season, that your team would lose in the final seconds because of a mental error, or that your team would lose in the last inning because of an error. One of a small handful of things an athlete is able to predict, is taking 100% responsibility for their actions. This may include their level of performance, how physically prepared they are for the upcoming season, how well they manage their nutrition, or how well they manage their time in order to accomplish all of these things.
It would be easy to the point the finger at the teammate who had the mental error, allowing the other team to score the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the game. It would be easy to point the finger at the teammate that made the error allowing the other team to score the winning run in the last inning. But, if the game was that close, there is a possibility that every athlete on the team could have done something better over the course of the game that would not have allowed the score to be that close in the first place. That is the reason this piece is titled The Nighthawk Principle.
One of the veteran football players that was training with us a couple years ago went by the nickname Nighthawk. I asked him what was something he lived by that has helped him have a long and productive career. His answer, honestly evaluating his performance. Like I stated earlier, it would be easy to point fingers, but pointing fingers has no productive value. Pointing fingers will not help each athlete on the team make adjustments to their game in order to be more prepared for the next game. Pointing fingers will not show your teammate that you have their back, can disrupt team chemistry, and can chip away at the trust between teammates.
What we can do is take 100% responsibility for our own actions, honestly evaluate our performance, and make the necessary adjustments, knowing that everyone on the team is doing the same. Like Derin McMains stated in his PMR Project article on developing our mindset, "We're not always in control of the "what", but we are in control of the "how". So instead of placing blame elsewhere, we can change our response in a positive direction until we get the outcomes we want.
Sometimes over the course of a long season we may not see or feel the things that are preventing us from improving. In this case we can take a step back, focus on how we're preparing, and the results we are producing. Is how you're preparing leading you toward your goals? Are your results in sync with your goals? We can also ask for feedback. Sometimes we may be a bit fearful of hearing the feedback because making the necessary adjustments can take us out of our comfort zones. Comfort zones create complacency. Complacency makes it hard to grow. The truth can be hard to hear sometimes, and if you are unaware of it there is nothing you can do about it. But if you know what it is you can take action toward improvement.
Here are some other questions you can ask yourself:
- Is what I'm doing working?
- Are my negative thoughts and self talk limiting my performance? Hint: YES they are!
- What are the things I do when I'm at my best?
- Is there something I should stop doing?
- Should I be doing more individual work with my coach?
- Should I be putting more emphasis on recovery after games?
- Am I maintaining the fundamentals of my sport/position?
Last but not least, always protect the team & always pick up your teammate. You'll be happy you did when the ball bounces awkwardly for you.
Earn Respect Daily, Leave No Doubt