Develop 4 Levels of Team Discipline to Ensure Accountability on Your Team

By Jeff Janssen, Janssen Sports Leadership Center

Needing to create greater Accountability on your team?

Teams with Championship Cultures invest the time to create and sustain 4 Levels of Team Discipline within their programs. These four levels not only promote positive attitudes and actions but serve as a reliable safety net to catch people when they don't fully live up to your all-important Vision, Values, and Standards both on and off the playing field.

Learn about the characteristics and value of each level and rate how strongly you currently have the level in place for your program.

 

4 LEVELS OF TEAM DISCIPLINE

Level 1 Discipline – Personal Responsibility

The first level of team discipline is based on Personal Responsibility. Personal Responsibility means athletes discipline themselves to do what is expected, fulfill their duties, and follow your team’s rules and performance standards because they personally believe in them.

They show up on time, work hard in practice, complete the weight workouts, eat well, train in the offseason, etc., because they know these things are important to their individual success and your team’s success. They basically do what needs to be done because they want to; they see the sheer value in it and they responsibly and willingly do it. They take personal responsibility for their training because it is the right thing to do.

How well does your team currently have Level 1 Discipline in place on a 1 to 10 scale?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

If you did not rate your team at least a 9 or 10, what specifically can you do to improve it?

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Check out our Athlete's Responsibility Manual for straregies on how you can shore up or build Level 1 Disipline into your program for greater Personal Responsiblity.

Level 2 Discipline – Team Accountability

The second level of Team Discipline is based on Team Accountability. The athlete’s primary motivation at this level is to live up to your team’s expectations, Standards, and rules because they don't want to let down their teammates and coaches. At this level, your athletes understand they are responsible for themselves, but also accountable to their teammates. As we call it: #Responsible4Me and #Accountable2U

Athletes at Level 2 Discipline feel they owe it to each other to do the right thing and help the team succeed. They train, lift, condition, and compete because they willingly make sacrifices not just for themselves but for their teammates. They realize the Ripple Effect they have on their fellow teammates and know that their actions create either positive or negative consequences for tthe entire team. Athletes who abide by Level 2 Discipline feel fully accountble to their teammates and coaches and would not want to hurt their chances of success or embarrass them in any way.

"I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion." Mia Hamm, Soccer Legend

To help instill this Level 2 Discipline in your program, consider disciplining the whole team rather than just the individual when someone breaks a team rule. For example, if someone skips a scheduled workout, the entire team must run sprints instead of just the individual who missed the workout. Disciplining everyone for one person's lack of accountability quickly sends the message that what one person does impacts the whole team.

How well does your team currently have Level 2 Discipline in place on a 1 to 10 scale?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

If you did not rate your team at least a 9 or 10, what specifically can you do to improve it?

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If your team stuggles with Level 2 Discipline, check out our Teammate's Accountability Manual.

Level 3 Discipline – Captains Confront

The critical third level of Team Discipline is where your team captains and leaders step up and hold their teammates accountable. This level needs to occur when you have athletes who don’t take personal responsibility for themselves (Level 1) and/or they don’t understand or value their connection and accountability to their teammates (Level 2). These challenging athletes seem to have their own agenda, are clueless or couldn’t care less about their negative impact on the team, and your team captains must clarify your team’s Standards and set them straight.

Level 3 Discipline means your team leaders expect and demand that their teammates live up to your team's Standards and do the right thing. Unfortunately, this level of discipline is a challenging one to put in place because so many of today’s athletes are reluctant to and even scared to call out their misbehaving teammates.

At this important level, your captains serve as the critical Caretakers of your team’s culture and confront those who demonstrate Borderline, Unacceptable, or Nonnegotiable behavior. In short, they step up and enforce your team's Standards when teammates fall below them both on and off the court/field/ice/track/etc. However, if Level 3 Discipline is weak or nonexistent, accountability falls primarily to the coaching staff in Level 4.

“The entire aim of our policies at Tennessee is to get our athletes to discipline each other… We have evolved a system in which I don’t have to do a whole lot of punishing, penalizing, or pushing them. Our upperclassmen become the disciplinarians of our team instead of me.”
Pat Summitt, Legendary Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach

How well does your team currently have Level 3 Discipline in place on a 1 to 10 scale?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

If you did not rate your team at least a 9 or 10, what specifically can you do to improve it?

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If your team captains and leaders struggle to step up and hold their teammates accountable, check out our How to Hold People Accountable Manual which provides a practical seven step process they can use.

Level 4 Discipline – Coach Confronts

Finally, the last line of defense for Team Discipline is when the coach confronts athletes who are not accountable. You hope your team leaders can take care of many of the team problems at Level 3, but if they can’t because the issue is still happening or poses a threat to your team's success or culture, you must then step in at Level 4 and hold the line.

When it gets down to coaches at Level 4 Discipline, it is obviously something that needs to be dealt with and corrected. If someone doesn’t abide by your team’s Standards because they aren’t personally responsible enough to do so (Level 1), they don’t care about their connection to their teammates and how it adversely affects them (Level 2), and they won’t listen to or respect your team captains when they confront them about their concerning, detrimental, and/or unacceptable behavior (Level 3), it is time to bring in the coach as the last line of defense.

"Coach Belichick holds us accountable everyday. We appreciate when he's tough on us. He gets the best out of us." Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Being in a position of ultimate authority, coaches should have the clout, maturity, respect, and leadership skills to effectively discipline the person. They should be able to have a serious discussion with the person about their unacceptable behavior, what needs to be quickly changed and corrected, and the consequences for doing so or not doing so. Ultimately, if the coach doesn’t hold people accountable and preserve the team’s culture, all the other 3 Levels of Discipline will soon erode and crumble within your team.

Unfortunately, there’s a small percentage of coaches who have trouble enforcing the team rules and it has been a frustration that captains have expressed to me recently in my travels. These coaches either want to be their athletes’ friends, struggle with holding people accountable, or they have double standards for their superstar athletes. They try to push all the accountability off on their captains but aren't willing to step up themselves. When coaches aren’t willing to become the Level 4 disciplinarians they need to be, I can guarantee you that Level 3 Discipline is short-lived or non-existent. Captains will soon stop confronting their teammates if they know their coaches aren't willing to back them so make sure to have your captains' backs.

How well does your team currently have Level 4 Discipline in place on a 1 to 10 scale?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

If you did not rate your team at least a 9 or 10, what would you suggest your coach could do to improve it?

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If your coaching staff struggles to hold people accountable to your team's Standards and Culture, check out our How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture book.

Does Your Team Have These 4 Levels of Discipline Firmly in Place?

Where is YOUR TEAM when it comes to each of these 4 Levels of Discipline? Which levels do you have solidly in place and which levels need some time and attention to shore up?

Add up your total score from your four ratings to see how your team rates when it comes to the 4 Levels of Team Discipline overall:

36-40 = Spectacular - your team has a strong Culture of Discipline, congrats!
31-35 = Solid - your team is doing well overall with room for improvement in some areas
26-30 = Okay - your team is doing okay but there are definitely ways to improve your discipline
21-25 = Poor - your team has Levels of Discipline that need your immediate attention
  4-20 = Yikes! - make putting in these 4 Levels of Discipline a top priority for your program!

The time and effort you invest in establishing and solidifying these 4 Levels of Discipline goes a long way toward building and sustaining a Championship Culture in your program and promotes responsiblity and accountablity on your team. Ultimately you must decide if you want the pain of instituting discipline or the pain of regret for not doing so.

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