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Coach’s Corner

Commitment & Dedication

by Scott Rosberg


Today I want to talk about commitment and dedication. I believe that commitment and dedication are two extremely important elements of any athlete’s success. Not all athletes have the same level of commitment to their sports. That’s also understandable, though, because not all athletes have the same feelings about the games they are playing. Obviously, most kids play a certain sport because they love it. But some play a sport because it helps prepare them for or stay in shape for the sport they really love. Some play because their parents want them to play. Some play because that’s what they have always done, they still enjoy it, and so they just keep doing it. So, with these different levels of enthusiasm come different levels of commitment.


Let me go no further without discussing to whom I am referring when discussing commitment to athletics. This is not an issue for the younger (grade-school age) kids. As I have talked about before, the number one focus of younger kids just getting started in athletics should be fun. Younger athletes need to develop a love of the games they are playing. When it comes to dedication and commitment to sports, I am talking about athletes in the high school ages and even down into the middle school ages. That’s not to say the older kids aren’t supposed to have fun, though. As I said before, it has to be fun at all levels of playing. However, what we deem fun and how we achieve enjoyment in our sports change as we get older. This is where commitment comes into play.


When young athletes are just starting out playing games, their enjoyment of the playing and participating should be the focus. As they get older, their ability to improve and be the best they can be starts to take over. That’s because at a certain age or ability level (and this varies from individual to individual) the game only continues to be fun if you can compete well with others. Now I have thrown a new verb into the equation: Compete. It is no longer about participation; it is now about competition. This is where winning and losing start to play a much bigger role. It’s more fun to win than to lose.


At the end of the games that you watch, does one team look like they were enjoying it a whole lot more than the other one? Certainly, the team that won had a whole lot more fun after the game than the team that lost. That’s not to say that winning is the only way to have fun in sports, though. Athletes will look back on their contests and feel that they were some of the most enjoyable times they have ever experienced. It’s just that it takes the teams that lost a little while to feel that way. That’s because when you are committed to something, you put everything you have into it. When it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, it hurts. This is true in anything that requires commitment, not just sports. Anytime someone leaves a job they were at for a long time or anytime a marriage falls apart, it hurts because so much time, emotion, effort, and love was invested in those relationships. Well, the same is true in athletic competition.


There’s that word again in a different form: Competition. Somewhere around sixth or seventh grade participation fades away as the number one focus, and competition takes over. Many of you may feel that’s a shame. Many people believe that it should always be only about participation. Most of those people never played a sport at a higher level, or they did and had a bad experience. Unfortunately, many of those people become parents who then pass that idea on to their children. Again, that is not necessarily a bad lesson for the younger athletes. But at some point, parents have to help their child realize that it is time for the child to get committed to the sport or think about giving it up on a competitive basis and just play it in the playground or in intramurals.


“But why is that?” some of you may be saying right now. “Why can’t my kid just play during the practice times and games and not put in any more time to the sport in the off-season?” Because it is no longer only about your kid. He or she has teammates, coaches, a school, and maybe a community who are all counting on him or her to represent them to the best of his or her abilities. The only way to do something to the best of one’s abilities is to make those abilities the best they can be. The only way to do that is to make a commitment to put in time to work at the game.


Uh, oh. A new word again: Work. “Scott, you never said anything about work before. You said it’s supposed to be fun.” It is supposed to be fun, and this is where coaches come into play.

One of our jobs as coaches is to show kids that working hard can be fun. If we put forth maximum effort in the off-season, on the practice floor, and on the game floor, then no matter what the outcome of the game, it will be fun. Why? Because you will have developed skills you never knew you had, relationships you never would have known, bonds with other people you never would have cared about, and a desire to succeed that will carry you through much more than just athletics. Also, if you have put forth maximum effort, you’re bound to win a few games along they way, and as I said earlier, it’s a lot of fun to win. However, if any one member of the team doesn’t put forth that maximum effort, then the whole group is diminished in some way. If two, three, or four people don’t work as hard as they can, it can be devastating to the efforts of the entire team.


“But my kid just isn’t into it that way anymore,” you may be saying. Then it is time for your kid to find out about the joys of intramurals and rec leagues. Intramurals and rec leagues are all about participation. Kids play the games they enjoy without the need for commitment to those games. They usually get together once a week for the games; that’s it. I was a high school intramural director for seven years. Even that got too competitive at times, but it still wasn’t anywhere near what the interscholastic sports were like. Talk to the administrators at your school about getting intramurals going for the many kids who have lost the desire to be so committed to a sport but who still enjoy the sport. It’s a good option.


“But I want to see my kid play in front of the crowd on Friday night.” Ah, now you are in it for you, not your kid. If your child doesn’t want it, it should end right there. However, if you have seen a level of commitment from your child before that is just missing now, maybe there is a larger problem. Sit down and talk with your child. Let him or her talk. Find out why he or she doesn’t want this anymore. Sometimes they are getting into things they shouldn’t be into. Sometimes new friends have influenced them away from sports. Sometimes they have just gotten burned out on the sport. Whatever it is, talk with your kid about it. If he or she has a truly legitimate reason not to play, then maybe it’s time to hang it up.


As a coach I don’t have a problem with that. Back in the 90s in my first go-round as the head basketball coach at Park High School, as is often the case, one of our players also played football. I was also an assistant football coach at the time. This player decided over the summer before his senior year that he didn’t want to play football anymore. He’d had enough. He wasn’t having any fun at it anymore, and he enjoyed soccer more than football. So he decided to hang up the football cleats.


The head football coach and I were good friends, and he told me that I needed to talk to the player to convince him to go out for football. I told the coach that I would talk to the player, but that I would not tell him he should play football. I said that I would find out why the young man didn’t want to play football and that I would try to point out the benefits of playing football.


But I also said that if this kid didn’t want to play football, he shouldn’t play football. First, he would be miserable. More importantly, he wouldn’t be helping the team at all because he didn’t want to be there. This leads back to commitment. If he didn’t want to be there, he wasn’t going to be giving it his all. If he wasn’t going to do that, he could potentially be hurting the team. Also, he would be taking a spot away from someone who truly had the desire and commitment but maybe not the same ability level. At that point, I believe it is time to let him go. He didn’t play football that year, and from all I could tell he enjoyed his senior year. Could the football team have used him? You bet. But at what price for both him and the team?


So if you are a young athlete in or approaching high school years, it’s time to make a decision. How committed are you going to be to become the best you can possibly be? Many of us talk about how much we want to be good and to win, but how many of us are willing to put in all the time it takes to get there?


Dedication and commitment require a lot of sacrifice. You must give up a lot to get a lot. But if you do, the rewards can be phenomenal. And remember that when you are a part of a team, it is no longer about just you. You are a necessary component of something much bigger than yourself, and if you stop working, the whole team breaks down. So stop reading the newspaper, and get out there and start working to become the best you can be.


 

To check out more materials from Scott, go to his website SlamDunkSuccess.com. You can email Scott at https://slamdunksuccess.com/



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