Scott Baker’s Walkin’ the Sidelines: Where is the commitment?

Commitment is something that many people say they greatly value. Likewise, many people truly believe that they are committed to their particular pursuits. However I’m seeing an increase in actions and behaviors that show very clearly that commitment is just another word for many people.

My thoughts on commitment could be summed up with the statement, “you are in or you are out.” It is that simple to me. There is no middle of the road or middle ground.

If you are a part of something, let’s say a team, then you are committed to it. That’s the world that I live in. However, I recognize that many are not living in the same world. While I don’t feel that my world is perfect, I feel that those who don’t live in the world of commitment with me are clearly one of those people that are out.

Why do so many fail to truly commit? They most often do so because commitment requires much from them. It requires much more than they are willing to give.

What does commitment require? Sacrifice. Maybe that’s where the problem is arising for some today. Simply put, some have no desire to sacrifice. Being an integral part of a team requires sacrifice.

It is that very sacrifice that some are not interested in today. You see, there are some today who miss practices and events for very routine things such as shopping, birthday parties, dates with their special someone and a multitude of other similar functions.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that those activities have their place and are important, but what I’m seeing and hearing with some athletes today is getting ridiculous and, to be frank, disgusts me.

Back in the day — my athletic days — I remember a high school athlete who decided that instead of participating in the first week of practice he would go on a trip to the beach with a friend.

At the beginning of the second week of practice, he returned to inform the coach that he was ready to roll. The coach looked at him like he was speaking an unknown dialect. You see, the coach did not allow the player to come out for the team.

He informed him that practice had started the week prior and it was too late to join. The issue was as simple as that and the case was closed. Clearly, it was obvious that the coach understood that in order for the team to be successful, players needed to commit.

They needed to decide whether they were in or out. Obviously, the player by failing to sacrifice had shown that he was not willing to commit. Therefore, he was out. Would such a reaction and decision by a coach today be accepted? I would hope but I’m not so sure, at least not judging by what I’m witnessing becoming more common in our athletic world.

Yes, there are more situations where athletes are missing practices to do fun things that even include week-long vacations during the season.

Week long vacations during the season? I can only ask this questions, are you serious? Is it possible that people do not know when their seasons are scheduled to begin and end? Do players and their parents not know when practices start? Or, is it more likely that they just don’t care?

I’ve come to realize that indeed this is a serious situation that is now a part of our athletic world. Well at least, it is part of some people’s athletic world. I say some because it certainly is not part of my athletic world. My reasoning behind that is as I see it quite simple: when you sign on to be part of a team, you commit.

You commit to doing what the team does when they do it. That includes when you have an offer to do other “fun things.”

Planning to take a vacation? Fine. Do it when the season is over or before it begins. Want to have a birthday party for a family member? Great. Do it when there are no practices or games scheduled.

Why? Because, your athlete is either in or they are out in terms of their commitment to their team. Does this require sacrifice? You bet it does.

However, you know what? When one sacrifices, they appreciate more the successes and failures that occur with their team. Now you might be saying, OK, I get the importance of commitment but you don’t understand what it’s like to have kids and plan around their team activities.

Nice try, but yes I do understand that completely. Having coached for 30-plus years and with two kids of my own in sports for the last 15-plus years, I do understand clearly the sacrifices needed to be committed to team functions and responsibilities.

While I don’t claim that my family or our way is perfect, I will tell you that we have one way of doing business when it comes to commitment to a team, we are all in. Not feeling well? If you are all in, you will get to practice. Sick? Stay home and get better. Hurt? Get to practice. Injured? Be with the team in a supportive mode.

Some who are reading this right now will likely be saying, “of course this is what you do in those situations.” However, let me assure you that in many cases today that is in fact not what is happening.

Players are missing practices and even games because they are hurt. No, I didn’t say injured. I said, hurt. Players are missing practices and games because they are going to birthday parties.

What this really comes down to for me is an inability to take any athlete seriously who misses games or practices for anything other than a legitimate reason or emergency.

Anyone who misses for anything other than a legitimate reason or emergency is to me not all in and so are therefore, all out. Athletes, claim all you want that sports are important to you, but unless you are willing to commit fully to your team and activities, you are living a lie and not fooling me.

In fact, the joke is actually on you at your team’s expense. Parents, you want to teach your kids commitment and sacrifice? Schedule controllable family activities around your child’s team functions.

Be sure that they are with their team at practices and games giving 100% all of the time. Don’t allow them to sit out because they hurt or because they don’t feel good.

Think about it. If we only worked on the days that we felt great, most of us wouldn’t have a job. Sacrifice and commitment is key. If you believe in it, show it. Not through your words, but resoundingly through your actions. Are you all in or all out? Is your child all in or all out?

The decision is yours to make. Choose wisely.

The athlete’s future will undoubtedly be enhanced by learning lessons of commitment through sports. Surely by learning to commit to something today, they will likely be more inclined to commit later to their spouse, family, job and whoever or whatever else deserves their sacrifice.

Life lessons learned through sports. Now that’s something to be committed to.


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