Every high school coach winds up talking to their athletes about commitment. Sometimes we have students in our program who join the team and show up only once a week, and the coach wonders why they would join a team at all; another student joins the team fully committed, never missing a meeting, practice or team event. Like several other of my articles here, this article is born out of a need to explore the idea of commitment.

When I have a student on my swim or polo team who shows up only to a fraction of the practices, at first I am insulted that they would disregard the effort I put into the program, but then I realize that they are still kids (big kids) and I let it go. My next feeling is pity because I know, if they stick around long enough, that they are going to hit the wall in their progress and that they’ll realize that by being half-committed, it was they who built the wall that’s now holding them back.

What is commitment? Why is commitment important?

Having a commitment, or being committed takes a lot of forms, but really it’s putting value on something and showing that value through your actions. When we lack commitment, we are showing that we really don’t value that thing we are not really committed to. Simple! Nobody is truly committed to something they don’t care about. Parents know this, boyfriends and girlfriends know this, bosses know this, teammates know this, and coaches know this.

The thing is then, why do we do things we don’t care about? The answer is, we don’t. Ultimately, there is nothing we do that we do not hold some interest in. If you work a boring job, while you are not committed to the job, you are committed to the paycheck. Some people stay in failing relationships, and while they may no longer be committed to the relationship, they are committed to the sense of security that the relationship offers them.¬† With sports teams, while someone may have lost interest in really participating, they might still value, and therefore¬† remain somewhat committed to the idea of belonging to the team.

What about being committed to ourselves? There are lines of philosophy that say that everything we do is self-motivated, and that all action we take is result of a view that in some way we feel that action is going to benefit us. So along those lines, some say that we are unconditionally committed to ourselves. Interesting, but how true is this?

The flip-side of this appears when we look at the outcomes of half-commitments as compared to real commitments. Do they really benefit us? Most half-committed athletes are really only concerned about their own development and show up just enough to say they are involved and to be able to compete. The committed athlete is at every practice, working to improve themselves so they can be their best at competitions. Additionally, the committed athlete, by pushing themselves to improve at every practice, is also pushing their teammates to improve at every practice. In being fully committed to the team, this athlete is truthfully committed  to themselves. Everyone benefits from these types of commitments!

When we look back at the athlete who is only half-committed to the team, we see that while they are not pushing themselves at each practice, the team’s growth also suffers. So the quality of experience drops for everyone as a result of the lack of commitment. In their half-commitment, this athlete is robbing themselves and their team of the best experience possible. Nobody benefits from the half-commitment, and if this athlete is acting in their own best interest, they do not truly have a grasp of the bigger picture.

When we get involved with things and only allow ourselves to be half-committed, what we are ultimately doing is showing a lack of commitment to ourselves, and to the quality of experiences we have in life. When we get involved with things in our lives, we should be fully committed to ourselves and to the quality of our experiences. If life is important, so should be the quality and intensity of our commitments.

Stay Committed

& See you at the pool,

Coach Sean Banister