This is an excerpt from the Full Curl written by Coach Ostanik
Commitment. I think this word may mean something different to each of us. My definition of commitment comes from what I learned through my experiences as an athlete and from my parents.
There were a lot of things I wished I could have done growing up. I would have loved to hunt moose or caribou more often with my father. However, outside of a short hunting trip on the weekend prior to an off-week for our football team, once I became a high school football player and college basketball player, those experiences were off limits. Commitment was not negotiable for me. If I was going to play, my parents ensured I was all in.
Anyone who reads this column on even an occasional basis knows I believe strongly in the lessons sports can provide. Commitment is certainly one of these, or at least it used to be. When I grew up, joining a team meant you were there from the start of the year till the end.
Today, the player - in any sport - who is committed seems to be the exception, not the rule. However, I am not sure how much of this is due to today’s athlete. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “Kids today are different.” This may be true, but I think the greater difference is not the kids, but the parents raising them. Commitment is not demanded by parents, and without guidance of parents, only the truly exceptional student athlete is going to come to value commitment in their life.
I imagine many parents might suggest teaching commitment to be as much the responsibility of the coach as it is the parent. However, a coach cannot coach a player beyond the limits of the parent. If the coach preaches commitment, but the parents take their child on vacation during the sport season or okays missing practice for trivial reasons, the lesson is overridden. The coach spends two hours a day with a child, at most, while a parent gets the other twenty-two hours. The coach has no chance.
I am sure plenty of parents will argue spending time together as a family trumps the importance of practices or games. I am not suggesting there are no exceptions. However, for the most part, there is nothing a child will miss a practice or game for that they cannot experience later in life. I have shot four moose, including two with my father. I have been on countless vacations. My parents’ insistence on my never missing practice or games didn’t mean I missed out on those opportunities, it just meant those opportunities would be delayed. Heaven forbid we make our child wait for something later in life.
While I waited for the gratification these experiences would bring me, I learned a lesson in commitment that led me to even greater happiness.
I am no researcher of sociological norms, but perhaps this struggle with commitment in today’s youth is directly related to the fact that for the first time in the modern era, more young adults, or Millennials, live with mom or dad between the age of 18-34, than a romantic partner.
Let me be clear, I love my mom and dad, but the idea of my growing up and living in their basement, never entered my mind.
The level of commitment one demonstrates is directly proportionate to the amount one cares. This is something I say often to kids in basketball camps, as well as to my own players. It is unrealistic for me to expect full commitment from all my players at the high school level. However, the teams I have coached that have consisted of more committed players always outperformed the teams with less commitment. Having coached for twenty-three years, I have a pretty good idea going into a season what level of success my team can enjoy, based upon the off -season and pre-season commitment of my current players.
I know a lot of coaches and all of them value winning. However, more than winning, the majority of coaches I know would rather help foster the life skills necessary for a child to be successful, than win a game. Building these skills can be challenging when parents do not fully support the effort.
Let me also be clear, the level of commitment a child puts into a team or organization should be commensurate with that of the individual who leads it. I remember chatting with the Lathrop Boys Basketball coach about eight years ago, as we watched our teams warm up for an early January game. He mentioned he had traveled down to Arizona to play some golf over the break and asked me if I had a chance to get away. I said “no” and let him know we had practice over the break. He mentioned that his team had practice as well while he was gone. I told him I had to be at my practices. We went on to defeat a much more talented Lathop team. When the buzzer sounded, I knew why.
I want to encourage all of you to understand you are critical to any growth your son or daughter will experience through athletics — athletics, academics, and any activity your child is involved in. I know there are exceptions to everything, but the fewer exceptions you can find for your son or daughter to miss school or a practice or game, the better off your child will be in the long run.
You can follow all Monroe sports events by following Frank on Twitter: @thefullcurl.