By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about commitment. There appears to be a lot of confusion about what a commitment really is. Some people have said that a commitment doesn’t really mean anything. Others say that a commitment is your word and it should be final. Your word is your bond.
The Cambridge Dictionary says the definition of commitment is, “a promise or firm decision to do something.” A promise is generally accepted as a pledge that shouldn’t be broken. And yet we see people break commitments every day – especially in the world of athletics.
Why is that? Why do people feel no need to honor their commitments. In today’s society it is rare when we see a day go by that someone in sports is not breaking a commitment. Sometimes it is a coach breaking a written contract with his current employer because he has the opportunity to move to what’s considered a higher position where he can make more money. Other times it is an athletic director telling a coach that even though they have a written agreement he no longer has a job as the coach because the athletic director or powerful boosters feel that the coach isn’t winning enough games or maybe doesn’t control the program the way they feel it should be controlled.
Either way both sides have taken their “commitment” or pledge and thrown it out the window. It means nothing. And we have taught that same level of commitment to our children.
How many times has an athlete “committed” to a school only to come back later and renege on that commitment because they see what they believe is a better opportunity. How often do players accept a scholarship only to later transfer to another school because the circumstances aren’t what they thought they would be and now the grass looks greener somewhere else.
So since everyone — athletic directors, coaches and athletes — are all breaking their commitments should it really be a big deal?
Well let’s look at a couple of instances. Let’s use football as an example. Recently the University of Louisville fired its head coach, Bobby Petrino. They were no longer committed to Petrino because he only won two games this season. Of course they have to pay him the entire sum of his contract so most people say, “no big deal if they broke the commitment, he’s getting paid.”
But think about it. Because the commitment was broken there are now several assistant coaches who are unemployed. They may or may not be getting paid. They now have to uproot their families, move to a new location and start all over somewhere else. There are all kinds of support staff positions that lose their jobs — strength coaches, dietitians, assistants, etc. – that are also impacted by the breaking of this commitment. The players will now be playing for a new coach in a different scheme that they didn’t commit to. The ripple effect is felt by a lot of people, sometimes for a very long time. So is it important to keep the commitment?
There is also additional fallout from this broken commitment. The new head football coach that was hired at U of L decides that the commitment U of L Athletic Director Vince Tyra and former Head Coach Bobby Petrino made to 15 to 20 high school players that they would have a football scholarship next year at U of L now means nothing. The new coach, Scott Satterfield, told all his “commitments” that he was revoking their scholarship offers from U of L. Now these players, who passed up other offers because they were “committed” to U of L have nowhere to go to school. Since it is three weeks until National Signing Day most of the other schools have already moved on and made commitments of their own to other players. That means these former U of L “commitments” are left holding the bag because someone else decided to break their commitment somewhere back up the line.
What about the reverse situation of this? Let’s say a coach recruits a player for a couple of years. Puts in long hours traveling to see the player play. Works hard to build a good relationship with the player. Misses his own kids games, school events, birthdays so they he can build this great relationship with a player hoping to get his “commitment.” The player decides to commit. Holds a big press conference and publicly “commits” that he will play his sport at the aforementioned coach’s school. The coach is thrilled. He needs the player to help him win games and keep his job. All the hard work and sacrifice has paid off. He has a commitment.
Then in the last few days before National Signing Day the player gets a visit from another coach. A coach that represents a big powerhouse school. He didn’t bother to recruit the kid because the coach thought he could get a better player elsewhere . But now at the 11th hour he needs a player at this kid’s position. So he swoops in and makes an offer.
And like a girl who gets a last minute invitation to the prom from the most popular guy in school the player “de-commits” from the coach that spent literally years of his life developing this relationship and signs with the coach that only spent a few hours showing the kid his championship rings and how cute the girls at the new school will be.
Is that ok to de-commit? What is the fallout for the old coach? Now he has to scramble at the last minute hoping to find another player to fill his spot — maybe he will and maybe he won’t. If he can’t then maybe the next year the coach doesn’t win enough games and he gets fired. Another commitment is broken and the ripples start all over again.
So back to the original question. Is it ok to break your commitments? Do they really mean nothing? Here’s my take on it.
Many years ago a whole generation made a commitment to put their lives on the line to stop a madman named Adolph Hitler from taking over the world. Teenage boys committed to fight and die in a war they didn’t create so that others that came after them could live in a country free of tyranny.
I’m sure once they made it to the beaches of Normandy or the swamps of Guadalcanal they found out the conditions weren’t what they had been promised. They could have jumped up and said, “wait a minute , this isn’t what I was promised. Commitment or not, I’m out of here.” But they made a commitment and it cost many of them their lives to keep that commitment. But because of their willingness to keep a commitment the United States is a free nation today.
So the next time you hear someone say, “Oh it’s just a commitment, it doesn’t mean anything” think about all the commitments that have been kept in the past so that we all can lives our lives as we do today. With a little perspective it’s easier to see that commitments are important – and should be kept – even if it costs you something. Because sometimes the cause is bigger than you are and the sacrifice is made to accomplish a task that is larger than ensuring one individual’s comfort. But of course that’s just my opinion. What about yours?