The importance of commitment, in sports and beyond

Commitment.

It’s often what separates the great from the good enough. The achievers from the dreamers. And in sports, the champions from everyone else.

Commitment is about never settling or being satisfied. Staying the course when outside influences pull in a different direction. Working incessantly to improve rather than banking on prior success. Always testing a comfort zone.

It isn’t easy to remain committed. There are plenty of reasons to give into temptations. They’re everywhere. Even the voices in your own head challenge your loyalty to the process and your ability to focus on the task at hand.

Everyone loves a winner. Success can be fleeting, though. Fans are quick to praise publicly, yet criticize quietly. The support seems stable when things go well, but will often disappear overnight if adversity strikes.

Why? No commitment is required from afar.

I figure I’ve heard more than a hundred Matt Miller postgame speeches over the last 12 football seasons. The Fort Dodge Senior High head coach has poured his heart and soul into teams that have been great, teams that have been lousy, and everything in between. The personnel varies. Miller’s passion doesn’t.

Miller’s particular lesson on commitment – paraphrased above, but the general idea stands – caught my attention last Friday night. The sixth-ranked Dodgers had just defeated Sioux City North by the most lopsided score in the program’s modern era, 69-0. Miller felt the time was right to address the issue, because there is always a fine line to walk between confidence and arrogance. Thinking you’re good versus knowing you still need to get better. Believing in only yourself, compared to believing in each other, man to man.

Fort Dodge is undeniably talented, experienced and hungry. The Dodgers are 2-0 and gaining more attention by the day. All of the physical tools are in place to accomplish something special in the weeks to come.

The challenge will come in navigating the mental aspect of the season. Finding a balance in their emotional approach. Tuning out the noise from the segment of followers who believe too much, as well as those who don’t believe enough. Taking the praise and the criticism all in stride.

Miller’s words struck a chord with me, because this doesn’t necessarily have to be about just a high school football team. It’s applicable to all of us: at work, with our friends, in our families.

The sooner these players learn the value of commitment, the better.

Miller was specifically talking to his kids about how they will handle the pressures of this particular year. Yet the moral of this story doesn’t change, regardless of how the rest of the season transpires. In a broader context, Miller is preparing them for well beyond the Friday nights ahead.

Commitment opens doors, strengthens relationships, fosters leadership, and builds trust that simply cannot be imitated otherwise. We preach the value of it to our children, but must always remember that they learn by the examples we set – not just the words we speak.

How committed are you?

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net