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The Value of Commitment

The Value of Commitment

Jennifer Pappalardos love of gymnastics led her to a commitment to the sport, one that carried her through sacrifice and even suffering. There were probably many times when she didnt feel like continuing. Thats when she had to reach down deep and call on her commitment. In sports, as in most areas of life, when commitments reach a certain level, they are formalized.

When players go professional, theres always a contract. When I became a coach, there was a contract. At that stage, other peoples well-being depended on my fulfilling certain expectations . . . even if tremendous pressures developed for me to do something different.

When NBA coaches are hired, for instance, they typically sign a contract that commits them exclusively to a team until the season is over. Assistant coaches at this level easily make six figures. But head coaches can make millions a yearseveral times that of assistant coaches. Obviously the ambition of most assistant coaches is to land a head coaching position. However, a dilemma sometimes arises when the regular season ends and teams are looking for a new head coach. Any team that needs a new head coach can approach anyone in the league with an offeranyone, that is, except the assistant coaches of the playoff teams (who are sometimes the most attractive because of their record). Their season has not ended. They are still under contract and cannot legally begin bargaining for a new job. So heres where the pressure mounts: Do they comply with the constraints of their contracts, or do they negotiate under the table to land one of the highly coveted head coaching positions before the opportunities disappear? The incentive of an $800,000-a-year raise may tempt some to break the rules, but if a professional team is going to have any real success, the coaching staff must have committed, or decided, back at contract time, to stay together for the duration, no matter what. Interestingly, the Latin root of decide is decidere, literally to cut off all other possibilities.

Thats the meaning of commitmentto cut off all other possibilities.

My mom was the one who first taught me this. Many times she worked a double shift, either on the assembly line at Nabisco or at her job at K-Mart. They werent fun jobs, and she could have quit at any time. But she didnt. Because of her commitment to the familyour teamshe hung in there. Nothing could knock her out of the box. She was a single mother, and there were times when other possibilities presented themselves, but she had a commitment to our family. Had she been thinking only of herself, some new relationships might have been attractive to her. But she cut herself off from them because she knew they would have interfered with her mission for us as a family.

Was her sacrifice worth it? I think so. Because that was the very thing that kept me from quitting when it felt like Coach Nance was killing us. Oh, yeah, I wanted to quit! But how would I have ever faced Mom? I couldnt imagine dragging myself home and saying, It was just too tough for menot after what she went through to get me there. Her example led to my career. What is your example likely to produce in your children?

Our next-door neighbors have been married for approximately forty years. Recently, when my wife and I visited their home for a friendly gathering, out of curiosity we asked them what their secret was. We thought they might give us the ABCs of good communication, or tell us about the importance of choosing a compatible mate in the first place, or explain to us the mystery of compromise.

Instead, they looked knowingly at each other and said, Weve had our rough times. In fact, we faced some tremendous challengesthe kinds of things that have broken up a lot of other marriagesbut we simply decided to hang in there. And now were reaping the rewards.

Hang in there.

Thats it?

Of course, there are some important things to build into your family so that its not just hanging in there by the skin of your teeth. But sometimes to get to those things, to have the courage to work on those things, we have to hang in there in order to get through the rough places and out the other side.

Hanging in there often requires outside supportcounseling or encouragement from trustworthy friends. In my own marriage, its what has kept my wife, Sherialyn, and me together. The arrival of our three children, Sabrina, Kelley, and Ricky Jr., brought a dynamic we were not prepared for, and had it not been for the counsel of wise pastors from our church, we probably would have joined the ranks of the divorced.

But you have to be careful whose counsel you seek. So-called friends who only commiserate with you may make you feel good for a time, but, in the end, they dont have to pay the price. As a coach, I remember calling Jim Crews, the head coach at Evansville University, because I was totally frustrated with a couple of my players and didnt know what to do. He said, Well, what are you going to do to make your relationship with them better? I guess I had hoped he would say it was all right to boot them off the team. But he didnt let me off that easily. Even when I said that I had done all I could, he said, No way. Theres always one more thing you can do. So try it, and then call me.

Thats the kind of friend we need when were struggling in our marriage.

What is your level of commitment? Have you decided to keep your coaching staff together until the mission is accomplished? Have you decided to pursue your mission for your family, no matter what? Believe me, you wont be able to do it if you toy with the other possibilities. Youve got to decide; youve got to cut off all other possibilities!

Some people downplay the value of sports in our society. To them its just playing games, and theres no doubt that sports is far out of balance for many people. Nevertheless, it remains a bastion of certain values that sadly have fallen out of favor in much of our culture. Who is it that tells you, No pain, no gain? The coach. Almost everyone else, from the multimedia advertiser to the psychotherapist, will suggest theres an easier way to get what you want. Hey, Id be as delighted as the next guy if my car would go a hundred thousand miles without a tune-up. But you and I know its not going to happen. The no pain, no gain maxim is as true today as it was when our ancestors were bustin clods to get a crop.

Its natural for kids to seek the easy way outto avoid homework, tell a white lie, steal the leather jacket, change their moods with chemicals, but if you want to coach them in how to achieve true happiness and lasting values, you will have to demonstrate commitment.

Editors Note: This article will be continued next week.

Excerpted from: Coaching Your Kids in the Game of Life
Copyright 2000, The estate of Ricky Byrdsong
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.