I don’t know about you, but I dream of the day I can hold tryouts for our school teams. If your program already does, then that’s great. Your school is probably well stocked with committed players and families. If you agree with my opening sentence, then today’s topic is going to be of interest to you. How do you get commitment from otherwise uncommitted people?
The joke at my high school in my playing days was, “If you can breathe, then you’re on the team.”
Now that’s not to say that we didn’t have good players or win any games, because we did.
However, my senior year of high school our basketball team started a first year player that was more into NASCAR than the NBA and had no idea who Kobe, Iverson, or Shaq even were. He was a decent athlete and understood what we were trying to do on the court, but he just wasn’t a basketball guy. He played to hang with his friends and help our school field the most competitive team possible.
Looking over my athletic career as a player and coach, I honestly can’t remember a team that had a squad full of athletic talent. Each team has had a few guys or girls that were there because they could be, not necessarily because they had a deep desire to play.
On many of those teams in my past, the uncommitted players either started or played significant minutes.
When we say uncommitted, we don’t mean that these kids are counterproductive to team sports. We just mean that these athletes could exist without your programs.
Unfortunately for your school, your programs can’t exist without them.
You may pick up on this attitude from your athletes or their parents. This is a problem that you will face in a school where an athletic culture hasn’t been established or had time to take root. So, what can you do to get the uncommitted to dive in and embrace your programs?
Any good leader will tell you that it’s hard to lead people who don’t want to be led.
Therefore, you need to show these athletes and/or their families what they have the opportunity to be a part of. More than likely, these people haven’t been involved in team sports before and don’t understand the concept of commitment to a group of people.
Help show them that they (both athletes and parents) are part of what makes your team important, successful, and valuable. Help them to see what being a part of your team will mean for them.
Let’s face it. Most people want to know what’s in it for them.
This is an attitude that permeates today’s youth. Now you shouldn’t hand out prizes for what is normal, expected behavior, but there is nothing wrong with a little added bonus for accomplishments.
We’ve heard of one athletic director that promises new uniforms to teams that maintain a 95% attendance rate for practices and a team GPA of 3.0 or higher. His words were, “We overspend our uniform budget every year, but that’s a cost we’re willing to incur.”
Incentives like this can add value to participation in your programs for both the players and their families. Think of some simple goals for your team in the area of commitment. Whatever it is, set the bar and let your team reach it.
This is a great way to teach young people about the importance of commitment.
You (and the rest of your coaching staff, if you have one) need to sit down and draft a player contract. In this contract, you need to outline what you expect of the athlete while they are in-season.
Academic, behavioral, and athletic guidelines should all be spelled out in black and white. Be sure to also include any discipline that would take place in failing to meet these guidelines.
It would also be wise to include a clause regarding the breaking of the contract. There should be some ramifications for going back on your word.
The athlete, parent, and coach should sign these contracts. You’ll find that parents will appreciate the value of this concept. Many young people also like the idea of being responsible to an agreement as well.
This is an idea that I wish I used sooner in our programs.
If you’re starting a new program, you need to gauge the commitment level of your team and their parents.
Many will sign up at the beginning and then pull out because it’s more work than they realized.
One way to approach this is by having a meeting well before the season starts with all those that are interested. At this meeting, show them three potential schedules:
- Track one, an almost over-the-top option with a full game schedule and long practices every day;
- Track two, a lighter, but still respectable schedule, with practice held everyday with exception of school holidays;
- Track three, a small schedule with one or two practices a week; basically a low commitment level.
Ask the group to collaboratively choose what track they like the best. More than likely, they will choose track two. No one wants track three, and no one in your group can handle track one (including you!).
As your new program grows year after year, you will find that people are used to the norm of track two. As your talent level improves, you’ll be able to add more games and demand a bit more practice time.
However, by offering options at the beginning you can help people to see what they’re willing to do. And, honestly, you can’t get more out of them than what they are willing to give.
These are just a few thoughts. Commitment is something that every program struggles with. We would love to hear what you do at your program to get commitment from the uncommitted.