The Commitment Continuum.

I have read several of Jeff Janssen's books and one of the concepts that has really stuck with me is the Commitment Continuum seen above. I have thought back and applied this to teams I played on and to teams I have coached. Janssen has gotten it basically right.  A successful team needs players in the Compelled and Committed ranges.

One train of thought I have followed is the value of the Commitment Continuum in high school sports. In the coaching groups I communicate with via emails this is a fairly constant topic of discussion. In general these discussions center on the value of athletes who come to the first day of practice well conditioned or where soccer falls on an athletes priority list.

Through the course of these discussions my mind has traveled back to the countless hours I spent working on fundamental skills on my own.  At a rather early age I recognized the value of having similarly motivated players on my teams.  I carried these ideas with me when I began my coaching career. One of my first priorities with any team is to identify the self-motivated player.  If a selection process is involved I want as many of these players as possible on my team.

When coaching high school we are often called upon to work with whomever shows up to play. There will be compelled and committed players but also a lot, perhaps a majority, of players who fall lower on the Commitment Continuum. I have found for best results it is prudent to rely on the compelled or committed player over pure athletes who are compliant or existent on the commitment continuum. I will build my teams around the compelled and committed players and fill in the holes as necessary with the remaining players.

For high school teams I tend to give preference for starting positions to the players who also play club soccer.  I choose to build my teams around the soccer players instead of the athletes. It's great when the soccer players are also great athletes, but this is soccer and so we should want those whose priority sport is soccer playing the game. I look at this as valuing game intelligence over athleticism. An athlete may play harder, but the soccer player plays smarter. The soccer player understands the game and need not rely on frenetic play to accomplish what needs to be done. The soccer player is more likely to play in calm and poised manner.

I once had a player on club whose high school coaches openly called him lazy. They complained that he did not often enough run hard nor exert the same amounts of energy as his teammates did. The fact of the matter is, he didn't need to work as hard as his high school teammates because he was always 3 or 4 steps ahead of them in his thinking of the game, his game intelligence. While his soccer teammates were off playing basketball and baseball or running track, this young man was playing an additional 40-50 games of soccer each winter and spring.  Over the course of a high school career that equates to playing an additional 12 high school seasons.  Yeah, I want that experience front and center on my high school teams.

There is no substitution for experience in the game and it is the compelled or committed players who will have the most experience and who will have accumulated the most game intelligence. These are the players who should be the foundation of your team. 

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