Column: Fit to be committed
During the past few months I have shared with you some important lessons I have learned during my lifetime.
I held one back, not because it didn’t deserve inclusion, but because I wanted to expand on the topic.
It is about a boy I coached years ago.
It was my senior year of college. A professor called to ask if I would be interested in coaching the local high school basketball team. The teacher hired to be the coach decided he “wasn’t up to it.” The professor was my department head and he assured me that my classwork would not suffer.
It took me only a few minutes to agree to be interviewed by the District Superintendent who I met with later that morning. The interview went well and I got the job. “When do I start?” I asked. His reply was succinct and a bit of a shock: “This afternoon would be good. Your first game is in three days.”
Faced with 45 eager candidates, I enlisted the help of four seniors who had lettered the previous year to help me select the team.
At the end of the tryout, we compared notes. The five of us agreed quickly on 11 of the 12 candidates we needed for the team, but were at odds over one boy—Jonesy. He was squat, heavily muscled, and looked like a fullback. Which he was.
“He’s not a basketball player,” I said resolutely.
“No, but he’ll be good for the team,” Chuck answered.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because he gives 100 percent and sees to it that the rest of us do too.” replied a smiling Billy.
That was good enough for me, so the fullback became the 12th man.
And he taught me far more than I taught him. He was inspirational. He always hustled, practiced full out, encouraged the team from the bench where he “played” most of the games, and never once complained or shirked an assignment.
He personified the work ethic.
Several weeks into the season I discovered that after each practice Jones would walk (or run) the six miles to his home. There were no school buses that ran that late and no possibility of his catching a ride.
As the season ran down, I questioned Jones about his work ethic. He told me that his father was the source who taught him that whatever he chose to do, he must do it with full effort.
“What he drummed into me,” he explained, “was that once you make a commitment, you are honor bound to meet it.”
I was thinking of Jones recently when I re-read a poem written by W.N. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.
Until one is committed
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation)
there is one elementary truth,
the ignorance of which kills
countless ideas and splendid plans;
that the moment one commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
raising in one’s favor all manner
of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance,
which no man could have dreamt
would have come his way.
I have learned a deep respect
for one of Goethe’s cutlets:
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can…begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and
magic in it.”
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