6 Phases of the Commitment Continuum

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

6 Phases of the Commitment Continuum

By Seren Jones, Swimming World College Intern

Commitment in sport can be difficult to measure. In a sport as demanding as swimming, it is required that swimmers commit themselves to mandatory hours in the pool and in the weight room.

For many of us, being committed to something is considered healthy. It shows that we can invest our time and effort into a particular activity in order to earn success or improvement.

However, not every athlete has the same mindset. Although some may be committed, others may be resistant or compliant. The question is, how do we recognize and categorize these different attitudes? When does commitment become existent, or when does it become compulsion?

Jeff Janssen, author of “Seven Secrets of Successful Coaching” and “Championship Team Building,” developed a tool named the Commitment Continuum. In his book, “The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual,” he explains that the purpose of the continuum is to help team captains, leaders and coaches alike, understand the different types of characters and commitments that may exist in their teams.

As we analyze the spectrum, each of the six phases will become more positive and coachable – giving those who qualify for the category a better chance of success in the sport.

1. Resistant.

Evidently, resistant people resist being led. If an athlete belongs in this category, he or she is considered un-coachable. Usually, resistant athletes are narrow-minded, stubborn, and don’t allow themselves to be influenced by coaches and programs that are unfamiliar to them. Janssen believes that resistant people do not buy into the team’s common goal, “but instead pull in the opposite direction.”

2. Reluctant.

Reluctant athletes are not yet willing to buy into the team’s common goal. However, the word yet implies that there is hope. Reluctants are hesitant, and lack effort and enthusiasm the majority of the time. Such athletes like to let others buy into the coach and program before doing so themselves. Janssen explains that they are skeptical about committing to the team because they are often concerned that their investment is not going to pay off. Thus they are reluctant, not due to pessimism, but due to the fear of failure. In order to get such athletes to buy into the team and have faith in the coaches and the program, they require a lot of time, patience and encouragement.

3. Existent.

Existents merely exist in physicality. Although they regularly turn up to practice and go through the required motions, their minds are not present, which makes them apathetic both at practices and meets. Existents will swim but they don’t believe. Like reluctants, they require time, patience, and encouragement from team leaders and coaches in order to buy into the program and be successful. The mission is not impossible, but it can be exhausting.

4. Compliant.

According to Janssen, compliants are obedient soldiers who do what is expected, “but lack the initiative to go above and beyond the call of duty.” They do just enough to maintain whatever standard is set by the coach or team leader, but do nothing additional to surpass that standard. Although compliants understand the sport, they can frustrate coaches and team leaders as they fail to take initiative, and thus need constant direction and motivation. The majority of club swimmers fall under this category.

5. Committed.

Those who are committed are willing to go the extra mile to earn success for not only themselves, but for their team. They have individual and team goals that they seek to achieve, and do not need motivation from teammates and coaches. Committed athletes take initiative over their own goals, are aware of what their goals are, and how they are going to achieve them. Consequently, those who are committed are usually very successful athletes.

6. Compelled.

Athletes who are compelled go a step further than those who are committed. They have such a positive mentality, that Janssen states “no matter what obstacles, adversities, or distractions might stand in their way, compelled people are going to find a way.” They prepare, train, and compete at the highest level, and have an unwavering amount of faith in themselves, their team, their coaches and their program.

Athletes who are compelled do what their teammates do not: they consider nutrition, recovery, technique, and take every opportunity to become a better athlete. Those who are compelled believe in themselves and their goals, which makes them coachable and unstoppable.

According to Janssen, having the compelled mind set proves to be the most beneficial and successful for athletes. However, there is one more phase in the commitment continuum that actually does more harm than good to the individual and its team.


Photo Courtesy: Donna Nelson

Beyond the Spectrum: Obsessed.

Although there is a fine line between compelled and obsessed, Janssen claims that there is “a distinct difference.” Obsessed people lose their sense of perspective as they become so consumed with achieving a specific goal. They drive themselves crazy physically and mentally by overworking both in and out of the pool. Although they are highly committed, these athletes lack the necessary traits to become a team leader, as they “disregard the need for balance in their lives, as well as the importance of a recovery phase in their training.” Consequently, although they may not mean to harm, obsessed athletes can be dangerous to work with.

Now that we have briefed through the continuum, in which category do you see yourself and your teammates? Are you happy with the phase that you are in? If not, perhaps it may be a good idea to reflect on where you want to go in your career, and consider in which category you wish to be in order to achieve your goals.

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