May 15, 2012 by David Gillaspie

You’ll know when you make one. Better yet, you’ll know if others do too.

A real commitment, THE commitment, is the filter your life passes through every waking moment.

Sleeping moments, too.

Those who don’t know about THE commitment will never be your friend.

Those who know and still don’t get it will be your best friends.

That’s how it works. Now you know. But just in case you don’t, here are the steps with easy to understand examples:

 First Step: A PLAN

Remember the myth about a father who helps his son escape prison with him by making wings of wax and feathers. He warned the son not to fly too high or he’d have trouble.

Once free, the son keeps flying higher and higher until his wings melt and he plummets to his death. (Think parachute malfunction.)

The plan was to escape, not go Black Bird and set a high-flight record. The son didn’t follow the plan.

Moral: Find a voice of experience in sports or church or school and pay attention. Before you make THE commitment, run it by them for improvements.


If the voice of experience (VOE) makes good recommendations, go with them.

But keep adding your own work. That’s part of making any commitment, let alone THE commitment.

Help yourself by answering these questions: Am I up to the challenge? Will I make exceptions for the sake of convenience? What do I have to give up?

Two Ukrainians brothers own all the heavyweight boxing titles. Because they are brothers, and because they promised their mother, they will never sign for a unification fight.

One of the brothers holds a PhD from a Kiev college. That’s right, a heavyweight boxing champion went to school and came out with the highest academic degree on the schedule. And he’s still an active fighter.

This guy understands time management. THE commitment takes lots of that. He may not understand the head-trauma part of boxing, but he will.


When athletes lock onto a dream, sports fans follow. They celebrate victories, give attaboys in defeat, and stand-by for the dream to fade. Fans live in a real-life world. You see older fans and wonder what commitments they’ve made besides team gear and beer, because it’s not THE commitment.

How athletes make commitments and thrive depends on their dedication. The right food, the right rest, and the right training helps everyone; it’s stuff happening in between that gets in the way. Pushing it aside is part of the work.

The Portland Trail Blazers cut their big man this year. Greg Oden is no longer an Oregonian, if he ever was. Instead, he’s a guy spinning his gears in neutral while he waits for his body to heal. He’s uncomfortable with fans, socially awkward when approached.

He wonders what they want. It goes both ways.

Fans see Oden in the context of the great NBA big men, from George Mikan who proved that moving a large body won’t make your heart explode, to Lew Alcindor relating to Milwaukee when he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to Shaquille O’Neal showing the world some Louisiana love from LSU.

These guys were all Lakers. Oden in a Laker warm-up? Why not. If he makes THE Commitment it could happen, but what does he commit to? The game? The team? Or something else.

The greats make the first commitment to themselves.

“I will do what losers won’t do. I will do what it takes to win.”

Step Four: Who To Follow

Dan Gable was the superstar of college wrestling at Iowa State. He was the guy who always won, who others pointed to and said, “Do you know who that is?”

In heroic fashion, Gable took his hard to fathom undefeated record into his last college match to win his third straight national championship.

Except he lost to Canby native Larry Owens who wrestled for the University of Washington.

Afterward, Gable did what all losers do, he hit the showers to wash off the flop-sweat. That’s where he found a teammate in the locker room.

From Gable: “Chuck was a guy who had to wrestle after I lost my championship match (to Larry Owings) in 1970. I remember that I was sitting in the locker room by myself and I noticed that someone was taking a shower. I finally looked in there and it was Chuck Jean. Right before I looked, he was called up on deck to wrestle his championship match. I yelled to him, saying, “Chuck, you’re on.” He looked at me and basically had tears in his eyes and said, “Gable, I’ve never wrestled in a lineup after you lost. I’m not about to now. He was going to forfeit his match.

“I believe my role as a coach started right there. Whatever bad feelings I had about my match, I jumped on him right away and told him, “What you are doing now by not wrestling will hurt me in the long run.” He jumped into his uniform and ran out, won the match.”

All Dan Gable did after that was hit the coach’s chair for one of the most legendary careers in history.

THE Commitment is first to yourself. After that you can’t go wrong. Whether it’s sports, family, or work, your commitment raises everyone’s game.

(also posted on

12 thoughts on “THE COMMITMENT

  1. Stephen Wilkinson says:

    I just stumbled upon this page and noticed you credit my former coach as being a great teacher, and I could not agree more, Bruce Glenn was a great coach/teacher/leader/father-figure to so many of us that had the honor of wrestling for him at West Albany.

    • BoomerPDX says:

      Some guys are difference makers that last a lifetime. He’s one of them.

      When guys like you say the same thing, it makes it all that much better.

  2. markmmullins says:

    Check out Time Magazine 5/14/12 issue. John Irving “The Wrestler”, cool piece. Inducted into National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      That’s a great find, Mark. Of course he takes the author through a duck-under straight to the mat. I read a quote from him when he was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He said he could always find a wrestler to workout with, usually a guy coming back from an injury, or something else that slowed them down.

      You ever have older guys show up in a wrestling room and start tearing up the team? You said something about Wayne Wells once, but he was an earlier Sooner when he came in, not a later Sooner.

      • markmmullins says:

        Yep, on rare occassions we would get “fresh meat” like that, not that Wayne Wells fit that description. He was like so many Russian wrestlers, going after it in their 40’s

        • David Gillaspie says:

          When you say ‘fresh meat’ I think of time Vern Brecke came back to the wrestling room. And Gary West. My favorite was Bruce Glenn. None of them were fresh meat. We were their fresh meat, but they were also good teachers, especially Bruce Glenn.

        • markmmullins says:

          Three cheers to that

  3. markmmullins says:

    Motivation comes in so many venues. Would be nice to have the ability to motivate like Gable did. Good story

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Gable said he wrestled so his folks would have something to take their mind off his sister’s gruesome murder. What if he found the same kind of guys, athletes who wrestled to help their family members struggling with bad times. Would that explain Iowa dominance during the Gable Era?

      • markmmullins says:

        Wow that’s a fascinating take on Gable, the guy was truly a renaissance man. Pretty intuitive and sensitive to his family’s needs.

        • David Gillaspie says:

          I’m thinking that’s how the master motivators get people off their butt, working the layers and peeling them back each step of the way to their agreed upon goal. Have you ever heard him mention who his mentors were? It’s got to be out there somewhere.

        • markmmullins says:

          Nary a clue, I think he was the original, no one before him, . . . maybe Churchill? lol

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