This is the time of year when football fans all over the country count their chickens before they're hatched.
High School Senior athletes are being wined, dined, and treated to trips all over the country with the hopes of getting their commitment to play football. These athletes toss around terms that might confuse the uninformed. Some that we've seen this year: "Firmly committed", "Soft commitment", "Committed unless something better comes up" and others that lead one to wonder what they really mean.
Under the National Letter of Intent program, High School students are not truly committed to their schools until they sign a national letter of intent on the first day of February. Once that letter is signed, other schools are not permitted to contact the student. Until February 1, college coaches can and will do anything within the rules to get the athletes they want.
Since some students want to eliminate the constant calls and visits once they've made up their minds, they will announce their commitment to their chosen university. The problem is what happens after. Since colleges are still permitted to contact these students, they will do so if they feel that there is a chance that they can change the student or a parent's minds. Some students have started to redefine the meaning of the word commitment. They use adjectives like "soft" to indicate that they aren't really committed at all. Instead, they don't want that school to pull their scholarship offer while they wait for something better to come along.
In the end, there is a corruption of a word that means a lot to many people. Just as we would not respect a spouse who married just "until the right person comes along," we should not pay any particular respect to those who would use the word commitment lightly.
Choosing a college is hard enough for those who have no exceptional athletic or academic talents. For football players, the process is made more difficult by the lengths to which recruiters will go to attract them. It's an important decision, and nobody should diminish the tough choices that students have to make to further their education. Students should learn the meaning of the word commitment and use it only when they really mean it.
It certainly is a lesson that is better learned now, than later when a judge asks "Do you take this woman..."
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