Verbal Commitments: Facts and Fiction



You see this term all the time. So and so from whatever team has made a verbal commitment to whichever college program. Young players and their families chase all over the country hoping to be able to announce that they have “verbally committed” to the school of their choice.


There is however a great deal of confusion and misunderstandings about what a verbal commitment really means.


The Fiction


A verbal commitment is legally binding.


This is simply just not true. A verbal commitment is just what it sounds like, an agreement between a player, her family and the coach they commit to. It is very much like the old “handshake agreement.” It’s  a promise that has absolutely no legal teeth to it. In fact. many heartbroken parents have tried to fight the binding nature of these “handshake” agreements and have gotten nowhere.


If the coach I commit to leaves the school the school is obligated to honor my commitment.


This is absolutely false. Some schools will ask a new coach to honor a commitment that the last coach made, but the vast majority do not. And think of it, how many new coaches are coming into a new job and want to keep players that were committed to the coach that just left. Most coaches are going to want to recruit their own players.


The scholarship amount that the coach offered me will be the same amount when it comes time for me to sign.


Some coaches do make scholarship offers and will stick with that amount regardless of circumstances, but very often a coach will throw out a very strong financial offer early on in the process to get a commitment and then reduce the amount when the time comes to sign the scholarship.


Once I commit to a school, that coach is required to honor that commitment, no matter what.


Nothing more false has ever been written! Most coaches enter into a verbal commitment with honorable intentions. They are hopeful that things will work out and hope to honor the commitments they make. but…


The Facts


  • If a player fails to develop, gains a bunch of weight, stops hitting, loses interest in the game, gets into trouble, gets poor grades or whatever might happen, the coach can drop a player without any consequences.


  • Players and coaches both change their minds. The term de-commit has become common place in the sport of Fastpitch softball just as much as the idea of a college coach dumping a player. Both sides of this equation can and do, more and more, change their minds without any real consequences.


  • Many coaches do intend to honor the promises they make but the truth is that more and more coaches are under tremendous pressure to win. Do you really think a coach is going to put their job in jeopardy if a player they committed to a couple years ago can no longer help them win? Would you expect your boss to keep an under-performing employee that puts their business at risk to keep that employee?


The question that often comes out of understanding these truths is this:


If it isn’t legally binding then why would a player want to commit?


And a great question it is, to learn the answer, please look for the next part of this discussion.


About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.