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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Towards Independence

Among the many quotable lines from Steven Pressfield's The War of Art is one that reads as follows:

“The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”

If an athlete has to clean the locker room for showing up late to practice, they won't be late because they don't want to clean the locker room.

If an athlete has to go to a weights session to get to travel, they'll go to the weights session so they can travel.

If an athlete has to run X:XX to keep their scholarship, they'll scratch and claw to run X:XX because they need to keep their scholarship.

But what if the athlete decides they just want to be good? What if they take ownership of their development, and start holding themselves accountable?

Then, they show up on time, not because they don't want to clean the locker room, but because they want to be good.

They go to weights, not because they want to travel, but because they want to be good.

They end up running X:XX, not because they want to keep their scholarship, but because they want to be good.

Growing up, I did homework because, well, I sort of had to. Now, I do homework because I decided I wanted to get a Master's Degree.

I would venture to say that most of our childhoods were spent following or breaking rules. But somewhere along the line, we decided that a rule or consequence didn't need to be there for us to do what was best.

I feel like that's one of the primary goals of coaching at the collegiate level: taking an athlete from an environment of dependence towards one of independence.

Freshmen start out having come from a high school environment where their parents, teachers, and coaches are dictating almost every move. By the time they graduate, for the most part, they're on their own. So, in a sense, college is that bridge.

If we're telling a senior how many miles to run each day and how fast, I don't think we're doing our job.

Likewise, if we're letting freshmen write their own workouts, we're off base as well.

To me, college is about learning to govern yourself. As coaches, we'd be right to recognize our place in that process.

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