• Brad Stulberg

Coach Towards Independence, Not Dependence

When success occurs, to what do we attribute it? Do we take full credit ourselves or acknowledge the helping hand of a mentor or coach? Does that coach claim full responsibility in creating the athlete who stands upon the podium? Does the business executive acknowledge the luck and hard work of those far below him on the food chain? Or does he take the lion’s share of the credit? The ego coach (or boss) attributes success to himself. He looks at the athlete (or worker) who has proven to be successful and take complete credit for his achievements. He convinces the athlete that his brilliant training plans were the only reason that the athlete sits atop the podium. The reason for this is simple, he is trying to create dependency. When a coach works towards making an athlete feel dependent, it’s a selfish move to preserve his job or fate. Deep down the coach knows that an athlete could move on and achieve similar levels of success, so he works to ensure that the athlete is dependent on him. Dependency creates security for the ego coach.  While the aforementioned example is an extreme, coaches create dependency on a smaller scale all of the time. The worker who can’t move forward on his project until he gets approval from up the food chain. The coach who dictates every minute of an athlete’s warm-up routine. When we create dependency, we are training our athletes or employees to be fragile. Whenever they are faced with an unpredictable moment that jolts them from their normal pattern, they have nowhere to go. They’ve trained to be reliant on others. Instead, we should be pushing those we have influence over to become more independent. As a coach, we want to create individuals who are self-reliant, who can deal with adversity and change. And most importantly, we want to create individuals who will grow under our watch, hopefully surpassing their mentors (that is, us) at some point in time. The great Australian coach, Percy Cerutty, stated that he wanted his athletes to be able to move on after only a year or two or working with him. His goal was to pass on all the wisdom he had, and then hope that they flew to higher heights. In his book, How to Become a Champion, Cerutty writes: “(My) belief is that the athlete must be developed in the end so that he be entirely self-reliant, self-dependent, able to know instinctively and understand his nature, personality trends, and his requirements in exercise and training….” In other words, ego coaches move towards dependence, while great coaches move towards independence. Coaching in this manner means checking your ego at the door, and having security in the fact that recognition is not what matters; helping people grow as human beings does. 

— Steve

Brad Stulberg   |   bradstulberg.com   |  bradstul@gmail.com