Build a Gratitude Practice into Your Team
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Gratitude means feeling, expressing, or noticing thanks and appreciation. Gratitude often brings feelings of kindness, warmth, and other forms of generosity.
Practicing gratitude means taking the time to notice and recognize the good things in your life. Studies have found that practicing gratitude is associated with elevated levels of happiness, so instilling gratitude in your kids at a young age could help them grow up to be happier people. Grateful children also tend to be more optimistic, have better social support, and report more satisfaction with their schools, families, communities, friends, and themselves.
Below are four areas to consider for a gratitude practice with your team of young athletes. Use these prompts as a group discussion at practice or as a journal writing exercise. If it’s appropriate, have a conversation one-on-one with each athlete. As their coach, you want to hold space for them to notice, recognize, and feel gratitude in these areas. Afterwards, your athletes can express gratitude through giving someone a thank -you card or a small token of appreciation.
1. Gratitude for your body
What are all the parts of your body that have to be healthy and functional in order to play your sport? List them. For example, if your sport is soccer, you might say: I am thankful for my feet that allow me to kick the ball and run fast down the field. My knees allow me to stop and start and change directions very quickly. My core is strong to support my back. My lungs help me breathe deeply and to have the endurance to play for 90 minutes. I am grateful for my vision that allows me to see the ball, the field, and my teammates. I’m thankful for my hard head that allows me to head the ball. And I’m thankful for my balance when jumping, sliding, or kicking. My body is amazing. It supports me in so many ways when I’m playing my favorite sport.
2. Gratitude for your sport
How does playing this sport make you feel in a positive way? Perhaps playing this sport has helped to get your body in shape, has given you confidence, or is just a fun thing to do. Think of a few happy moments that you have enjoyed while playing your sport. Maybe you scored a goal, won a race, or you laughed really hard at a joke with a teammate. What accomplishments have you achieved through playing your sport? What are you proud of? What have you learned about life through playing your sport and how has it helped you in other areas of your life?
3. Gratitude for the people who support you as a player
Think of all the people that you are connected to through your sport. Start with your coaches and your team. Name each person that encourages you and helps you to be better. Name any family members or friends that support you. Perhaps, they gave you a kind word, a ride to practices or games, or came to cheer you on. Consider how having your teammates’ parents and family at games and practices help you. Are there any volunteers that sell refreshments or help organize the games? Think about the referees or the umpires and how without them you couldn’t have a qualified match. How do all of these people help you be able to do the sport that you love?
4. Gratitude for the ability to play your sport
Have you ever wondered if you could play your sport if you lived in another town, another state, or a different country? Consider that most likely somewhere in the world there are kids who cannot play your sport. They might not be able to afford the equipment. Their climate might not allow for your sport to be played. Your sport could be against their religion. Somewhere in the world there is a kid who knows nothing about your sport. What would life be like without your sport? Connect to the feeling of gratitude for the freedom and support to play your sport.
After this introduction to a gratitude practice, continue practicing gratitude in small ways throughout the season. Create a gratitude jar that everyone contributes to. Keep a jar in an easily accessible place, like the locker room, and keep some slips of paper handy. Encourage everyone to write down something they’re grateful for (maybe once a day) and put it in the jar. Then, you can read over the slips of paper together as a team—maybe once a week or once a month.
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Sarah Kostin is a freelance copywriter, published author, and former children’s librarian. With a background in yoga, mindfulness, life coaching, and ultramarathon running, Sarah has a passion for writing about fitness, mindset, personal growth, and overall well-being.