How to create an attitude of gratitude for athletes and coaches

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Enio Sacilotto

Enio Sacilotto is President of International Hockey Camps and operates the Mental Edge High-Performance Coaching. Enio has 38 years of coaching experience (professional hockey in Europe and the Victoria Royals of the WHL). Currently, he coaches the North West Hawks U15 and the Croatian National Men's team. If you have questions or are interested in any of his services, contact Enio at [email protected] or call 604 255 4747.

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Expressing gratitude will help you become a better athlete.
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My life mentor Jon Lee Kootnekoff told me many years ago: “An attitude of gratitude is altitude!”

It took me several years to figure out precisely what this means.

The Harvard Medical School definition of gratefulness is “With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives… As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”

Many high-achieving professional athletes are grateful for what they have; Drew Brees, when he became the all-time leading passer in the NFL, thanked all the people that helped him in his career. Ryan O’Reilly thanked his parents after winning the Stanley Cup. In his Hockey Hall Of Fame acceptance speech, Paul Kariya thanked his minor hockey organizations and his coaches for helping him get to where he is. The list of successful grateful athletes is endless.

Winning in sport is essential. If it weren’t, there would be no purpose in playing the games. There would be no incentive for players to put in hours of hard training to improve their skills. Sports is not only all about winning and outcomes; it’s learning life lessons such as patience, teamwork, work ethic, discipline, willpower, compete, and gratitude.

It is a privilege to play sports and be on a team; many people in the world do not get the opportunity to go to the rink, get equipment, have games, and compete. With all our business, we can sometimes overlook the concept of gratitude.

Expressing gratitude will help you become a better athlete.

Psychology research shows that athletes that practice gratefulness are: more engaged, more enthusiastic, see everything with a positive perspective, are more productive, have a proactive mindset, sleep better, express compassion, have more vital immune systems, get along better with teammates can persevere through challenging times, and generally play with a greater sense of enjoyment. They have more fun!

A grateful athlete’s attitude shifts away from blaming, complaining, anxiety, depression, resentment, jealousy, negative self-judgment, and other negative emotions that hinder performance.

Here are eight things athletes are grateful for and the benefits that come along with them:

1. They appreciate what they have

Grateful players are excited to have the opportunity to play a sport they love. They understand all of the benefits that go with that sport; fitness, relationships, life lessons, the chance to challenge and test your abilities. Entitlement is the worst attitude an athlete or coach can have. Entitlement stands in direct opposition to gratitude. Understanding – and being grateful for – the gift to play can help prevent an athlete or coach from taking that honour for granted. Thankful players are humble.

2. Recognize people who help, and support them

They regularly take the time to verbally thank parents, coaches, trainers, teammates, referees, and everyone who supports them. They also recognize people who go unnoticed, such as the iceman at the rink, the receptionist, and the team manager or administrator working behind the scenes.

3. They appreciate the struggles and adversity they go through

Sports is an up and down activity; grateful athletes recognize that things are not always going to go their way. There will be injuries, losses, poor performance, and team conflict. They tackle issues head-on and ask themselves what good can come from this situation? What can I learn? They recognize the cycle, fix the issues, and know there will be more fantastic times coming ahead.

4. They enjoy the pressure 

There is lots of stress in sports; grateful players recognize the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and test their limits. Thankful players appreciate the challenge.

5. They appreciate their competitors 

They compete hard against their opponent and do everything they can to beat them. At the same time, they understand that playing against good teams makes them better and brings out the best in them.

6. They are coachable 

They understand that coaches want the best for them and make them better athletes. They recognize and accept constructive criticism from coaches.

7. Grateful athletes have better emotional control 

Being grateful is associated with positive emotions. Positive Emotions reduce stress and increase the ability to problem solve, and have greater self-control.

8. Gratitude promotes fun and happiness

Self-explanatory.

Teams that practice gratitude will benefit:

1. Gratitude promotes a more robust team

Research shows that people who practice gratitude act with more compassion, generosity, and kindness. Gratitude creates positive relationships among the team members. A team with good connections will perform better.

2. Gratitude eliminates arrogance

By focusing on their stats and outcomes, some athletes neglect their team. A team needs everyone to be successful, and this is acknowledged when each member expresses gratitude for each other’s contribution. No one can become successful alone.

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