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How to Use Gratitude to Build Stronger Teams

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Research shows that creating an atmosphere of gratitude on your team can improve athletes’ physical and mental health, and encourage kinder interactions between teammates.
Here's how you can use gratitude to build a stronger team, while also giving your athletes long-term satisfaction within their sport.

Being thankful isn’t exactly a new idea. But the latest research shows that gratitude can have a profound impact on our everyday lives.

Recently, there’s been much in the news about how practicing gratitude can make you happiermore charitablementally stronger, and even help you sleep better.

As many coaches at all levels of sport know, athletes and teams can also benefit from practicing gratitude.

How Gratitude Creates Stronger Teams

Sports are celebrated for their ability to bond families and teams. But those rock-solid relationships are only formed when there is gratitude and respect for the people around you.

Teri McKeever, head swim coach at the University of California and formerly the U.S. Olympic team, believes gratitude completely transforms the energy of her athletes. Before some practices, McKeever makes time for gratitude by giving each swimmer pen and paper. After writing 10 things they are grateful for, the group shares their lists aloud.

“[The athletes] like it because after they’ve had a hard day [they get to] take a moment and think about what [they’re] grateful for, and also hear teammates express that,” McKeever said in a speech at the 2015 Greater Good Gratitude Summit. “Those practices are always more productive, cohesive, and enjoyable for all of us.”

Focusing on even the smallest positives that create gratitude, in and out of sports, helps build the invaluable relationships that are critical to a successful team and a positive sport environment.

How Gratitude from Adults Helps Kids Become Better Athletes

Getting young athletes to be grateful doesn’t necessarily mean forcing them to keep a gratitude journal or treat every dinner like it’s Thanksgiving.

Instead, it can be equally effective to set a strong example of gratitude by:

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Sportsmanship, Issues & Advice