Gratitude is a team-builder

Staff Reporter


Staff Reporter

FROM what I’ve read and heard about Dublin manager, Jim Gavin and Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill, I feel they have succeeded with their team because they showed gratitude constantly to their players and staff.

My good friend, Mickey Moran, whom I coached with for almost a decade, is a quiet ‘mannered and spoken’ man who always begins conversations with a positive and Mickey’s very strong in the praising of his players.

Mickey, Jim and Michael are managers who look for solutions to improve and make better their team, ie, they work on the things they can control and need in the game. This approach creates a powerful and productive approach to team success.

Too many coaches discourage their players by firstly pointing out the one or two parts of their otherwise perfect play that needs improvement. Team morale suffers as negativity sets in.

Bear in mind, that our brains get stuck in what we focus on. If you focus on problems, your brain produces emotions around those problems, eg, anxiety, fear, sadness, despair.

The opposite has been proven to be true. Focusing on your strengths and improving on them and on what you’re thankful for, eg, skilful, committed team sees your brain produce emotions like cheerfulness, optimism and contentment.

If you then practice showing gratitude you will make all happier and your team more productive. Gratitude and showing appreciation are examples of the 10 powerful emotions which we were born with and if we live out these emotions, eg, Gratitude, Love and Warmth (communication); Curiosity, Confidence, Determination, Cheerfulness, Flexibility, Passion and Excitement, Vitality and Contribution (giving of oneself) in both sport and life we’ll be productive and successful. Most four-year-olds show these emotions ‘off’ to the full, ie, they’re happy, vibrant and willing to tackle anything.


It doesn’t take a lot of time as it’s mostly a shift in your focus from what isn’t working to what is working. Try:

1) MAKE A LIST - Something as simple as writing down three things that a player has done recently which enhanced themselves and the team and then give what you’ve written to the player, congratulating them for their efforts. My good friend and fellow coach, Philip Kerr uses his approach of ‘3 stars and a wish’, ie, three things the player is doing well and one thing that needs improved; by giving these in writing to a player before having a ‘one-to-one’ coaching clinic with them. Self-esteem is raised all round as a result.

2) TELL PLAYERS - The ‘one-minute’ approach. Catch a player doing something right, in training or competition and praise them. It only takes a minute to point out what they did right while praising and affirming them for doing it, rather than taking for granted the things the players did right and doing or saying nothing. In training, give them ‘high fives’ when they do something well. Watch them smile when you do, makes them feel good/special.

3) START MEETINGS/TEAM TALKS WITH GRATITUDE. Even if meetings are about problem solving, start off your meeting by pointing out things that are going or have gone well, eg, we are scoring many more points and preventing opposition goals very well at the moment. This should give us the incentive to work out how to score more goals.

4) CELEBRATE SMALL GAINS/WINS. Eg, praise scores, or dispossessing tackles, high catches, good saves even after games you have lost, the glass half full approach. Highlight players’ exam successes, work promotion, birthdays, etc, which builds a ‘club’ mentality rather than just a team mentality, eg, think Slaughtneil currently.

5) NEGOTIATE WITH GRATITUDE. If talking to a player who’s had a large dip in form start off by talking about the excellent performances he’s had while in the team. Laud his strengths and quote examples of games where his strengths helped win games. Then, following this worthy reciting of positive good performances add that there are one or two things you’d like to work with them so that they can again capture their best form and show ‘the world’ just how good their all round game is and tell them how delighted you are when they deliver their best. Finish by arranging for a ‘one-to-one’ clinic to work on the strengths that have lapsed somewhat.

6) SAY ‘THANK YOU’. These two words are very powerful. Players want the coach’s affirmation. They want and need to know their performances in games really matter. Saying ‘thank you’ lifts a player’s morale and self esteem and often leads to even better performances in appreciation of your ‘thanks’ which they see as a vote of confidence.

7) HAVE FUN WITH GRATITUDE. In a team meeting, challenge your players to cite two things that are going well in team/individual performances for each situation the team has had to work on and strengthen. This helps players realise that not all ‘bad’ performances are 100% bad - a case of taking ‘positives’ out of any challenging situation.

8) REWARD GRATITUDE WITH GRATITUDE. Willingly and humbly thank a player or players who’ve suggested something to you that you then used and found it made the team better in games. Remind them that their ideas are as important as those of the coach.

Showing gratitude makes all want to do better, that’s why Gratitude is a team builder.

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