Gratitude For Your Most Challenging Athletes

written by Erica Quam


Challenging athletes are usually the one's who get most of your attention, take most of your time, and drain most of your energy. 

They can leave you exhausted - while whittling away at your passion and inspiration. Just when you think you've got your team moving together in the right direction...another issue surfaces and drama escalates.

(You probably have someone in mind...right? Your blood pressure may be elevating just by reading this...)

Your other athletes sense your frustration. They're most likely fed up with the whole situation too. 

They don't know what to say to you...and they're definitely not sure how to handle their teammate.

This vicious cycle will not only keep your team will widen the gap between where you are and where you wanna go.

You didn't sign up for this. You just wanna coach!!!! Is that too much to ask????

A better approach

The frustrating thing for many coaches is you can't change your athletes. You can only change YOU. You've got to find a way to take a step back and look at the bigger picture while you identify the broader lesson.

With each challenging athlete ask yourself...what are THEY here to teach YOU

  • how to set better boundaries & say no

  • how to handle mental health issues

  • how to support diversity on your team

  • how to emphasize character over results

  • how to coach leadership in your captains

  • how to facilitate team conflicts

  • how to maintain a positive team environment

  • what to teach your assistant coach

  • how to have better clarity in your recruiting

  • that you need to communicate expectations up front

  • when to reinforce rules more consistently

  • how to tap into other resources and ask for help

  • that you need to create a support system for yourself

I have a belief that may sound crazy. 

I believe if you DON'T learn how to deal with each challenging athlete on your team (or any person in your life, come to think of it) then there will be a whole lot more of them lining up for you.

Where does gratitude come in?

When you shift your energy to gratitude, it will change everything for you.

Gratitude list: As hard as it may be at first, write your challenging athlete down on your gratitude list. Next, take a few minutes to consider the lessons they are helping you learn. Write the lesson down too.

Gratitude letter: Go a step further and write a thank you note to them. (You don't have to give it to them.) Thank them for what they are teaching you as a coach and how they are helping you grow as a person.

Then, the next time you deal with a challenging issue that comes up you can more objective and shift your perspective.

While this will not change them, it will definitely change you.

That's just the kind of game-changer you need.

Share one lesson a challenging athlete has taught you already this season in the comments below. Your comment just may help another coach out there who is struggling with a similar issue.