Gratitude For Your Most Challenging Athletes

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 stuck...it 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????

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How to shift your attitude to gratitude when dealing with challenging athletes

Written by Erica Quam

The 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 stuck...it 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
  • 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.

Gratitude doesn't stop at Thanksgiving

There's a ramp up to Thanksgiving where an awareness of gratitude escalates...but it's much more of something to check off the to-do list than it is an attitude or a practice. 

I'll tell you when I've really felt the strongest sensation of gratitude in my life...

I've worked as an instructor for NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School) leading backpacking trips for the last 8 years.

It's always a little scary when you step away from the van and step foot onto the trail - leaving everything behind except what you're carrying on your back - until you see that van again.

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What gets in the way of your passion for coaching?

Seth Godin once said, "...in order to monetize your work, you’ll probably corrupt it, taking out the magic in search of dollars."

Most coaches I know aren't in it for the money. They're in it for their athletes. They're in it for the impact they can make in people's lives. It can be an incredibly rewarding and gratifying profession!

Yet, there are days where you may lose sight of your passion for coaching and the challenges seem to outweigh the rewards.

You deal with long days, long weeks, and long seasons. You handle issues you never imagined yourself having to deal with: discipline, lawsuits, mental health, and more. You have lots of challenging people to deal with - within your coaching staff, the administration, and athletes on the team. Not to mention the constant stress to perform, recruit, and get results...without any real job security.

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Thank you so much!

There are people who we come across in our lives who can trigger a whole downward spiral of negative emotions in us. It's the person who walks in the room and we can feel ourselves begin to react - we get tense, and our guard goes up.  It feels like the life and energy inside of us is literally getting sucked away. I'll bet you're picturing them in your head right now!

So, what's up with that?

Do they honestly have that much power over us? Is it really possible for one single person to ruin our day?

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What you focus on expands

Every day when you wake up and take in a new breath of air, you have two choices. You can focus on the negative or the positive.  Sure, it's tempting to think about how tired you feel, how little sleep you got, or something that you are NOT looking forward to in your day.

Before you go there, remember: what you focus on expands.  If you focus on the negative, it leads into a downward spiral. When you focus on the positive, it leads to an updraft.  The positive pulls you forward, onward, & upward - no matter what challenges are before you.

When you CHOOSE to focus on the positive, you literally shift your paradigm from struggle to strength.

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