Gratitude Can Make You A Better Athlete

Athletic Director Bob Howe provides insights and updates about Deerfield Athletics here on Bob’s Blog!

In athletics, you always want to improve, get ahead of the competition, and maximize your potential.

To meet your goals of becoming a champion, you tend to focus on the importance of nutrition, practice, and training. But one thing that does not get much attention is the power of gratitude. The simple act of expressing thanks can help you become a better athlete!

I read an article written by Oliver Poirier-Leroy that convinced me that greater success may be as simple as expressing higher levels of gratitude toward teammates, coaches, parents, and anyone who wants you to succeed. What resonated loudest with me is that gratitude reminds you that playing sports is a gift. Gratitude helps shift our thinking from “I have to” to “I get to.” You get to do something you also happen to love.

Keeping a list of things for which you are thankful will remind you of this. Your list may help calm your nerves and quiet your brain at night as you get a better night’s sleep. Being grateful can also help you better frame setbacks such as injuries, poor performances, or disagreements with teammates. Gratitude can help in those moments when you need to step back and take a breath. It’s easy to feel grateful when things are going your way. When you overreact to setbacks and get away from your goals—and your reasons for playing sports—a gratitude list will help you get back on track more quickly.

There are certain characteristics that we look for in promoting excellence in team play and it should come as no surprise that gratitude is a common denominator among them. Gratitude encourages humility, deters arrogance, promoting a we not me mentality. Instead of focusing on your individual statistics and successes, regardless of your team, you can express gratitude to those who have contributed to your journey. Gratitude also facilitates emotional control. Athletes who experience gratitude are likely to have the capacity for more positive emotions. This lowers stress, promotes problem solving, and increases self-regulation—not to mention confidence, a key to any successful athlete.

Research shows that when people cultivate an attitude of gratitude on a regular basis they act with more compassion, generosity, and kindness. This has a positive impact on their relationships. A team with better relationships performs better. Athletes who embrace gratitude are better able to understand what they have achieved and why (playing time, role on a team, etc.)

Habits often define who we are, so I would like to offer these suggestions to help guide you in your pursuit of excellence.


  • Appreciate your surroundings. Frequently, take stock in how lucky you are and the unique opportunities you have.
  • Recognize people who support and help you pursue your endeavors and often go unnoticed. Everyone is important and nobody stands alone.
  • Look for the silver lining. Understand that life is not always going to be perfect. In times of adversity, ask yourself, what good can come from this or has already come of this?
  • Resist entitlement. Grateful athletes fight against the “I deserve” mentality and adopt the attitude of wanting to lead their group better.
  • Be coachable. Receive advice and feedback. Recognize that you don’t always have the answers.


We all want to get better at the things we do, and this goes beyond athletics. In the Deerfield community, we rely on one another to become the best version of ourselves—for our own achievement and for the greater good.

As a member of a team, classroom, or dorm hall, think about all the ways you can be a positive contributor. The act of gratitude won’t cost you a thing, and could help you in reaching your personal goals along the way. Invest in others and see what comes your way. Good luck and continue being a positive contributor.

Related Article:

7 Habits of a Grateful Athlete