Today is Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. However, here in the US, it is also the day after Thanksgiving. So today, I’m going to talk about the concept of giving thanks with teams.

It is important that we make an effort to thank people for the things they do for us.

Gratitude can be a powerful force for good.

When we thank people for something they have done for us, it lets people know that we appreciate them. It shows that we are aware of what they have done, and we are grateful for it. Thanking others shows that we care.

Some might be thinking, “Wait a minute. Isn’t the person who did something for the other person the one who cares?”


But the act of thanking someone for some kindness that has been extended to us shows that we care that they took the time and made the effort to do whatever it is that they did. We care that they did that for us. We don’t just take it for granted that they should have done it.

Thanking others can also have the effect of producing more of the thing that they did.

When someone thanks me for something I have done, I like that they have recognized me for it. I like the feeling I get when I know that someone realizes I have done something nice or helpful to them.

Because I like that feeling, I want more of it. So chances are, I will either continue to do that thing for them, or I will continue to do other nice things for them.

Also, what often happens is that the person who received the act of kindness turns around and does something for the other person. They want to do something nice back to the other person.

It is not a guilt thing where they feel they have to do something nice. It is a reciprocal action. “I like that you did that for me, so I want to do this for you.”

This becomes a win-win-win situation.

First, the one person continues to receive acts of kindness or help from someone. Second, the person who is doing the acts of kindness continues to feel good about doing those things. And finally, the person who received the act of kindness does something nice for the person who did it.

This follows the great motivational principle of “You get what you reward, and it perpetuates itself.” When you reward some behavior, you will generally get more of it.

Give Thanks for the Right Reasons

Some people might think that this could become manipulative. It is only manipulative if the main reason a person thanks other people is to get them to keep doing nice things for them. The person receiving the nice acts may start taking advantage of the situation. This is certainly not what we want.

However, what often happens is that when we do something for others because we know we are providing something positive for them, the action itself becomes its own reward.

We know we have done something nice for someone else. It feels good knowing we have helped, and it feels good because it was the right thing to do.

So, while it is not ideal if people start taking advantage of our actions, we can take comfort in knowing that our actions are doing good for them and that we are doing the right thing.

Still, we are human. After a while, if we keep doing things for someone and they keep thanking us but never show any other appreciation or never return a favor to us, it starts to wear on us. We will start to feel taken advantage of.

The best relationships are reciprocal in nature—I do something nice for you, and you do something nice for me.

However, it is not “I do something nice for you because you do something nice for me or because I expect you will do something nice for me in return.” This is where relationships can turn sour.

True relationships are built on trust, respect, and love, not on because.

“Thanks” in Athletics

In athletics there are all kinds of “thanks” extended. Two classics are the finger-point and the high-five or fist-bump.

The finger-point is seen when one player has done something for another that led to success. The pass that led to the score is often followed by the scorer pointing to the player who made the pass. Often this is accompanied by a “Thanks” or “Nice pass” comment.

The high-five or fist-bump often happens in the same way. It can be between the two players involved in some play, but it can also involve multiple members on the team. Other players get in on the act and congratulate both players—the player who did the thing that they are “thankful” for and the recipient of that action.

The kind of gratitude in these examples is contagious and can spread throughout a team. The more you do it, the more others do it. The more others do it, the more you will see the action that started it. Ultimately, the more people you have involved in this kind of thankful attitude, the more it spreads throughout the team. 

Unfortunately, other things can be contagious, too.

Not saying “thanks,” not showing gratitude, not showing positive emotion, not recognizing and rewarding teammates for good plays, and being too cool to act like you care are all things that can keep a team from truly becoming a team.

These things can also spread from teammate to teammate if you don’t have enough strong, positive, selfless, empathic, vocal leaders on your team. Without positive, selfless people constantly reinforcing the positive things that happen, players may start thinking only of themselves. They may start to focus only on what they get out of the experience, not on what others get out of it.

However, most of the time all it takes is one player who positively exhibits gratitude and caring towards teammates, and pretty soon other players are joining in on spreading those same behaviors.

The contagiousness of gratitude and thanks is far stronger than the contagiousness of negativity and selfishness.

So be the teammate, classmate, co-worker, family member, or friend who shows gratitude and thanks to others. Start spreading positive messages of gratitude and watch it spread to everyone around you.

Be Intentional with Your “Thanks”

Coaches, consider how these concepts affect you and what role you play in giving thanks when it comes to your teams.

While we want our teams to exhibit an attitude of gratitude, we must be the ones who are modeling this for them. When we show our gratitude to others and toward our teams, we provide an example for them to follow.

Don’t be above thanking kids and recognizing them for good behavior, great effort, selflessness, or any of the other attributes you want to see from them. The more you thank them and reward them for those things, the better chance you have of those types of things occurring.

We can’t just expect an attitude of gratitude to happen just because we model it or just because we have good kids.

We need to set the tone and work to make sure it is infused into everything we do.

If we don’t want our kids to have a too cool to care or too cool to show gratitude attitude, then we need to make sure that we don’t exude that attitude ourselves.

Get vocal and let people know you appreciate the things they have done.

Teach Gratitude to Your Team

In addition to modeling this attitude of gratitude, it is critical that we also work to teach and instill that same kind of attitude in our players and our teams.

We must be intentional with regards to working to transform ourselves and our teams and working to instill that kind of attitude in our teams.

We need to discuss the concept of gratitude with our teams. We need to talk to them about saying “thanks” to others in some of the ways mentioned above.

When you see teammates showing that kind of gratitude, point it out to everyone. When you see moments where they should have done so but didn’t, point that out, too.

A perfect example of this is the “Nice pass” scenario described earlier.

When you have a player who just received a pass from a teammate that put them into a great position to score, and they don’t acknowledge the pass in some way, find a way to point it out. You can stop practice and say something like, “Dave, did you think that was a nice pass that James threw to you?”

Of course, he will say, “Yes,” and often he will turn to his teammate and say, “Nice pass, James,” without you having to prompt him in any other way. If he doesn’t get your point, though, say to him, “Then let James know. Tell him, ‘Nice pass.’”

By pointing that out, you let your team know that this is something important. You let them know that you expect them to acknowledge and thank their teammates for the pass that leads to success. (In your sport, consider whatever the equivalent of the Nice Pass situation is and make sure that your players are doing that.)

Then, extend that further to anything where a teammate does something for someone else for which they should be grateful. When we shine a light on these situations, we expose their importance and our players start to make them a part of who they are.

Let me wrap this up by saying how thankful I am for all of you and for what you provide for your kids. Thanks for working to create the best experience possible for the members of your teams.

So much of whether or not kids have a positive athletic/activities experience is dictated by the coaches who lead them. Thanks for being positive influences and role models in our kids’ lives.

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving holiday weekend!