By Shannon Caughey
A coach invited me to provide a weekly chapel for any of his players who were interested. The chapel would be offered before the team meal they had each Thursday evening. The first time I did the chapel, I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of players who came. I then stayed around to help Coach with the team meal, giving me the chance to interact with him and his team. At the end of the evening, player after player came up to me to thank me for the chapel and for being at their team meal. This wasn’t because Coach made an announcement reminding them to say thank you. They did it of their own accord.
As the season went along, I experienced this again and again. I also heard stories about how these players made similar efforts to express gratitude in other situations: to police officers working security at their game, to trainers, and to many others. A culture of gratitude has been developed on this team.
Colossians 3:17 gives us this directive: “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” If you are a follower of Jesus, you’re called to be his representative in every situation. A key dimension of representing the Lord Jesus is being characterized by thankfulness – what we’ve discussed in the last couple of devotions.
What does it mean to represent Jesus as a coach, particularly when it comes to this quality of gratitude? It involves not only living with gratitude yourself but also coaching gratitude: coaching in a way that promotes a culture of gratitude on your team. Here are two elements of coaching gratitude:
1. Model gratitude – As you’re living out genuine thankfulness to God the Father because of all he’s done for you through Christ, your players will pick up on this. As you consistently make the effort to express thanks in all kinds of situations, your players will see what gratitude looks like. The coach who invited me to do a chapel for his team models gratitude. He is intentional about saying thanks to people all the time. Like the familiar adage expresses, gratitude is caught more than it’s taught. Coach gratitude through modeling a life of thankfulness.
2. Make gratitude a team value – Every coach emphasizes certain values, such as excellence and discipline. Why not make gratitude a value as well? Even if it doesn’t appear on the banner that lists your other three or four team values, you can still emphasize it with your players. Talk about why gratitude is important. When you observe players expressing thankfulness, highlight it and celebrate it. As I spent time with the team for whom I did a weekly chapel, I saw many indications of how being grateful was promoted. What is truly valued has the best chance of being repeated.
You have the privilege of being a representative of Jesus to your team. One way you can do so is through coaching gratitude. As you model thankfulness and make it a team value, your players will experience the benefits of a culture of gratitude. And that culture of gratitude will be a blessing to many others!
For reflection: Consider whether the team you coach is characterized by a culture of gratitude. As a representative of Jesus, what “next steps” can you take to coach gratitude? Ask the Lord for his wisdom and empowering to take these steps.