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Team Morale

Part of being a coach is ral­ly­ing your play­ers, and that doesn’t stop when the game is over.

You don’t need to hit the lock­er room for a mean­ing­ful pep talk. There are lots of ways you can boost your team’s morale from a distance.

Get Grateful

Gratitude has sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly proven ben­e­fits. It max­i­mizes pos­i­tive emo­tions, blocks tox­ic ones, helps us resist stress and gives us a high­er sense of self-worth. It has phys­i­cal and social ben­e­fits too — like strength­en­ing immune sys­tems, sup­port­ing bet­ter sleep and mak­ing us feel less lone­ly — which is why it’s a pow­er­ful tool for sports teams.

A few ways you can estab­lish grat­i­tude rit­u­als and prac­tices for your team:

  • Ask your play­ers to keep a grat­i­tude diary where they jour­nal about things, peo­ple or sit­u­a­tions they’re grate­ful for.
  • Have play­ers write a let­ter or record a video mes­sage for some­one (or some­thing) they’re thank­ful for. 
  • At the end of each meet­ing you have with your team or indi­vid­u­als, let every­one share three things they’re feel­ing grate­ful for. 

If you’re wor­ried about get­ting buy-in, look to the cap­tains or lead­ers on the team to set an exam­ple. Ask these play­ers to try the above tac­tics first to see how they respond before expand­ing to the rest of the team. 

Create Celebrations

Keep every­one focused on the pos­i­tive by cel­e­brat­ing your team’s wins at the group and indi­vid­ual lev­el. Creating high­lights of your team’s best moments or re-shar­ing an athlete’s reel on social media is a lit­tle ges­ture that goes a long way. 

Remember that cel­e­bra­tions don’t have to be about in-game moments. If you’re assign­ing ath­letes video home­work or at-home work­outs, take a minute to rec­og­nize the play­ers who are putting in the time. 

Ursuline Academy (Mo.) ath­let­ic direc­tor Jen Brooks offers these ideas for cel­e­brat­ing ath­letes whose sea­sons were canceled:

  • Hold social media con­tests. Have all your ath­letes sub­mit a pic­ture of them play­ing when they were younger. Each day, post a pic­ture and ask fol­low­ers to guess which ath­lete it is for a prize. 
  • Play team-build­ing games. Coaches have used games like triv­ia, Jackbox Games, Two Truths and a Lie and Never Have I Ever to give their teams a light­heart­ed way to con­nect. Alexis Longinotti, Menlo-Atherton head lacrosse coach, had her play­ers send her their truths and lies so the team had to guess the lie and which of their team­mates sub­mit­ted it. 
  • Throw a vir­tu­al team par­ty or award night. Host this get-togeth­er through a video con­fer­enc­ing plat­form. If you have the bud­get, send piz­za or anoth­er treat to all your play­ers’ homes so the team can eat togeth­er. Get cre­ative with awards. Make high­lights for indi­vid­ual play­ers and use those to announce the winners.
  • Get staff involved. Ask the staff with­in your orga­ni­za­tion to write an encour­ag­ing note to these athletes. 

Prioritize Players’ Well-Being

Lead by exam­ple dur­ing a cri­sis and pri­or­i­tize your play­ers’ emo­tion­al well­be­ing over their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. While a focus on main­tain­ing or improv­ing fit­ness can be a good cop­ing mech­a­nism, this isn’t a time to push the limits. 

Rest and recov­ery is a key part of any ath­let­ic pro­gram. Even elite ath­letes take a month or two off dur­ing the year in order to come back fresh, men­tal­ly and physically.

If giv­ing your ath­letes time to recov­er is impor­tant in a nor­mal off­sea­son, it might be even more impor­tant when there are unfore­seen circumstances. 

Use the Mind-Body Connection

Your play­ers might not be prepar­ing for their next game, but stay­ing active is still impor­tant. During this time, exer­cise might be less about being in peak phys­i­cal con­di­tion and more about keep­ing men­tal­ly fit. 

Just five min­utes of mod­er­ate exer­cise has mood-boost­ing effects. The long-term ben­e­fits of exer­cise include bet­ter sleep, which also con­tributes to bet­ter men­tal health. For best results, encour­age your play­ers to exer­cise at least three times a week for 45 – 60 min­utes. (Get some ideas on how in the next sec­tion on devel­op­ing your players.)

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Player Development