Gratitude is a key component of winning

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When Arena Lewis was chasing some of the state’s fastest cross country runners at last year’s Class 4A state meet, the Belen eighth-grader probably spent more time thinking of the runners around her than about everything others have done to further her career.
When Carlos Montaño was trying to hold on and beat Capital’s Ernesto Salvidrez and get his first state title in February, the years of training his family and coaches had put in was not as prominent as the tactics on the mat. And when Los Lunas High freshman Kristie Sandoval led off relays at the track and field championships in May, how many years LLHS coach Larry Padilla has given to the program takes a back seat to making a good handoff.
Yet when young athletes get extremely upset, they are likewise not thinking about parents, coaches and others who have helped them. At times of high stress or disappointment, all an athlete can think of is how all the training seems a waste, and why can’t things work out differently.
It’s all the other in-between times where gratitude needs to come into play. Teenagers are notorious for forgetting that their parents work hard to provide for them, and cannot stand “When I was your age” lectures about how tough times used to be (this column notwithstanding).
Recent criticism of a few individuals has overshadowed how much time and effort high school coaches put in. Adults tell me that it’s separate from appreciating the effort, that the work ethic is not the question, but some coaches simply know how to teach the game more effectively, and I can see their point.
However, some of this negative sentiment rubs off on athletes, and contributes to a general lack of gratitude for the thousands of hours adults have put into their training.
There is a kind of athlete that is the easiest for reporters and recruiters and potential college coaches to talk to — one who is appreciative. It’s not so much that they’re appreciative to anyone specific, like a position or skill coach or family member or particular media outlet, but simply positive and thankful for all the efforts around them.
Some athletes are vocally thankful, and readily acknowledge their supporters. But the kind of pervasive, deep-down gratitude that really makes an athlete shine is when things aren’t going well in some way, and teenagers still give adults the benefit of the doubt. They assume those around them are always giving their absolute best.
Technology works against this principle, erasing the time that would normally be used to cool down and replacing it with a chance to air all emotions that are not accompanied by reflective thought. Posting on Twitter or Facebook about being “so (expletive) pissed right now” is the complete opposite of taking a few moments to breathe deep and put emotions into a greater context.
It isn’t clear exactly why fairness and justice take such precedence today, especially when there seem to be less of those concepts than ever before. Hopefully, teenagers are slowly realizing that they don’t have a constitutional right to a spot in the starting lineup or on the varsity, just as parents are not obligated to allow a teen to have driving privileges or a smart phone.
Many parents have lost track of the difference between rights and privileges as well. In an effort to circumvent this apparently blurred distinction, some begin coaching or run for elected positions in order to better interject a level of “fairness” that benefits their own children.
This trickles down to athletes that are already under the impression that they are supposed to be entertained and content most of the time. While it’s easy to find an adult lecturing young people about a difficult trial or circumstance of the past, it’s not as often we can see adults sucking it up, being quiet and taking a deep breath after a rough moment, as more and more people seem more interested in blame and retribution.
Gratitude for the help of others is not always a naturally occurring element. It’s a skill that must be refined and practiced at mundane moments so that it can be utilized when tensions are high.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.