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Life Lessons

Saying Thank You

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” ~ William James

TV commentator Joe Morgan tells the story of the one time he met Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in major-league baseball 62 years years ago today.

Morgan, himself an African-American who is in the baseball Hall of Fame, eagerly looked forward to meeting Robinson. He thought up several questions to ask the racial pioneer. When he finally came face to face with the man whose courage had opened the door for new generations of black players, Morgan froze. All he could think of to say was, “Thank you.”

Robinson replied, “You’re welcome.”

The simple gratitude in this exchange should take place more often on fields and in gyms. Too often, a sense of genuine appreciation is missing. Coaches make demands on players without showing any sense of their sacrifices of time and effort. Likewise, players forget to acknowledge the coaches who have helped mold them.

In the book “Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life,” author M.J. Ryan makes the following observation: It is impossible to feel bitterness and gratitude at the same time.

That one idea could change the tone in so many sports arenas. With more gratitude, players and coaches could avoid some of the bitterness that arises from issues like playing time and roles on the team.

When Morgan said “thank you” to Robinson, he was showing genuine respect. And when Robinson replied, “You’re welcome,” he appreciated that respect.

Not every exchange in your gym will go down in history, but your work is no less important. You may not think of it this way, but athletes and coaches are trying to change the world. Working together, they are trying to create more skill, more order, more beauty. And for this they deserve each others’ gratitude.


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