Plan your turkey bowl now!

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is a scant two weeks away. If you’ve never done it before, or if you have, we suggest a fun Turkey Bowl to work up an appetite? What’s a Turkey Bowl? A good game of football with friends and or family. We’ve seen some elaborate flag games with multiple teams vying for monetary stakes…and more often a group of people laughing and running around playing tap. Either way, get the word out now, set up the time and place and start your own holiday tradition!

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This Thanksgiving, Express Your Gratitude

By John O’Sullivan

If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” ― John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach

As the holiday season approaches, we are often reminded to be thankful for all our blessings that we have received the past year. As we sit with our closest friends and family, and ‘give thanks’ this holiday season, we are practicing one of the key ingredients in raising a happy and high performing child: gratitude!

This holiday season is a great time to give some attention to the sports blessings that have been bestowed upon our families. Whether our child had a great sports year or a poor one, taking a few moments to review and accentuate the positive things is a great way to maintain the perspective our kids need from us to have a positive sports experience. Even if our child had a ‘bad’ year, expressing our gratitude for the things that did go well, and the lessons that were learned, can quickly and positively change our outlook on our child’s youth sports experience. How do I know this?

When I began writing my book Changing the Game, I realized that I was remiss in expressing my gratitude to my coaching mentors, to my players past and present, and to the many parents who sacrificed so much for so many years to provide sporting opportunities for their children. I was not grateful enough to my wife for the sacrifices she has made which allowed me to coach, and have a career in sports. Nor was I grateful enough to my friends and family for all their support over the years. I knew I could not write a chapter on being grateful unless I made some serious changes in my life when it came to expressing my own gratitude.

First, I needed some perspective. When we really think about it, there are so many things that we should be grateful for. We can start by being grateful that our children are healthy, happy, and have the opportunity to play sports. There are many countries around the world where our kids could not attend school or participate in athletics without the fear of being caught in some random act of violence. There are many places where our daughters’ would not even be allowed to show themselves in public, or attend school, much less participate in sports.

I also needed to be grateful that my family had the financial means to afford our children’s participation in sports and other activities. I was not thankful enough that we are able to afford the equipment, the travel, and the other necessary components of playing sports, instruments, and other activities that our children partake in. Nor was I grateful enough to my own parents, whom had sacrificed a lot to help my siblings and I get ahead in life.

Beyond this, I think it is always a good time to be grateful for the coaches, the teachers, the volunteers, and the mentors in our kid’s lives. Even if they are paid, they still do it out of love for sport, for service, and because they love helping kids. Coaching and teaching can often be thankless, and most coaches I know stick with it for the kids, and certainly not the money. An unexpected thanks at an unexpected time helps to fill coaches’ and teachers’ emotional tanks, and keeps them going through the tough times. It was high time I said thank you to my teachers and coaches, as well as to my children’s.

This gets me to my second thought, which is the importance of teaching our children how important it is to be grateful. When you express your gratitude, you also teach your kids to do the same. I remember my father teaching my siblings and I to always say thank you to our coaches and teachers as we were growing up. I never realized why until I became a coach, and realized that a small thanks tells a coach or teacher that the kids’ appreciated the time and effort that was just put in on their behalf. I am so appreciative of the players and families who have taken the time to say thank you to me over the years, as I know it helped to recharge my batteries and get me focused on the upcoming season.

As I mentioned above, I realized I needed to walk the walk here. I needed to make changes in my life, and show my kids what it meant to express gratitude. I could say it till I was blue in the face, but I knew that I needed to live it.

Since this realization, I have tried to wake up every morning and be thankful for all the amazing things in my life, for my amazing wife and beautiful kids. I have tried to be more grateful for the wonderful place I live, the friends I have, and the opportunities to work with so many wonderful families and kids. I do the same when I go to sleep at night. During the day I try to say thanks to everyone who does something for me, no matter how small. I have also asked my kids to do the same, and I have seen them making an effort.

Our family also found a way to turn our focus on gratitude at least once a day. Every night, when my family sits down for dinner, we say a family prayer, and then each of us must say at least one thing they were grateful for that day. It can be something that happened at work or school, something that a coach or teacher did, our health and our happiness, you name it. You can even say thanks for a great meal (which always pleases the chef and makes him want to cook again tomorrow!). Regardless of what we say, we turn our focus toward gratitude at the end of every day. That makes all the difference.

This holiday season, take inventory of your sports blessings, and be sure to ‘give thanks’ to the teachers, coaches, teammates and clubs that make them possible. You will be teaching your children a valuable lesson about gratitude, and you will be providing your child with an essential component of a happy, high performing athlete. Happy Holidays everyone, and thanks for reading!

John O’Sullivan is the Founder of the Changing the Game Project, and author of the national bestseller Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High-Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports back to Our Kids. He is a longtime soccer player and coach on the youth, college and professional level, and a nationally known speaker on coaching and parenting in youth sports. His work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Soccer America, and SoccerWire.com, and he recently gave a TED talk on “Changing the Game in Youth Sports.”