The power of gratitude in sports: A qualitative exploration of Olympic athletes’ gratitude experiences

Shih-Chi Hsu1, Che-Chun Kuo2, Ying-Lien Ni3 and Lung Hung Chen4

1 Department of Psychology, Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan.
2 Department of Physical Education, Tunghai University, Taiwan.
3 Department of Physical Education, Health, & Recreation National Chiayi University, Taiwan.
4 Department of Recreation and Leisure Industry Management, National Taiwan Sport University, Taiwan & Department of Medical Research, China Medical University Hospital, China Medical University, Taiwan.

Based on the broaden-and-build theory, this study used qualitative inquiry methods to explore the integral system of gratitude experiences of elite athletes, including the input, process and output stages. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine Olympic athletes. A thematic analysis was utilized to interpret the results. Our study revealed an integral system of gratitude experiences including the following stages: (a) an input stage characterized by the benefactor; (b) a process stage starting at the turning point characterized by the broaden and build steps; and (c) an output stage characterized by a dynamic upward spiral system consisting of long-term, expansion, hand-changing, and positive rumination powers. Our study extends previous research by identifying the three stages of the gratitude experience using a dynamic system that has powerful lasting effects and contributes to gratitude-relevant research in the field of sports psychology.

KEYWORDS: broaden-and-build theory, gratitude experience, positive psychology, thematic analysis