Penn State Wrestling Coach Cael Sanderson on Gratitude

Cael Sanderson may have the most incredible combined athletic career, playing and coaching, of anyone I have seen. Cael had an undefeated college wrestling career, going 159-0 and winning four national championships. Then he won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. Finally, Cael began his coaching career. Since taking the head job at Penn State, they have won six team national championships in eight years! They currently are on a 31-match winning streak dating back to February 2015.

This was the final interview in the the terrific “The Word on Coaching” series that Mike Poorman did with seven university coaches and staff. Here is what stuck out to me:

Being grateful means you think about yourself less. Gratitude is also not dependent on outcome.

You count your blessings and then you make your blessings count.

If you are grateful, it is easier to be humble too.

You’re always seeking a better way. You’re willing to be coached…Our best kids are the ones who buy in the most.

Never forget confidence comes from being prepared.

They try to teach their kids that they have choices.

you’re responsible for everything you do, say, think and feel. You’re not a victim to your thoughts. It’s tough. Thoughts are tough. It’s a battle…But you can win those matches. Ultimately, we get to pick our attitude, we get to pick our perspective…When we go into a big match or go into a practice, they get to choose the attitude they bring.

That is a tough perspective to accept because it means you have no excuses to fall back on.

We have a lot more power and control over our lives than we think. It’s consistency and making good decisions. It’s the small steps, where maybe we don’t see the consequences or the benefits over a short amount of time.

The coaching staff sets the tone about consistency.

When we get to the national tournament, we’re the same. We’re going to be the same person we are today, the same person we are every day because we’re running on principles…If you’re not centered on principles, you’re going to be all over the place.

This consistency applies regardless of whether it was a good day or a bad day.

win or lose, we’re going to be the same. We don’t get after our kids when they lose. We also don’t get out of control when they win.

They empower their athletes to dictate their future.

It’s their career. They’re the ones. It’s up to them. We just try to help them and provide a culture and environment for them to be the best that they can. They’re the ones who have to go out there and score the points. They’re the ones who have to be consistent every day. That makes it a fun challenge.

Last quote: “Every day is a sprint…It’s July and we haven’t slowed down a bit since the nationals. And we’re not going to slow down.

Source: Mike Poorman at