How to Have a Happier Team Culture

By Stephanie Zonars

You may not be able to acquire and consume and exercise your way to happiness, but you can serve and volunteer your way there.     —Andy Stanley

In a recent message, Andy Stanley referred to a study in the UK that looked at 40 different studies that spanned over 20 years to determine if there was a connection between happiness, health and volunteering.

The study discovered that those who volunteer to serve others:

  • experience less depression, less heart disease and less stress
  • enjoy greater psychological well-being and higher self-esteem
  • live longer and have a better quality of life.

It also found that teenagers who volunteered:

  • have less drug use and unplanned pregnancies
  • experience positive results, even if they were forced to volunteer or had a bad attitude about it!
  • are more likely to volunteer as adults

I experienced the profound impact of volunteerism first hand this past weekend when I accompanied a collegiate women’s cross country team to a local women’s prison to help them put on a 5k for the inmates.

On their weekend off in between their conference championship (where they won their 5th consecutive title) and the NCAA Championships coming up next weekend, they got up at the crack of dawn for the 40 minute drive to the prison.

I might have given them a pass to have a bad attitude in light of the early morning (seeing as I had to check my own), but never detected anything of the sort. Instead, they had eager eyes and spirits, many saying that they were excited to be there.

We met the organizer, an inmate named Erin.

She shared how running helped her to make it through life in prison and how she wanted other inmates to experience the benefits of exercise too.

A former marathoner, she told us about the danger of training on the track that bordered the open yard—she had urine and rocks thrown at her—and how she worked for three years to get the prison to allow a group of inmates to run at a time when the yard was closed so they wouldn’t be harassed.

Her passion and determination gripped us.

The athletes served in different areas—some lap counters for the participants, some working the finish line and others walking and/or jogging with the inmates.

They heard Erin mention that she didn’t have anyone to train with, so a few athletes ran the race with her (she didn’t mess around, finishing in around 23 minutes).

Those same athletes would ask the lap counters for the numbers of the racers who were on their last few laps, and then run and find them in order to run the rest of the race with them.

Watching their selfless service brought tears to my eyes—tears of joy at the power of love and encouragement to make a difference.

If you could have only seen the smile on Erin’s face when she finished the race!

And if you could have heard the cross country ladies talk about the profound impact the experience made on their hearts. They LOVED giving of themselves that morning.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is not focus so much on yourself. Selflessness leads to happiness.  —Andy Stanley

Teach your players the value of serving others and you infuse happiness in your team culture. [Tweet That!]

And even more importantly, you give them a gift that will impact the rest of their lives.

How to Have a Happier Team Culture appeared first on Life Beyond Sport.

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Stephanie Zonars helps coaches build and maintain championship cultures through her business, Life Beyond Sport. Teams at Penn State, Notre Dame, West Point and over 65 other schools have built stronger trust, communication and teamwork through her workshops. Stephanie spent three years on staff with the Penn State women’s basketball team, assisting the team to back-to-back Big Ten Championships. An author of four books, she now serves as Assistant AD of Marketing & Promotions at Cedarville University. Learn more at

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