Jon Gordon's 5 Keys to Being a Better Teammate

Jon Gordon has spent the better part of two decades as a bestselling author and a motivational speaker. His words have inspired athletes from a variety of sports across the country, including Clemson football, Michigan men’s basketball, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

When he speaks, players and coaches tend to heed his advice. Gordon has made a career out of helping teams reach their full potential and become closer in the process — and that became an even tougher challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Since last March, Gordon’s words have become as important as ever. Athletic teams from all levels are struggling with the reality of abbreviated seasons, limited contact and fluid schedules.

Gordon joined Paul Carcaterra on Season 4, Ep. 2 of “Overtime” to talk about what he’s emphasized to teams during the pandemic. Listen to the episode below.

He encouraged teams to fight the “Five Ds” during COVID-19 — doubt, distorted thoughts, discouragement, distractions and division. He shared how to combat them below.

Trust and Speak Truth to Your Thoughts

Gordon said it’s normal to feel doubt during a time with so much uncertainty, but that players need to make an active effort to trust the people and situations around them. Trust is the antidote to the doubt that lies within us, athletes and beyond.

In a time when inactivity is more frequent, the mind tends to run wild — bringing about more “distorted thoughts” than during ordinary times. Instead of succumbing to those thoughts, not based in reality, Gordon encourages his clients to battle the lies with facts.

Win Today

In any worthwhile effort, players can be prone to discouragement if situations don’t go in their favor. Athletes, and people in general, tend to look at overarching goals and lose sight of living in the moment.

Gordon told a story about Chad Wright, a former Navy Seal, on the challenges of training.

“He said, ‘A lot of guys don’t make it through Hell Week because they’re dreaming for it to end. They’re longing for it to be over. The ones that make it just want to make it to breakfast.’ That was my motto since last April.”

Encourage Yourself and Others

Gordon offers that the mind is like a garden that needs to be nurtured and feed to make sure it thrives. When approached with challenges, athletes need to continue to feed the mind with positivity.

Anxiety and “division” can slip into the mind without notice, and Gordon says we need to be active in combating that division with optimism. The more players can do the same for their teammates, the more they will improve.

“Weed the negative and feed the positive each day,” Gordon said. “If you don’t, you will be bombarded with negativity and fear and adversity.”

Focus on What Matters Most

It may sound cliché, but Gordon urges players to work on getting better each day — even if your respective season is canceled. Focus on improving yourself as much as you can, and you’ll avoid distractions that could derail your progress.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a season,” he said. “The goal is always to simply get better.”


There has never been a more necessary time for teams to make an effort to stay connected. For months, teammates were separated and looked to Zoom calls to maintain contact.

To curb the Five Ds among your teammates, Gordon encourages players and coaches to reach out and maintain a connection.

“I’ve see so many teams during this time become more connected,” he said. “It’s a real testament to what kind of leader you are or what kind of culture you’ve built because when adversity hits, you either run away from each other or toward each other.”

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