By Ken Reed

All for one, and one for all.

That old phrase popularized by The Three Musketeers is pretty well known. On the other hand, the concept mudita isn’t well known at all, but it has a similar meaning.

Mudita is a Buddhist philosophy that basically means taking vicarious joy in the success of others. It also encompasses four key attitudes: kindness, love, compassion and equanimity. In sports, it translates to a team-first mentality: supporting your teammates through ups and down no matter what your individual role on the team might be. It’s a focus on team stats and team success over individual stats and individual success. It’s having a “we, not me” attitude, no matter if you’re the team’s star or last player on the bench.

Several teams at the University of Alabama have adopted the mudita approach in recent years. Softball coach Patrick Murphy introduced it to his team a few years ago and the philosophy helped lead the team to a national championship. Not long after, the baseball team at Alabama embraced it and players raved about the positive impact it had on the team’s culture.

This year, the Alabama men’s basketball team became passionate mudita believers, and the team’s coaches and players feel it was a big reason they reached the Final Four.

“We heard the word and that changed our season around,” said Alabama guard and leading scorer Mark Sears. “You could see it on our face(s), cheering for others when they’re succeeding even (if) we’re not succeeding. It changed us around.”

Guard Aaron Estrada touted the mental benefits.
“Just knowing that you have your brothers behind you and everybody in our program behind you, I think it just helps on a mental level and ultimately that helps you just play better down the stretch.”

Alabama coach Nate Oats made t-shirts for every one in the men’s basketball program with the word Mudita in the middle of the shirts as a way to help everyone in the program remember what they stood for as a team.

Asked for an example of mudita from this season, Oats tells the story of Sears telling him during a game to run plays for fellow player Grant Nelson, who had been playing well, instead of him.

“When you have your leading scorer and best player tell you to run plays for somebody else,” Oats said, “That’s the definition of mudita.” Mudita. An awesome way to approach team sports.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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