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The Power of Grit

Savannah Linhares, 2020 recipient of the coveted Positive Coaching Alliance Double-Goal Coach® Award, shares how grit can be the difference-maker in sports, school and life.

Grit as a Means for Success

When I first started teaching and coaching I immediately noticed there was something about those successful students and athletes that set them apart. When faced with challenges, they weren’t quick to give up. More importantly, they believed they could improve, even when things didn’t come easy. After a lot of observation and research, I came to the conclusion that these students and athletes have grit and face their challenges with a Growth Mindset. More importantly, this is something that can be taught to athletes. I set out to figure out how.

What is Grit?

The first step to teaching grit is understanding what it is and why it is important for success. Angela Duckworth is a Psychologist who studies grit and its role in success. She describes grit as “passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement.” Duckworth has done a great deal of research that shows grit is the greatest predictor of success in many different areas. When athletes have the ability to combine resilience, self-control, and effort they are choosing to have grit. This can be the difference between success and failure, regardless of the circumstances.

Grit in Athletics

Grit is the defining characteristic between athletes and excellent athletes. It is the difference between an athlete who leaves a practice or game content with the outcome and an athlete who thinks about what they can do to continue to improve. Can Grit be taught? Absolutely. There is a direct correlation between athletes with grit and athletes that have a Growth Mindset. A Growth Mindset is the belief that one can improve with practice and hard work. While a Fixed Mindset belongs to a person who believes that talent is the only indicator of success; they can’t improve with practice. The mindset of the athlete is where grit begins.

The Power of "Yet"

Adding “yet” to the end of a sentence is a simple way to begin showing athletes that a Growth Mindset is a way to improve grit. Carol Dweck is a psychologist who studies Growth and Fixed Mindsets. In her Ted Talk: “Developing a Growth Mindset” Dweck focuses on the power of “yet.” For example, when I have a student athlete say that they can't make 10 free throws in a row, I change their sentence to “You can’t make 10 free throws in a row...yet.” With time and consistency, they begin adding that word yet to their “I can’t” statements and holding their teammates and coaches accountable to doing the same. Grit stems from a Growth Mindset.

How do We Start?

The first step is explicitly teaching the difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset to our athletes. Just like with a drill or play, we have to show them, but it is essential that we give them many opportunities to practice it. The next step is to work on creating a culture that believes in the power of "yet". Give your athletes opportunities to be challenged at practice so that they can work on choosing a Growth Mindset, even when it is hard. More importantly, hold them accountable to that every single day. When athletes, coaches, and teams live in the power of yet, they begin to believe they can improve, no matter what may be against them. This makes them resilient in their fight to achieve whatever they want to achieve, which is the very definition of grit. My favorite part about developing grit in athletes is that it is crucial on the court, but it is imperative in the arena of life.


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