While individual athletes might understand how to persevere and show grit while pursuing their goals, it can be tough for a coach to bring those lessons to a whole team since each player might have different goals, respond to different motivators, and be interested in sport for different reasons. But sports are the perfect chance to teach team-based grit, which can help athletes in sport and in their future careers.
Grit – like perseverance – has been defined as the tendency to “sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.”
Research has shown that the sense of belonging that comes from being on a sports team, along with a common goal, helps children understand the importance of ‘respecting the rules and honoring responsibilities.’ Angela Duckworth, the researcher who coined the term ‘grit’ in 2007, has found that focusing on a goal as a team can improve focus in all aspects of life.
But how does a coach bring grit to the entire team?
At the beginning of the season, gather the team and create a mission statement for the season. What does grit mean for the team? What do the players want to work on from a skills acquisition standpoint? What will success look like? What does it mean to have perseverance during practice or competition? Remember, young athletes take their cues from you, so it’s your responsibility to help them understand that ‘grit’ doesn’t simply mean ‘winning’ or ‘never giving up.’
Help them define the team’s values around grit but let them do the actual phrasing and writing. Giving your athletes ownership of this statement will help unify the team around their common mission.
If the only emphasis on your team is ‘winning the game’ or ‘game day strategy,’ it can be hard to push through rough patches and seasons that don’t go according to plan. As you’re talking about perseverance and dedication, make sure that language is used during practice, as well as on game day.
Setting a specific goal for each athlete to achieve at practice (a certain number of repetitions of a drill, for instance) and having the athletes work together to ensure that everyone meets that goal can be one way to make sure the players are persevering together all the time, not just on game day.