Mental toughness is an important skill that gives your athletes an edge in sports and in life. Help your athletes get back up after failure by teaching them perseverance, resilience and grit.
Failures are guaranteed in life and in sport, but the way coaches and parents respond to failure can crush young athletes' confidence or inspire them to take advantage of a valuable learning moment.
To help kids develop greater resilience, perseverance and grit, it is important to incorporate the following practices to encourage young athletes to fail forward and use failures as a catalyst for learning and positive change.
Angela Duckworth, New York Times best-selling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.”
So, in order for your athlete to stick with a difficult activity, it has to be personally valuable. This means when your young athletes show passion for an activity, encourage them to pursue it. If they are playing a sport they are not passionate about just to please parents, coaches or peers, they are more likely to quit in response to minor failures.
When athletes ask Coach Bill Curry, a four-time NFL Champion and former head football coach at the University of Alabama, about whether to stick with football, he asks, “What’s in your heart?”
Grit, he also reasons, starts with passion. If young athletes are passionate and ready to work hard, they should stick with it. In some cases, perseverance pays off. Even when it doesn’t, athletes still learn valuable lessons – about themselves, teamwork, relationships and more.
When kids struggle to learn a new sport or fail to meet expectations, they sometimes want to quit mid-season.
Coach Curry advises parents to help kids develop grit by encouraging them to finish out the season and honor the commitment they made to themselves and their teammates.
“My first season of football I wanted to quit, but my father said I had to finish what I started,” he remembers. “By the end of the season, it was the relationships with my teammates that made me fall in love with football.”
Honoring commitments is an important life lesson that will benefit kids in all areas of life, and sticking it out for a season provides enough time to overcome initial hurdles to discover the aspects of a sport that do ignite an athlete’s passion.
“My first season of football I wanted to quit, but my father said I had to finish what I started ... By the end of the season, it was the relationships with my teammates that made me fall in love with football.”.
Coach Bill Curry, 4-time NFL Champion and former Head Football Coach at the University of Alabama