Can we develop or enhance the concept of grit?1 Opinion
The concept of grit is often discussed in the field of high performance athletics. We have seen the post-game interviews with coaches and players alike stating that “we need to be gritty” or “it was a gritty effort.” However if I was to put you on the spot and ask you to define it – could you?
Grit is a term that we use daily in our lives, but some perspective on the meaning could be crucial in developing the action focussed athlete. To me, grit can be defined simply as “the perseverance and passion required for long term goals.” A great example of grit is from 2013 US Open Golf Champion Justin Rose. Justin finished in a tie for 4th at the 1998 British Open as the silver medalist (low amateur). On the subsequent Monday Rose turned professional and went on to miss 21 cuts. In 2013 Rose won his 1st major (US Open at Merion Golf Club).
In his book Drive, author Daniel Pink does a great job in explaining the process of grit and its importance by describing the “Beast Barracks.” These barracks are part of the cadet training for the United States Military Academy, a seven week journey for new men and women. It was found that 1/20 of these new recruits drop out by the time the seven weeks concludes. Researchers Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly (2007) researched why some individuals did not succeed after just seven weeks into their journey. Some possible examples of an early exit could be lack of physical strength or athleticism, intellect, and even leadership abilities? However what the researchers found was that the best predictor of success “was the prospective cadets ratings on a noncognitive, nonphysical trait known as grit” (Pink, 2009, p. 124). For a true opportunity of success psychologist Anders Ericsson states “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the results of intense practice for a minimum of 10 years” (p. 124).
In theory this is a great concept in working with high performance athletes, however can we really establish grit in our athletes or teams? As I have stated in earlier articles the route to success for each team or organization and individual is different. I would be naive to simply state that grit can be developed, however like mastery of skills grit could be enhanced by asking the right questions and developing the right type of plan for athletes. It will not happen overnight, or even possibly within the year but motivation and the intensity of effort I like to believe can be a cornerstone to grit. I feel humans, with the right type of plan will “answer the bell” because “it is hard to stop an individual who knows what he/she wants and keeps coming.”
Therefore a few examples to ask teams and individuals to enhance the motivation towards that long term commitment (grit) are as follows:
Establish Our Goals
1. As a group or individual what is our ultimate team outcome goal in the next month?
2. As a group or individual what is our ultimate process goal/priority to achieve that goal?
Understand the Process Needed
1. As a group or individual on a scale of 1-10 where are you today overall to the probability of achieving that goal?
2. What will work to achieve this? What are the key work ethic areas?
Insight into Your Design (How You Will Get There?)
1. What do you need to do to gain success (what does your practice points look like)?
2. What can you draw upon to accomplish your outcome goal?
Enable Yourself and Teammates
1. What will you do and by when?
2. How will you hold yourself and your group accountable?
In conclusion, enhancing grit is not an overnight workshop, it is a dedication to establishing ourselves in action focussed priorities and objectives. It is evaluating these aspects and building a conscious effort towards the plan for performance.
Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92,
Pink, D. (2009). Drive, New York, NY: Penguin Group.
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About Kyle McDonald
Kyle McDonald is owner/operator of Competitive Will, an athlete, coach and business performance development company. Integrating high performance strategies for success.