The Mystery of GRIT in Sports

Posted: Thursday, May 25th, 2017. Filed under ATHLETeX, Talent
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Look up the word GRIT in the dictionary and you will find the following: courage and resolve; a strength of character. There are no better examples of moments in time where GRIT was evident than in the world of athletic competition. In the 1996 Olympic Games, legendary gymnast Kerri Strug needed a 9.50 or better on the vault to win gold for the USA. Essentially on one leg, she completed her final attempt to earn a 9.712 to earn gold for her team. Consider Kirk Gibson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who propelled his team past the dominant Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series. Gibson battled through a violent stomach virus along with injuries in both of his legs and showed true GRIT by hammering a game-winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley.

The Four Pillars of Grit

So is GRIT a moment in time? Or is deep-rooted in the very fiber of elite student-athletes?  The reality is GRIT comes from nature and nurture. So, how do the best coaches and athletes bring out their GRIT? Below you will see the Four Pillars of GRIT and how student-athletes and coaches implement strategies to maximize their GRIT.

1. Goal Orientation

Kerri Strug’s GRIT came from her ability to stay consistently focused on her long-term goal of leading her team to gold in gymnastics. She began her pursuit of this accomplishment at eight years old through a determined dedication to her training towards that one moment in time where she had a choice to continue or give up from injury. Like Strug, the best student-athletes set long-term goals to ensure they always have a target. Similarly, outstanding coaches facilitate the goal setting process with their athletes to ensure the focus remains on the process of reaching those goals.

2. Achievement Drive

Athletes with a strong sense of achievement have a gas pedal that is always pressed to the floor and always pushing their GRIT speedometer. They set high expectations for their performance and they have a heart of accomplishment. How do the best coaches develop these athletes? They are always pressing the “turbo button” on achievement driven athletes. They push their athletes to achieve greatness and never letting them settle for “good enough” at any practice or competition.

3. Resiliency

Kirk Gibson had numerous opportunities to retire. He was an all-American at Michigan State University in both football and baseball, a first round draft pick, a World Series Champion, and an MVP in both the American and National League. What got him up to bat in the World Series game? Part of the GRIT he possessed related to his ability to never let obstacles or injury stop him from pressing forward to victory. Like Gibson, the best student-athletes have a will to work around, over, or through failure to ensure they maximize their outcomes. Coaches who recognize resiliency within their student-athletes often remind them of how they have persevered in the past and share with them the vision of success to come when they face challenges rather than lowering expectations for the athlete.

4. Optimism

Within a team, optimistic student-athletes show GRIT as they reach down deeper and raise team spirits to overcome the threat of loss or to encourage the team to victory. Their overall view is one of optimism because they know the true payoff is in the future, almost as if they can see the desired endpoint come into being. Coaching optimistic student-athletes can be a pleasure for coaches as those who recognize this behavior leverage it. They encourage those with this natural positivity to become influencers of the team, often asking them to lead the charge in “firing up” their teammates.

Can You Measure It?

Clearly, GRIT extends beyond the physical. These are the non-physical, psychological, mental, emotional “IT” of each student-athlete. HUMANeX calls this “IT” Impact Talent. You may ask: can this “Impact Talent” be measured?” The answer is YES and HUMANeX Ventures already has tools that do this well! HUMANeX Ventures measures themes like competitiveness, coachability, courage and other predictors of successful performance in student-athletes.

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