I have kids. Five of them to be exact. All played sports, two are still in school and playing actively. I also have a son-in-law that played Major League Baseball with a west coast team for five seasons.
You hear parents all the time talk about how they want their child to get a "college look", or "be ready for a professional sports contract if it comes calling". As you have seen in other posts on this site, getting to that level requires more than a casual interest in the sport in question. And that interest MUST be the interest of the athlete, not the parent.
I strongly believe grit gets you there and little else will.
The Uber Athlete
I've coached over 55 seasons of youth sports over the years. I've seen boys and girls with tremendous potential at 10 or 12, completely lose interest in the sport (or sports) they excelled in by the time they hit high school.
What causes their departure from something they were so good at? The list is long!
They were late to puberty and other kids caught up in talent or strength demoralizing them
Puberty brought an interest in boys or girls, that fragmented their focus
Grades suffered and the parents made a good choice to focus on the student's studies
Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol also enter the picture in high school
Another interest trumps the sport
Some of these are good reasons to abandon the sport. Others are unfortunate perhaps.
Grit Separates the Elite from the Rest
Let's agree that there are outliers to any rule. Take Bo Jackson as a quick example. In the Bo Jackson "ESPN's 30 for 30" episode, Bo's college coach at Auburn said that Bo use to drive him crazy. "Bo, why don't you give it 100% in practices?" "Easy coach" was his reply, "Why work that hard in practice. Save it for the game."
According to his coach, Bo was just that talented. He didn't need to try and get better in practice. You almost want to call bull on that, except the truth is, Bo Jackson was just that talented. But for most athletes, the dedication to the sport and to being the best is a nearly singular focus. Everything else is secondary.
Steph Curry for instances shoots 500, 3-point shots EVERY DAY before he leaves practice.
Grit in my mind is acting in a way that costs you something to achieve a goal. Staying and shooting 500 additional shots at the end of practice costs Steph Curry something, every... day...
Angela Duckworth in her book, "Grit" says that grit is the evidence of the power that passion and perseverance together have in achieving greatness. Now Angela in her book doesn't focus on athletic success. She is adamant that grit is required for true greatness in any pursuit. Whether it be becoming a CEO, a concert pianist, or an NFL superstar.
Grit is coachable, but not something you can demand
Coaching kids to understand what grit is, and the role it plays in the greatest among us becoming the very best at their craft is something we all can do. Finding that grit however comes from within, but it can be learned.
If you want your kids to excel, and they think they want to excel, teach them about grit. Without it, without that singular focus that drives you to work harder and be more focused on a dream than anyone else, their chances of achieving their lofty goal is greatly diminished.
Here at St. Louis Youth Performance, we talk about grit. We coach kids to push through the mind telling you that this is hard. And we encourage our athletes to find the grit to achieve greatness.
To find out more, contact me through our site. I'm happy to discuss your athlete and how we might help her or him meet their athletic goals.