Part 1: What is Grit?
I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Angela Duckworth, a University of Penn researcher and the leading expert on grit. Her lab defines grit as the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. This is one of the most important characteristics for any athlete. I contend that psychological characteristics such as grit are as important as physical characteristics, which is why athletes need to understand this concept and how it plays a crucial role in their success.
Achievement = Talent x Effort.
Dr. Duckworth shared this formula to highlight the importance of hard work. She then explained that hard work helps build talent through deliberate practice. For athletes, this comes in the form of interval sprints, long runs, going to the gym every day, and training very hard. It is the type of training that most athletes dread. It is not fun and there are not immediate noticeable rewards. However deliberate practice can allow athletes to reach long term goals. Dr. Duckworth shared the sentiments of a world class dancer. Spectators get to see the flawless, seemingly effortless, graceful, and perfect dance recital. But behind this amazing performance are countless hours of suffering, endless training, and “repeated deaths” in the form of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is connected with:
· Setting specific stretch goals (goals that cannot be easily attained)
o Working to improve weaknesses
· Concentrating 100%
o This type of practice is often done alone
· Getting immediate and informative feedback
o Self-reflection, coach feedback, analyzing video footage
· Practicing repetitively until fluent/comfort on the playing field
The problem for a lot of people is being aware of purposely exposing themselves to suffering, but it is a natural part of deliberate practice. Sustained effort, exposure to frustration, and repeated pain is felt when working toward long term goals, for example, developing your weak foot, learning proper tackling technique, getting comfortable with left handed lay-ups, or playing at the college level. Deliberate practice is the least enjoyable part of being an athlete. It is the behind the scenes work that allows for someone like Messi, James, or Manning to be the best in the world. Someone does not achieve greatness on talent alone, grit is required. We all know an underachieving athlete who has “tremendous potential” but falls short over and over again. We also know an overachieving athlete who manages to succeed and be identified as one of the best despite having less raw talent. In both these examples grit impacts the unachieved potential and the overachievement in each athlete.
For additional information regarding deliberate practice check out http://thepsychreport.com/science/how-experts-practice-a-novel-test-of-deliberate-practice-theory/
The Psych Report was created by a former player of mine at Swarthmore College, Evan Nesterak.
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