Understanding GRIT in an athlete’s life

I was recently invited to take part in one of our youth national team coaches’ new project. As I was exploring their material, I stumbled upon this post. The blog publication attempts to explain grit/mental toughness and how to develop it. In essence, if you want to increase your chances of success in life -including sports- one has to develop a growth mindset. The earlier one adopts that type mentality (ex. mamba), the less reliance is placed on factors that are outside of our control (ex. innate talent).

Wikipedia defines grit as “a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective)“. Please spend a few minutes listening to psychologist Angela Duckworth define grit in the Ted talk below. Then, try to relate it to your own situation (or your young player’s)

Grit: The power of passion and perseverance

If you don’t have an additional ten minutes to read the blog above, here is a quick summary:

Define what grit/mental toughness means to you

We all have different goals and objectives in life. Make sure yours are SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. First, capture your SMART goals by writing them down. Next, start working on them; sometimes sharing them with others will elevate your own accountability level and will help you measure progress. It’s normal for young athletes to require assistance articulating their own goals. Once they reach certain age (or maturity) complete autonomy is expected.

As an example, during these times of no team practices. Our children have found creative ways to train most days. In addition to their physical training, one of the boys supplements his training by running about 5 kilometers/day at least 5 days per week. Each run should be done in the same course as the previous run as the completion time must be better than all the previous occurrences. This is part of a bigger goal he has.

Build grit in discrete portions

Grit does not have to be necessarily developed against extreme adversity. In fact, it’s best if it isn’t. Start by growing grit on your terms. Aim small miss small. In your daily lives, push yourself out of your comfort zone doing something simple or small that directly impacts your SMART goals/objectives. Faster growth occurs when we are outside of our comfort zones.

Develop a growth mindset by getting used to challenging yourself. Something as easy as going to sleep 15 minutes earlier because your goal is to sleep 42 hours/week. Understand that grit and mental toughness are traits that need to be carefully nourished and developed. In the end, it’s all about developing and then maintaining the habits. The habit of continuous improvement equates to a growth mindset.

On a personal note, 7 years ago, when the idea about this family website was presented to us by my younger sister, I found many reasons to postpone its inception (mostly lack of time or so I thought). She insisted that we had so much to share with others and that it’s the least that we could do. Long story short, she’s no longer with us but we ended up following her advice. Thankfully, last year, we finally decided to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and started this site in a non-native language. Now, we can’t stop writing and helping others. It’s become a self-rewarding family project that has impacted other families. We are constantly inundated with communication (texts, emails, and calls) from parents asking us for footballing advice. Also, we now see other families starting similar online (Twitter, YouTube) family projects as a result of our initiative: #theGomezway. The seed has been planted, now, it’s time to “pay it forward”.

Build strong habits and don’t depend on motivation

Grit and mental toughness are more about cultivating the needed habits to reach your goals. Developing consistency eliminates the need for sporadic motivation or courage (ex. going to the gym). If you create the correct habits to go to the gym, you will never need additional motivation (ex. a partner to work out with). Strong habits (especially an open growth mindset) are the basis for future success especially in athletes.

During these down times, the boys have been working everyday on some of their improvement areas. They work out and push each other hard, but fortunately, they do not depend on each other’s company for continuous improvement. They know they will be together for a short period of time and after they return to their respective new homes, their objectives will remain the same.

Recently, one of Johan’s Chumchat’s guests Will Swinney (Dabo Swinney’s son) summarized it best when he said:

Your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your character and your character becomes your destiny

Will Swinney

In closing, learn how to have a growth mindset. This is ONE way to develop grit or mental toughness. It all starts with the way we perceive the world. Have you ever wonder how a single song has the power to change our mood? Our minds are very poweful. Make “continuous change” the norm in your daily lives and take control (or at least influence) of your success now.

BTW, this week’s chumchat video didn’t have any guests but the boys had a good time “reviewing” previous guests Instagrams accounts. It’s a funny episode. Give it a listen.

Chumchat: Season 1 Episode 16. Roasting Instagram accounts

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