Grit, or the conscious decision to push forward in light of adversity, failure, and physical or emotional pain without a clear understanding of when the trial may end, has been found to be a distinguishing trait of the best of the best in all fields. As coaches and leaders we must find ways to trigger, inspire, and elicit grit from our athletes and people at every possible intersection.

Grit drives success.

Perhaps one of the most applicable or evident examples of grit in sports’ history is Jerry Rice and his rise to greatness.

As a kid, Jerry used to chase a black stallion named Pete every morning – when he caught him, he was able to ride him briefly, and so he challenged himself daily to keep pace with the animal. Additionally, Rice’s father was a Mississippi bricklayer, and his tough love toward his boys elicited a sense of discipline and respect. As his brother would toss bricks to Jerry, he had to gently catch them and hand them to his father to lay – every dropped brick meant less money and a strong hand from his dad. He learned to catch anything his brother sent his way. Add that to his “iron will” that former San Francisco 49ers teammate, Steve Young, said truly defined his work ethic, and we wind up with a legend in wide receiver history.

This is grit…and it leads to greatness. Even when Rice was doing things that didn’t directly link to football – chasing horses and catching bricks – he was preparing himself to leave a legacy.

As coaches, parents, and leaders, we must help our student-athletes, kids, and people understand that their current situation is merely preparation for greatness in the future. By shifting perspectives from “pain of today” to “preparation for greatness,” our mindsets begin to develop grit; that is, the mindset of a Champion.

How to Develop Grit in Yourself and Your Team:

•Progress comes when one is challenged to find a new way. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable!
•Adversity challenges us to re-evalute our strengths, purpose, and value. Welcome adversity as a chance to grow!
•Studies show that whether we benefit or experience serious damage from struggling through a traumatic event comes down to our ability to achieve positive psychological adaptation. Shift your mindset from “pain of today” to “preparation for greatness!”
•To create a gritty culture, certain behaviors must not only be approved, but strongly endorsed and supported. Clarify your culture, and praise it when it’s upheld!
•Our focus becomes our reality. Our reality becomes our life. In our lives, what we consider valuable becomes part of our broader cultural narrative.
•The theory of social contagion demonstrates mindsets can spread within a social network. Emobody the mindset of grit to spread throughout your team!
•What is rewarded is replicated!
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