Raising athletes to be resilient and persistent in the face of struggles or challenges is an important role for every coach, but it can be hard to know where to draw the line when helping athletes develop ‘grit.’ An athlete with grit, as explained by Angela Duckworth, the scientist who coined the term, is able to “sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.”
Here are a five common mistakes that coaches make when trying to instill that spirit in athletes.
Avoid Cultivating a Winner-Only Mindset
It’s easy to praise hard work and ‘grit’ when it’s leading to successful games or competitions. Unfortunately, this means that determination and grit often end up feeling synonymous with ‘winning’ and ‘being a winner’ for young athletes.
It’s your responsibility as a coach to help them understand that it’s possible – and perhaps more important – to have grit when things aren’t going their way.
A board-certified family physician and respected youth development and resilience expert, Deborah Gilboa, MD, explains on her website, “The most important lessons are learned in adversity, so we have to remind ourselves not to shield young people, but to enable and encourage their problem-solving and self-confidence.”
At the end of the day, emphasizing an athlete’s determination during hard times is more important to their long-term development than praising it when the athlete is finding success.