Don MacNaughton Coaching

The Importance of “Grit” in Sport Performance

“We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.” – Angela Duckworth

We could debate where “talent comes from but I’m sure we can all agree that talent alone is not enough to succeed in high performance sport, so what is it that takes an athlete all the way to the top?

Whatever the competition, there can only be one winner, and in post-event interviews, a common response to the question of what got them to the top is, “I just worked harder,” or, “I just wanted it more.” But, can the difference between being a winner and being an also ran really come down to this single defining attitude? Well, the answer is yes and no…

Working Harder

Surely every athlete who makes it to the final round in any competitive sport has “worked hard” to get there, and surely every athlete who makes it to the round that will decide the ultimate winner “wants it more”, right?

You’re not going to be in the final round unless you’ve worked hard towards a long-term goal and you’re not going to have stayed the course unless you’ve had what it takes to persevere through setbacks and failure, so according to Angela Duckworth’s definition, you’ve got there through demonstrating grit.

It’s grit that gives you what it takes to “maintain effort and interest over years” but it’s fair to say that grit overlaps with intrinsic motivation. When your drive to succeed comes from passion and the sheer love of doing what you do, you have what it takes to stick with it even when medals and prizes are not coming your way.

A Gritty Performance

Sports commentators often use the term “gritty” to describe a determined or courageous performance. An athlete who “hangs tough” and shows no sign of giving in despite the challenges they face is a gritty performer, but let’s step back and think about everything that led up to that day, that moment, and that make or break gritty performance:

  • The relentless drive to be the best you can be
  • The dedication and determination to make every effort in training and in competition count
  • The unwavering commitment to achieving your goal
  • The willingness to keep learning from every experience
  • And the purposeful intention to be prepared for every set of circumstances you might face as a competitor in your sport.

You see, grit isn’t something that’s pulled out to get you through that one performance, it’s something that’s in you at every stage in training and in every day of preparation. It’s grit that keeps you going through the years of training necessary to make it to that one big competition, and it’s grit that gives you the stickability needed to keep going through the inevitable tough times along the way.

If you have grit, you are ready, willing, and prepared to do whatever it takes to succeed.

The bottom line is that a gritty performer is an athlete who not only knows they deserve to be in the competition, but also to win. They know they’ve worked hard and done everything in their power day in and day out to be the best they can be, and, most importantly of all, they believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.

Don MacNaughton is a High Performance Coach and has worked tirelessly to help clients achieve success in the world of sport and business over the past 15 years.  To find out more about the latest courses and programmes please email donald@zonedinperformance.com




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