As parents and coaches, we are constantly looking for opportunities to find teachable moments. Sometimes we find those opportunities when our child makes a mistake and other times we compliment when they struggle through adversity. Either way, if we care about our kids, we find ways to make an impact.

Recently, an author by the name of Angela Duckworth, wrote a book titled “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” In this book she discussed ways coaches and parents can make an impact on a child’s ability to be gritty. According to the Webster Dictionary, the definition of grit is, “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Angela Duckworth tweaked the definition to be, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Grit is more important than talent. Duckworth states, “Rising to the occasion had nothing do with talent. People that succeeded in life not only had insane determination regardless of the task, but they also had a vision and strong direction of where they wanted to go. They always had a ‘never good enough’ attitude. This constantly kept them hungry and the journey was just as important as the end result.” Duckworth went on to say, “Passion and perseverance equals grit. Our potential is one thing, but what we do with it is another. We must build our skill level with effort to reach any achievement. A high level of performance is an accretion of mundane tasks.”

In her book, Duckworth discussed unique opportunities for coaches to make an impact on their players teaching them grit. Duckworth talked about how grit is found in the balance of doing something challenging that also interests you. Most kids attend school that is challenging but not really interesting. When kids play with their friends after school, it may be interesting but not necessarily challenging. Coaches who are involved in your child’s extra-curricular activities play a crucial role in teaching grit. A sport is a combination of something challenging and interesting. A soccer coach can make a kid who didn’t believe they could accomplish something, not only achieve, but persevere when it became difficult. The “never give up” mentality is easy to say but difficult to achieve. Duckworth discusses how crucial your choice of a coach impacts your child’s gritty development.

As Tidewater Sharks coaches, we understand this unique opportunity to make a positive impact on our players. Soccer is a tool to teach grit, a balance of challenging and interesting. There is also a lesson in understanding how they must do mundane tasks well. Passing for an hour straight may not be fun, but it’s important to perfect technique. Muscle memory plays a large part in soccer, and repeating a mundane task improves a player’s ability. The difficult part for a coach is finding ways to make that mundane task enjoyable.

As Tidewater Sharks progress into the National Premier League (NPL), we fulfill the “challenging” component for our players. The tricky part is balancing the interesting/enjoyable through this transition. Regardless of the league level (NPL, VSL or TASL), all our coaches are striving for their players to learn grit. Will they quit? Will they rise to the occasion? Will they believe they are good enough? All those questions come in the face of adversity. In the months ahead, as we continue into the fall season, we hope to continue to improve not only because we enjoy the challenge, but because we see the long-term benefits of “never giving up.”

GRIT is a marathon…not a sprint.