What the heck is Grit and do I need it to win?

Are you on the quest to up your game, or improve performance in your sport? Your coach is helping you to increase your physical performance, but are you giving attention to your mental performance? Has anyone told you that you have grit? If not, then it’s time you probably get some.  So what the heck is grit and do I need it to win?

In a recent published study (Larkin & O’Connor, 2015) Grit was defined as a personality trait, which “entails working obstinately toward challenges while sustaining effort and interest in the activity over years in spite of disappointment, hardship, and plateaus”. In other words grit is persevering no matter what the outcome is. It means sticking with it, pushing past the uncomfortable stages and times when you think you can’t get through, but somehow, whether by chance or plan, you do. Larkin & O’Connor’s study resolved that elite level soccer players who had more experience showed more grit than lower level, less experienced players. It has been shown that grittier individuals continually excel in sport, education and job performance. So the answer to my original question is YES, grit is a needed component to excel in sport, but the next question is what comes first, grit or experience?

Some may say that grit is something you are born with and it is engrained in you from your upbringing, however is grit something that can be learned? Yes, grit, like mental toughness, can be learned if coping mechanisms are in place. First you need to ask yourself some tough questions: Do I like my sport? Am I participating in my sport because I want to or am I doing it to please others? What are my goals in my sport? If you aren’t truly in love with your sport, then grit will be hard to come by when times get tough. If your sport is a hobby, then how important is generating grit for your sport specifically and where should it be on your priority list?  How much grit is really needed for you to enjoy your sport?  These are all questions that a sport psychology consultant can help you find answers to but ultimately you already hold the answers and solutions to finding your own grit. 

So what comes first, grit or experience? My answer is experience because through experience we learn to overcome, persevere or even that we need to quit and move on. Persevering because you love your sport and want to be better at it is Grit! So if that describes you, then you are already one step ahead at excelling in your performance.  If quitting describes your experience, then find the next thing you like and test if you can persevere in that until you find what makes you gritty, because grittiness begets passion and passion begets success.

Aloha… until next time. DR


Larkin, P. & O’Conner, D. (2015). Does Grit Influence Sport-Specific Engagement and Perceptual-Cognitive Expertise in Elite Youth Soccer. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 28, 129-138.