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Grit: How To Get Back Up After Failure

This article is brought to you by US Sailing in partnership with TrueSport.

Failures are guaranteed in life and in sport, but often times, the way coaches and parents respond to failure will either crush a young athlete’s confidence or inspire them to take advantage of a valuable learning moment.

To help kids develop greater resilience, perseverance, and grit, it is important to incorporate the following practices to encourage young athletes to fail forward and use failures as a catalyst for learning and positive change.

Support an athlete’s passion

Angela Duckworth, New York Times best-selling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, define grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.”

So, in order for your athlete to stick with a difficult activity, it has to be personally valuable. This means when your young athlete shows passion for an activity, encourage them to pursue it. If they are playing a sport they are not passionate about just to please parents, coaches, or peers, they are more likely to quit in response to minor failures.

When athletes ask Coach Bill Curry, a 4-time NFL Champion and former Head Football Coach at the University of Alabama, about whether to stick with football, he asks, “What’s in your heart?”

Grit, he also reasons, starts with passion. If a young athlete is passionate and ready to work hard, he should stick with it. In some cases, perseverance pays off. Even when it doesn’t, athletes still learn valuable lessons – about themselves, teamwork, relationships, and more.