The Real Value of Sports

There are some very valuable lessons that our students should learn from being a student/athlete.

First is teamwork – They will learn that the collective efforts of a group are always more powerful than any individual talents. They will experience a level of brotherhood and sisterhood that will never be forgotten.

Second is Responsibility – The students will learn how to manage the complex demands of schoolwork and athletics and find balance between the two. They will learn how to become more responsible for keeping track of their own uniforms and other various equipment and supplies they will need to compete.

They will understand that they are not only responsible for themselves, but also have a sense of responsibility for their teammates. They will learn that in life, if you want to be successful, you have to be dependable. You have to make commitments to the people around you and do everything in your power to fulfill those commitments.

While both teamwork and responsibility are extremely important lessons, there is one thing our students should learn that is more important than both any other – and that is “Grit.” Now some of you are thinking, “what the heck is grit?” Actually, grit is currently being studied by university psychology professors all of the country. It is a hot topic and it resonates with me because it is not some scientific jargon. It is good ol’ boy speak similar to what I grew up hearing the old timers talk about in my small town of Richview, IL. And those of you John Wayne fans out there may appreciate the term even more. Grit is defined as a person’s ability to push through difficult circumstances and continue to work hard towards their long-term goals. This work is often done while facing adversity. It is the display of courage and resolve, tenacity, and strength of character.

A University of Pennsylvania researcher did a study on 30,000 successful AND unsuccessful people and found that the number one determining factor in their success was not IQ, or innate talent, or family income, or good looks, the number one factor was GRIT.

Grit is not only developed during the 4th quarter of a hard fought football game, the last quarter mile of a cross country race, during the exhausting 3rd period of a volleyball regional championship, or the final hole of a tied golf match. Grit is developed in the day in and day out activities that your child experiences in sports, in school, and at home. Grit is developed in practice, in class, and in the conversations that you all will have around the dinner table.

Grit is a person’s ability to always know that their efforts will pay off and the harder they work the more they will improve. Grit is growth mindset. Our goal is for students to understand that things will not always go their way.

They should understand that failure is part of the process and can be overcome. Gritty players understand that if they are not getting the playing time they would like, there is only one way to improve the situation and that is through determination, focus, and work. Gritty players do not play the blame game.

They do not blame their teammates, they encourage them. They do not blame their coaches, they learn from them. And more than anything, a player with true grit understands that there is one person that is solely responsible for their success or failure and that is the person in the mirror.

Now lets talk about how as a family you can help to create a student/athlete that has true grit. It really is very simple. When your child comes home complaining about their teammates, coaches, playing time, practice schedule, or the typical demands that come along with being a successful student athlete, don’t get into a conversation about how they are not getting their fair shake, or how so and so should be playing before him or her, or how the coach is an idiot. These types of conversations lead students down a path of apathy and create a victim mindset. The opposite of grit.

You should simply say, “I love you, and the best way for you to overcome this obstacle is to keep your head up and outwork every single person at practice and school ALL DAY – EVERY DAY.” You don’t need to say anything else, or partake in the “pity party” and excuses.

AND, I will promise you, if you take this advice to heart, your child will get the real value out of high school athletics – which is not scholarships and glory – it is the development of the thought processes and skills that will help them become an awesome father, mother, and leader one day that will demonstrate true grit to their children and their community.

Thanks for Listening!

Mr. Foutch