The importance of GRIT as a predictor of success in football (soccer) and in life

The following article was originally posted by Ian McClurg on his Learn Perform Coaching website.

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A few of my own players demonstrated several of these key attributes by showing up and training on Easter weekend in heavy rain and hailstones. On a larger scale the performance by Everton against Manchester United (a 4-0 win for Everton) proved that talent alone does not predict success. Manchester United operate on a much larger player budget than Everton, have more skilled players yet ran 8 kilometres less than the Everton team! The were totally outworked by Everton and as a results totally outplayed. 

Last week I wrote about what it takes to play at the highest levels of the game. Read Article .  The article spoke about the importance of ambition, desire, mental toughness and attention as key psychological predictors in defining who would be the top soccer players in the future.   

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(Everton v Manchester United game statists. Source: Wyscout) 

I am a strong advocate of the research work by Dr. Angela Duckworth who developed a 12 question study to measure GRIT. You can take the test here

The research work by Angela Lee Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania confirmed that the most significant predictor of success in kids isn’t social intelligence, good looks, physical health or IQ. 

“It’s about having stamina, sticking with your future – day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years – and working really hard to make that future a reality.” (Caroline Adams Miller)

Duckworth argues that the best way to build grit in kids is to develop a “growth mindset”. The growth mindset was developed by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist. Growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn can change with effort. When kids understand the brain grows in response to challenge, they’re more likely to persevere when they fail. They cultivate grit when they know the qualities they need for success can be developed through dedication and effort. Learn More 

Grit is defined as passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals and will determine who succeeds at school, in sports and in life in general. GRIT is a key predictor of future success!

A few years ago, I wrote the following article in my book “Play the 1v1 Way!”. I think it is just as relevant now as it was then. 

What defines the diamonds – Play the 1v1 Way!

It is a hot topic in many soccer circles: What attributes do coaches look for in identifying good players? All of us do have differing opinions but there are several common attributes that coaches at the higher levels are looking for. 

Many people would assume that physical attributes like speed and technical ability would be at the top of any list. But contrary to popular belief, attitude and the ability to learn are key factors. If you do have the correct attitude and the ability and willingness to learn it does not matter how talented you are. You simply will not be capable of playing at the higher levels of the game. 

I have watched academy training sessions at professional clubs in Europe where the most talented players technically have not followed the assigned warm-up, only played at the level they are capable of in small bursts and moaned at teammates around them. It is these players that are quickly passed over. The manager and coaching staff, after all, are looking for players they can count on, game in and game out, over a long stretch of time and not just in bursts. I read an interview recently in FourFourTwo magazine with Liam Brady, who for a long time has masterminded Arsenal’s youth- development system. He admitted that Jermaine Pennant — who has had an inconsistent, checkered career at best as a pro — was in fact the most talented player to come through the famed Arsenal youth program, but never had the discipline to make it with this legendary club. 

Talk to many professional players and they will tell you that their path to play at the highest levels of the game was paved with obstacles, in the form of many players who were judged at some point to be more talented than they were. Many of these players eventually fell by the wayside. They stopped learning and the others around them elevated their level of play to move above them. 

I firmly believe that the players who have a true love of the game have a greater chance to play it at the highest levels. Training is, after all, hard work! There will be inevitable set-backs along the way such as injury, loss of form or being rejected. Players like Rickie Lambert of the English Premiership side Southampton, who just began to make his mark during the 2012-13 season at the age of 31, spend the majority of their careers in the lower leagues.At one point in his career, Lambert had to support his lower-league income by working in a canning factory. But he kept going, always kept believing in himself, and he’s been rewarded. In summer of 2013, Lambert was even called up to the England team — and scored within seconds of making his debut as a sub against Scotland! It is very likely that he has a strong support system of family and friends around him as well. 

Players like Lambert have had to work very hard to get where they are and have a good work ethic to keep learning and stay at the top of their game. At 31, he now plays for England, while some are now doubting how long Wayne Rooney, at 27, can remain at the top level of the game. Who would have guessed that a few short years ago? 

One partner club academy Wolves FC defines five main attributes that they look for in young players.To be a successful player at Wolves, players are required to have the following qualities: 

  • Take responsibility for your own attitude at all times. Ensure you set high standards both on and off the field of play. 

  • Ability to handle the ball under pressure. To prepare to play at the very highest level — a high level of proficiency will be required in this area. 

  • Ability to learn. The Academy represents a school of football, on this basis, you must be able to take on board information and apply it in training and in games. 

  • Players must have their own vision of the game. The very best players see “pictures” before anybody else.You will have to display a certain level of game intelligence. 

  • Whether you are attacking or defending, winning or losing, playing well or poorly, regardless of opposition or playing surface, in wind, rain, sleet or snow, you must have a desire to play the game 

Some of these may surprise you, because they don’t focus too much on the actual physical aspects of play. But regardless 

If our youngsters can develop these types of attributes they will get identified and noticed for higher levels of play!