There is nothing quite like the sound of feet stomping on bleachers, cowbells, and fans cheering under the Friday Night Lights at a high school football game. The marching band is playing and the crowd is a vital part of the experience. We are deep in the heart of the high school football season here and the pinnacle Homecoming game is right around the corner. My sophomore son plays football and I have seen firsthand the perseverance, grit, and adaptability that he has developed since beginning the sport in 7th grade. The principles that his football team are guided by are selflessness, preparation, investment, accountability, and leadership. Each of those focus areas help the boys to build grit and perseverance. Are there lessons there that everyone can learn from?

According to SACAP in the blog post “What is Grit? These are 5 Characteristics”, grit can be dissected into five distinct categories.

  • Courage includes following a vision, saying “no” when it’s easier to say “yes”, being willing to make the difficult decisions and being accountable when you make the call.
  • Conscientiousness is shown through organization and being willing to stand up for your principles.
  • Perseverance is the ability to keep moving forward in the face of adversity.
  • Resilience is the acceptance that life is a series of ups and downs.
  • Passion is having a clear sense of purpose and living by that purpose.

What does having grit do for us? Is it really that important? The short answer is YES! Grit is the ability to face tough challenges and make progress towards your goals. Just like the football team that trains all year and works towards the goal of winning games, this principle can be applied to the classroom too. Angela Duckworth describes her research in the area of grit and some of her takeaways.

I was struck by the statement that “we need to be willing to fail, to be wrong and start over again with lessons learned.” We sometimes get so wrapped up in the business of school that we sometimes forget the point. School is a time for learning and making mistakes. She ends her talk with a call to action, how do we incorporate grit into the lives of our young people? How do we as the adults show students that there are risks worth taking, that the challenge is beneficial, and the struggle serves a purpose?

According to Tim Shirk in the article What is Grit, Why is it Important, & How Can We Develop It?”, there are some distinct ways that we can help students to develop grit.

  • Encourage students to find a passion.
  • Help students to realize that they CAN do hard things!
  • Teach students when not to quit, how to quit, and when to quit.
  • Allow students time to grapple with their frustration and own the solutions.
  • Celebrate failure and mistakes!
  • Praise the process.

Not sure where to start? Angela Duckworth has a great tool that you could use with your students that can help them see their grit score and how they compare to others. This tool is a great jumping off point to begin to have the conversation with students. Click here to check out the tool.

I look at my son and his team in awe of the dedication and passion that they exude for football. Win or lose, they are learning life lessons that will far outlast the football field. Next time you catch your students or your child showing determination, grit, and perseverance, give them the props they deserve for putting themselves out there. Do you have any strategies that you use with students to help them to build grit? How do your students show grit and determination?  Please let us know by tagging us @KaneCountyROE.

Raven Szalkowski – Professional Learning Coordinator
(t):  630-762-2056

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