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The Importance of 'Grit' in Talent Development

By Dan Pollard, 03/13/18, 3:15PM EDT

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Breakaway Podcast presented by Dodge Caravan Kids



Photo Credit: Roger Stermann Photography

It’s one of those buzzwords that always seems to come up when describing a hockey player, but what exactly is ‘grit’?

Some would say that grit is another word for toughness on the ice and how hard a player is willing to battle in the corners. Others describe grit with a more long-term focus on how determined a player is to achieve their goals.

When Malcolm Gladwell popularized the ‘10,000 Hour’ rule, some parents immediately latched on to the idea that if they want their child to excel in sports, they needed to get these 10,000 hours in before their 10th birthday.

What doesn’t come up when defining the rule are the defining features of deliberate practice, the pillars of skill development and talent. For Dr. Justin Davis, grit might equal deliberate practice, but grit doesn’t necessarily equal creativity.

"Even with the hours of deliberate practice, people aren’t always going to make it to the top of their game. There’s genetics, there’s getting the lucky breaks… There’s a whole host of factors including emotional and social intelligence, creativity, these intangibles that you can’t develop by engaging in deliberate practice."

Appearing on the Breakaway Podcast courtesy of our friends at The Coaches Site, Davis breaks down deliberate practice as having these four characteristics:

  • having specific goals for improvement
  • stepping outside of your comfort zone to get better
  • the ability to do it over and over and over again
  • using constructive feedback to improve

“Rather than fold the tent when you hear a coach give you that feedback that you don’t want to hear, you recognize that feedback or constructive criticism is a nugget of gold,” said Davis. “It’s going to help you do a better job at changing that specific goal that you want to achieve.”


Photo Credit: Ice Photo Studio

It’s important to remember the 10,000 Hours rule as more of a theory than a fact. There are a number of factors that go into how successful a player can become, not all of them controllable. It differs for everyone.

“Even with the hours of deliberate practice, people aren’t always going to make it to the top of their game. There’s genetics, there’s getting the lucky breaks… There’s a whole host of factors including emotional and social intelligence, creativity, these intangibles that you can’t develop by engaging in deliberate practice. They’re all part of the formula for success out there on the ice, in life, wherever you may be.”

Davis says that kids are set up for overuse injuries when trying to rush in to get better as quick as possible. The concept of delayed gratification – setting long-term goals and resisting the urge to quit because you can’t achieve them right away, shouldn’t be lost on players. Activities like dryland training, hockey camps and power skates can actually end up doing more harm than good.

Players looking to improve their hockey skills at home through practice and meaningful repetition can check out the OMHA Players Club. The three challenges are designed to help players develop shot accuracy, puck control and coordination.

“Deliberate practice can help you develop your individual skills - your ability to skate, your ability to take a slap shot, your ability to understand different strategies and plays. But how you bring that all together does require a degree of creativity, a degree of critical thinking as well. I think helping kids foster those traits, that moves beyond just simply teaching them deliberate practice.”

One of the keys that Davis focuses on stressing is recognizing and focusing on the specificity of any ‘failures’ and not have it all encompass. For example, if a player has a bad game, it won’t have an effect on their math test tomorrow.

If you didn’t achieve your goal, determine the factors that were temporary barriers. Did you enough sleep? Did you eat enough before the game? Did one of your skate laces break? You can only control the controllables and something that went wrong in this one situation won’t be there in the future.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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