CSL Daily

Grit Matters

by Greg Burton

How did they do it? I’ve been thinking a lot about how the U.S. pulled off that dramatic win over Ghana in the World Cup last night. Clinging to a 1-0 lead, adversity piled up for the Americans. Altidore goes out with an injury.  Dempsey breaks his nose. Fatigue sets in. The tone of the Twitterverse was ominious. After Ghana broke through with the equalizer, the tone was straight doom. Fans were flattened and media began to frame the foregone conclusion that the U.S. had just blown a win (and the three points that goes with it) and would be saddled with a disappointing tie (one point).

You know what happened next.



I won’t call it a miracle but certainly, it was unlikely. Few thought it possible or saw it coming. Those words have been uttered after many of the great moments in sports.  In a blink, impending disappointment is replaced by unexpected euphoria.

In the media business, we rush to find answers, label performances and define the moment. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports hit the target. Specifically, he used the word I had been searching for to explain what we witnesses last night: grit. We often use words like determination, persistence, mental toughness. Grit says it better. It evokes imagery that would make any American stand up and salute. Wetzel says “grit” has become part of the U.S. Soccer team’s legacy.

“That’s what made this side one that even the most elite of international teams respected because they always knew they were in for a battle against the U.S. And that’s what won the U.S. a game Monday night.”


How many of us posses grit? Do we have the ability to persevere through pain, to outrun adversity? Grit is an under-appreciated quality, overshadowed by worth ethic, talent and positive attitude. Even the most hard working, skilled, optimistic person faces setbacks. Can they reach in their toolbox for “grit”?

I’ve spent the morning scouring the web for insight on grit. I found this great TED Talk on the subject.



I know “grit” is something we need to talk more about with our graduate students. It will serve them well in their professional and personal journeys. It’s hard to teach but it’s worth the attempt, the discussion.

Grit isn’t just for the up-and-commers, the worker bees, or the rank-and-file.
It’s a vital component of leadership. The magnitude of responsibility that falls on the leader can be crushing. Their resolve is their salvation. Grit allows them to plod through rough terrain and find the smooth path towards achivement.

No one goes undefeated. Clint
Not in sports, not in life.
You will lose.
You will fail.
You’ll get kicked in the face.
Grit allows you to compartmentalize the setback and resume your journey to success.

Thanks to the U.S. men’s soccer team for reminding us of that.

Greg Burton is an award-winning sportscaster with more than 20 years experience. He has been an adjunct faculty member for the Center for Sport Leadership since 2009.




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