There are so many stories that I have heard about athletes who simply don’t ‘have it in them to be gritty’, and as a result, end up being the players who everyone thought would flourish but ultimately… fizzled out.
The journey to high performance and mastery in athletics is almost never an easy one. Maybe, for some, in the beginning, their natural talent allows them to skate by ahead of the pack without much effort but this never lasts long.
For other athletes, the journey is challenging from the get-go. This is the pathway that I’m more familiar with as an athlete. I was never the most skilled on my team; no matter what sport I was playing. But, as cliché as it sounds, I was always the hardest worker.
At the end of the day, there is always something to be said for the athlete who has learned how to work for every inch they gain because they know how to lean into the gritty situations, instead of avoiding them. When we get gritty, we experience the feelings associated with passion meeting determination and motivation. We push ourselves beyond what we thought we were capable of to find that next level of our performance.
As elite athletes, we are constantly being presented with (or searching for) uncomfortable situations because (even if only subconsciously), we know they make us better. We toss aside the well-paved path of comfort and ease for the path we often travel solo, full of challenges and unknown opportunities. We choose to get gritty and we lean into the discomfort when it presents itself because the grit is almost synonymous with growth.
I always think back to the last lines of a very famous poem by Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Most athletes choose to take the predictable path because they’re afraid to meet the challenges associated with the unknown. The Elite Athlete takes the path less traveled because they know the opportunities and the growth are far greater. They know that every time the path gets gritty, it’s an opportunity to get better.