In Angela Duckworth’s bestseller Grit, she debunks the myth that talent is what causes people to have success in life. She proposes that instead of talent alone, you need to have a well-honed sense of perseverance in order to get past the myriad challenges that emerge in life. Right now, the major three American sports are all in various stages of relying on grit. We’ll focus on our attention on just two, however—football and baseball. Football players and coaches need grit in order to overcome distractions. Baseball players and coaches need grit in order to overcome fatigue.
In football, both the NCAA and NFL are not far from kicking off their new seasons. This is the dreaded part of the off-season that produces off-the-field headlines. The Dallas Cowboy’s new star running back Ezekiel Elliott has been accused of domestic violence. Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers faces suspension for violations of the league’s drug-testing policy. Added to these concerns, players such as J.J. Watt and Tony Romo are having to answer questions almost daily about their health after recovering from major surgeries.
The college scene is not much different. All of the major conferences are having their respective media days, where coaches and key players interact with local and national media. In the SEC, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze had to spend extra time answering questions about the integrity of their programs. The Big 12 is caught up in figuring out which other schools it wants to include in its new expansion goals. Meanwhile, the ACC signed a long-term television deal with ESPN worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Football coaches around the country, from high school all the way to the professional ranks, wish their players would stay out of trouble and stay focused on preparing for the season. In Duckworth’s explanation of Grit, she highlights four components that define gritty people: interest, practice, purpose, and hope. It’s not enough to simply go through the motions of a daily routine if you want to succeed. Instead, Duckworth argues that you have to have an internal engine that gives you purpose and sustains you when you are most tempted to become distracted or give up.
Football players and coaches are struggling with the distractions of the offseason. In baseball, though, the struggle is much different. They are in the middle of their season, and their main obstacle is fatigue. Notable stars like the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke recently landed on the disabled list, along with a host of other players dealing with mid-season injuries. The grind of the season is most evident in the time between the All-Star and mid-August. The number of games is piling up, but the post-season is still in the distant future, so players and coaches are dealing with the wave of fatigue that comes with in the hottest part of the summer.
In every season of life there are unique challenges that require perseverance. Duckworth’s book is an excellent modern take on the ancient principle of perseverance found in the Bible. The entire Old Testament is a witness to perseverance in various forms. Job had to endure every part of his life coming under attack from Satan. King David in the Psalms pours his heart out before the Lord through trials and distresses ranging from personal sin to having his life threatened by others.
In the New Testament, while Paul’s perseverance in ministry through shipwreck, beatings, and stonings is incredible, our eye naturally goes to Jesus as the author and perfector of our faith, who endured the humiliation of the cross to win our salvation.
Life brings challenges that constantly make it easy to want to give up. Sometimes the threat is distraction, while other times it is fatigue. Whatever the challenge, remember that the prescription for moving beyond these challenges is found in dependence on Jesus. Look to John 15 and the beautiful metaphor of the vine and branches. We need something more than grit; we need dependence on the grace and strength of Jesus.