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10 Tips from Angela Duckworth-Mental Toughness & Grit for Soccer Players

Updated: Feb 15

For soccer teams and soccer players to win the mental toughness game in soccer, hard work counts just as much as talent.

Listen to our interview below with Angela Duckworth, author of "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance", as we discuss what it takes to build character and grit on soccer teams and in soccer players. Learn her 10 tips for working on your mental game in soccer.

Professor Duckworth is a world-renowned expert on grit and self-control. She shows how you can take a goal and hold steadfast to that goal so that it changes your life. Change your path in soccer and in life by using these 10 creative soccer tips today.

soccer coaches with famous author Angela Duckwork
Selfie of Coaches Cam and Mike with Professor Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Sometimes you wake up and you have no idea what the day is gonna hold for you. This one just blew me away. Coach Keating here. Grab a notebook and take notes. This video is full of amazing tips for your development.

I'm in Philadelphia and I'm getting ready to go into the Character Lab. The Character Lab is the center of innovation to help youth develop character.

We're going to be interviewing the co-founder and CEO Angela Duckworth on how to develop character in a soccer team environment and also get some soccer tips for parents and players for developing character outside of your team. It's gonna be a blast, guys. I can't wait to share with you.

Often what separates us from realizing our potential is not our size and strength and speed and even smarts. It's what we do with those traits.

Most people never develop their talents. Oh, they're very busy, but they're doing things that 

will not help them reach their full potential. As it turns out, what gets you to your potential 

faster than anything is not what was given to you at birth but what's inside of you...your character.

Everyone readily sees great athletic traits like strength and size and speed but it takes time to see an athlete with great character. I recently asked a top-ten coach how his recruiting was going and he said about half of the recruits today don't pan out. I asked what the number-one reason why was and he said, "they just stopped working". Hard work, sustaining that hard work, grit, that's a character trait.

This is so much more than athletics. It's the very foundation of your future. The greatest thing about character is that it can be learned. In fact, I believe it's more important than talent because it allows you to develop your talents to an extraordinary level.

Are you curious to know how? Would you be interested in becoming extraordinary? What if your entire soccer team learned how to take their character to another level? Would that make a difference?

I believe character allows you to develop your talents to their fullest. Now, let's read about what Professor Duckworth had to say about grit in teams and internalize these 10 tips to make you and your soccer team incredible!

Coach Cam: So, the first question I have for you from your book is, Why do some people work harder than others, which, by the way, I love that question. What impact have you seen when teams and individuals have the culture of working harder and longer than what's expected of them?

Professor Duckworth: One of the most powerful things you can do to be grittier yourself is to

join a group of people who are also working hard toward a goal. There's nothing more motivating than knowing that your teammates are waking up also at the same god-awful hour before the Sun has come up. And you know that suffering that you put in 

at practice together? It's so much easier to travel together than it is to travel alone. So I 

think that there is, of course, an occasion and a necessity to be gritty as a person, but there's really a power in being part of a gritty team.

Tip # 1 Join a Gritty Group

Coach Cam: Do you have any tips for growing grit in a 

team environment?

Professor Duckworth: I think team grit starts with leadership. The leader of the team, 

sometimes that's formally the captain, but it could be the coach, or it could be a player who steps up and takes a leadership role, even informally, to model grit. They need to model having passion for what they do...loving it, being curious to learn more, and feeling like the goal of the team is something...that's purpose.

Tip # 2 Model Grit, Character

You know, something that has meaning beyond just your individual selfish interests. You're doing it for the good of the sport...or you're doing it so that other girls and boys who are watching can be inspired. So that's modeling the passion. It's also modeling the perseverance and every great team has somebody on that team who gets that team to practice hard and to focus on their weaknesses and take feedback. And I think that modeling is even more important than anything else that can happen on a team to build grit.

Tip # 3 Do It For Something Greater Than Yourself

Coach Cam: You've talked about the importance of kindness and how it's somewhat missing today. Can you discuss the impact of respect and kindness on creating a positive gritty culture?

Professor Duckworth: I want to say first of all that grit and kindness are not the same thing,

and if a coach or a player is only focused on grit, then then they're actually leaving out a

lot of things that are important. Kindness is one, but you know other things like curiosity

and creativity. There are a lot of things that are important to me. These collectively make up your character and character is more than just being gritty. So glad you brought up kindness because I think even though I don't study it personally, I think it's incredibly important. I'm a mom, I'm a teacher, and I want my students and my kids to be kind as well as gritty. If you want people to be kind you might ask well what what do you do, and I think that the same principles for grit apply for kindness. if you want people to be kind, you should be kind. You should model kindness and also I think naming character strengths like written kindness helps.

Tip # 4 Naming the Character Strenth

So if you're a coach and you see some terrific inspiring exchange or act of kindness or active grit you know, say to the player, like, "Hey, that looks like grit to me." "You know what you did there, it was incredibly kind." I think there's a power to naming and that's some of the advice that I tried to use myself as a mother and also as a leader.

Coach Cam: Awesome! And then, lastly, just do you have a tip for parents to help their kids develop grit?

Professor Duckworth: In my book, I write about the Hard Thing  Rule...

Tip # 5 The Hard Thing Rule

The Hard Thing Rule is all about doing something that requires daily practice with feedback on how you can get better.

The second part of The Hard Thing Rule is that you can't quit things in the middle. I don't believe that kids should quit in the middle of a season or in the middle of a commitment unless there's a really good reason why, but generally, you should finish what you start.

And then, finally, for the intrinsic motivation piece, the part about passion, the part that it was yours and is not being forced upon you. The third part of The Hard Thing Rule was just, you know, pick the hard thing yourself. Let the kids pick the hard thing themselves.

After I wrote the book, I realized that my own kids were not necessarily getting the passion out of their hard things, and I thought, well, where did I go wrong? I decided that we should have a Fun Thing Rule...

Tip # 6 The Fun Thing Rule

which is that everybody should also do something which is totally fun and just because you like it. And when you're very young, maybe your hard thing and your fun thing are two different things. My daughter, Lucy, has a hard thing which is viola, and her fun thing is baking, and she thinks of them that way. But as she gets older, she's now almost fifteen, she sees how baking can be a hard thing. She sees how you can actually get feedback and get better and become a more and more expert Baker. And also her viola is becoming more fun so she's actually getting a lot of pleasure out of it that she never had before.

And my hope is for Lucy and all young people, and frankly, grown-ups too, is that your hard thing and your fun thing are the same thing because there's nothing more gratifying than working really hard at something that you love.

Coach Cam: And then what about on the flipside, a tip for kids and players trying to develop grit?

Professor Duckworth: If you're trying to develop your own grit, I think the first question to ask is, what do you think is the problem? You know, sometimes I get people who email me, or they call me, or I meet them in person and they have a feeling like they're not as passionate about what they're doing as they would like. They know they're not working that hard and they ask me for advice. And I always turn the tables on them, and I always say, what 

do you think is, what do you think is going on?

Tip # 7 Take the Mirror Test

And I'll tell you that almost always, people, when they actually put the mirror to themselves, they'll be able to tell you and themselves, what it is that they need to work on next. For some people, it's gonna be the passion part but for others, it'll be the perseverance. For those who are working on passion, sometimes they feel like they're not learning anymore. They've kind of lost that beginner's mind of curiosity. Say you play soccer for a decade. Is there anything else to learn? Well, some people may have kind of slipped into this feeling like 

there's nothing else to learn. In other words, as you start to ask this question, what is 

it that's going on with me? I think if you reflect honestly, you'll be able to zero in on maybe the one thing that you might want to think about next.

Tip # 8 Zero In on One Thing at a Time

Generally, human beings are not very good at working on two, three, four, or five things. So, if you want to be grittier, ask yourself, what is one thing that I can do that might put me on a path?

Coach Mike: Creating a culture in the team that we go beyond what is required. Because everybody goes to practice, twice a week or three times a week. But it's the ones that go beyond that. And it's not just one kid. Because one kid can get better. It's gonna move the needle a little bit on a team. But getting the core of a team to decide that we want to get better as a team and do more than what's required. Any thoughts on that?

Professor Duckworth: I know exactly what you're talking about and I completely agree. If a team has an identity of what it means to be on this team is different from...every other. And then you've got to fill in the blank...every other soccer team, every other football team, every other basketball team. They have to have an identity of being special. You have to have 

an identity of like...I don't know how they do it. I don't know how everyone else does it. 

But I know how we do it. And sometimes teams call it "their way". Like the Butler 

basketball team calls it The Butler Way.

Tip # 9 Create Your Team "Way"

Even if you look at non-sports teams, the Cleveland Clinic is one of the highest-rated medical specialty clinics in the world, and they have what's called the Cleveland Clinic Way. The Mayo Clinic also is a great medical facility. They have the Mayo Way. Now what all these ways are, you could say, oh my gosh all these things are the same, but their identity feels unique. So really, people need to have our mascot, our tradition, what we say before team practice...the rituals, the identity, that really set you apart.

And I will also just give you this hint, which is that when there's a very strong team identity, there really is a bright line between you and everyone else.

Tip # 10 Make Sure There is a Bright Line

And so it's not like a continuum. It's not like we're sort of, like warriors. We're kind of this. There's a hundred percent commitment to when we're on the side of the line and you're in our group, then you do it our way.

You've just heard from the leading expert in character development. Now take one of these ten tips and make them a part of you or a part of your team. I like all ten tips, but number two is something you can start on right away and it reminds me of Ghandi.

Tip # 2 Modeling

"Be the change you want to see in this world." Ghandi

Thank you to Professor Angela Duckworth and everyone at the Character Lab!

We hope you've enjoyed this post and video. Please like and follow us as we work to help you achieve your personal best in soccer and in life.

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