Can Losing Grow Grit?
This past weekend, Alexander (age 8) traveled with his Spartan teammates to a regional Gold Squash Tournament at the University of Virginia. In his previous two Gold events, he was shut-out, 3-0, in every match he played. Why head back to another highly competitive event?
Is there value in losing? First, let me be clear: we make sure every child has their share of early wins, to build their confidence. We have league play and beginner tournament play geared to giving novice players an early taste of success. But as a child advances, competing against tougher opponents and losing is one of the best ways to build Grit. Grit is one of the 4 Core Values of The T and a goal worth struggling for. It encapsulates toughness, hard work, perseverance and diligence. It is digging one’s teeth into a task or concept and not letting go until it has been accomplished; it is overcoming setbacks; it is tenacity in the learning process. It is persevering in the face of adversity.
Losses are a great place to grow Grit. When a child is able to meet a tough loss, head on, Grit is there, taking root in their character. It shows up as a drive that is stronger than setbacks; a drive that will, in time and with practice, overcome setbacks to produce desired results. Grit empowers a child to rise up in the face of competition. In a way, competition sparks the growth of Grit. In Alexander’s case, he travelled to Virginia knowing full well that he had lost every match in his two previous Gold tournaments.
But he was looking to overcome setbacks, not run from them. And so he did: for the first time, Alexander earned a breakthrough victory at a Gold Tournament in his first-round match. It was a milestone win. Yes, it was soon followed by three more losses, but these were the hardest fought losses he had yet notched, a sign of his stiffer resolve.
Does this picture look like a child who has just lost 3 matches in a row? At the end of the tournament, Alexander could proudly take stock of his progress: first ever Gold win, and 3 tough losses where he gave almost as good as he got. As he stands on center court at UVA, you can see the pride in his accomplishment and confidence in the future. These are the fruits of Grit.
Grit does not register on a tournament score-sheet, but Grit is one of the things we look for and celebrate at The T. Way to go, Alexander! Your Spartan teammates and coaches are proud of you!