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What Being an Athlete Taught Me about Grit

February 21, 2017 • Most Popular


What Being an Athlete Taught Me about GritKeep going. These two words are the essence of grit. Because everyone can benefit by continuing to learn grit, I want to share with you what being an athlete taught me about this important trait and how grit learned from sports helped me in business.

What I Learned About Grit through Sports

My sport was tennis, and my go-to weapon was my serve. Until I lost it, that is.

I would wind up, and my arm got so tight on my backswing that I could barely pull up and over to hit the ball. Instead of a fierce cannon, I had a weak dribble into the net. It’s like a baseball hitter in a slump or a golfer with the yips—horrible, helpless and mortified.

I began telling myself as I served, “Don’t miss it” and “Don’t double fault.” This only made the struggle build on itself. It was so bad I even went to a beginner’s underhanded serve just to get the ball in play.

Here’s how I learned grit: I realized that my messaging was toxic, and I had been practicing the bad habits that would never help bring my serve back. I had to tell myself a new story.

My practice regimen changed 180 degrees, focusing on my serve and a new role playing in my mind. I pretended to be in a pressure situation such as serving 5-all in the third set of an important match, and I practiced executing successfully in those scenarios. When I could finally start producing in practice, I was ready to go back to competitive matches, with a new belief in my abilities.

By keeping going, I overcame toxic thinking and adopted a new mindset. By picking myself back up, I inspired my teammates. They voted me captain my final two years in college. Even though I played the fourth or fifth position (out of six) in singles, and No. 1 in doubles, I was far from the best player on the team.

Grit opened me up to a greater lesson: We can lead from everywhere, not just the top. And that was a super important help for me in business.

How Grit Learned from Sports Helped Me in Business

As competitive as college tennis was, it was nothing compared to being a sports agent. There are far more agents than there are pro athletes and coaches who need this help. Against those odds, you need all the grit you can muster. There are many hard things that must be tackled systematically or you will fail.

Being around top athletes and coaches, I saw how grit meant everything to their success, too. No one gets to that level, much less stays there, through luck. There are many athletes and coaches with deep talent, but none win all the time. Even great athletes get cut and awesome coaches get fired. Teams that look unbeatable on paper don’t always deliver under pressure.

The difference maker is grit. It is demonstrated when failure and setbacks happen by this powerful choice: They keep going. From tennis, I had begun exercising that same mental muscle, and by choosing to keep going after defeats in business, I developed grit in my professional life.

Without grit, I doubt I would have succeeded in sports representation and I surely would not have left that world to establish my own business as a keynote speaker and author to connect, inspire and lead with creative courage and optimism.

Your Game Changer Takeaway

What we learn through sports competition can help us push through the unexpected roadblocks to our goals in life. Never stop. Remember there will be times when you must keep your goals in front of you even though there are so many obstacles in your way. Keep going.

The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company’s Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating, so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.