Grit: A Predictor of Lacrosse Goalie Success | Lax Goalie Rat

Grit: A Predictor of Lacrosse Goalie Success


The young men and women that are accepted into West Point Military Academy must go through a seven-week basic training commonly referred to as ‘Beast’.

Beast consists of extreme physical, mental, and social challenges that are designed to test candidates’ perseverance.

The process is meant to turn civilians into cadets and its tough.

Just to get accepted into West Point is difficult and despite the Academy’s rigorous selection process, 20% of the class does not complete the ‘Beast’.

University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth analyzed why specific cadets completed and why some dropped out.

She writes about it in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Spoiler alert – it comes down to mental toughness.

Duckworth developed her own test to determine which cadets had the mental strength to conquer the Beast. She called it the “Grit Scale,” and it was a highly accurate predictor of cadet success.

The Grit Scale measures “mental strength”, which is that unique combination of passion, tenacity, and stamina that enables you to stick with your goals until they become a reality.

To complete the Beast, just like to be an outstanding goalie, IQ and talent are not enough. The best have the mental strength to conquer the beast.

Introduction to Grit

Angela Duckworth defines grit not as “genius” but rather a combination of passion combined with long-term perseverance.

She uses study after study to show how grit leads to success more frequently than talent or natural ability alone.

The following is the result of her research of the commonalities that the most gritty cadets (and most gritty people in other areas) share:

Grit Step #1: Interest

Passion begins with what you enjoy doing.

I imagine most readers of this blog, like me, are passionate about the sport of the lacrosse.

But that’s not to say we love every moment of it. You think I enjoyed running stadiums at Memorial field in Berkeley until I felt like I was going to puke?

Even in our passionate endeavors, we can always point to at one or two mandatory chores that we simply don’t like at all.

Nevertheless, we’re captivated by the endeavor as a whole.

We approach the sport of lacrosse with enduring fascination and childlike curiosity. We love what we do.

That’s the first step – interest.

Without intrinsically enjoying the what you do, you will not be successful.

Not as a lacrosse goalie, not as a West Point cadet, not with any other endeavor.

Grit Step #2: Practice

After you’ve discovered your passion or interest for a particular thing, the next step is practice.

You must devote yourself to the focused, full-hearted, challenge-exceeding-skill practice that leads to mastery.

Going through the motions in practice is a waste of time. Our training sessions must be focused and full-hearted.

You must zero in on your weaknesses, and you must do so over and over again, for hours a day, week after month after year.

You must push yourself in practice, harder than even you thought was possible.

Muhammed Ali was once asked how many situps he does. “I don’t count my sit-ups, I only start counting when it starts hurting, when I feel pain, cause that’s when it really matters.”

Progress is made in the last couple of reps you squeeze out. The reps you didn’t think were possible.

So get out there and practice. Make mistakes, look like an idiot, but try again – without blinking an eye.

To be gritty is to resist complacency.

“Everyday I’m getting better, whatever it takes” is the mantra of the gritty, no matter how excellent they already are.

Grit Step #3: Purpose

The next step of the gritty is a sense of purpose.

In other larger endeavors, this means that you identify with the work as both personally interesting and integrally connected to the well-being of others.

Cadets without a sense of purpose fail.

In the sport of lacrosse, I think a sense of purpose means having clearly defined goals.

Setting proper goals is a full training course inside my lacrosse goalie camp. I think it’s that important!

Without clearly defined goals, the hard work doesn’t make sense. When things get tough you have no sense of purpose to fall back on.

And you’ll quit.

Duckworth has a really interesting manner of laying out a structure of goals:

It’s a hierarchy of goals with the top level being the biggest, grandest goal you have. The end goal if you will. Perhaps that is:

  • Get a D1 scholarship to be a goalie
  • Make the city all-star team
  • Become a starter by my sophomore year

The higher level goal is what we’re never going to give up on and what we’ll have in our mind as we’re working towards other lower level goals.

The lower level goals at the bottom of the hierarchy are more concrete and specific. Things like:

  • See 100 shots per practice
  • Workout 4 days a week
  • Spend 20 minutes before every practice on improving hand speed.

These goals are a means to get to you to the bigger goals which matter.

And because they matter, you have a sense of purpose which is step 3 of the gritty.

Grit Step #4: Hope

Finally we have hope.

Duckworth states that hope actually does not define the final stage of grit. It defines every stage.

Perseverance is the persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. To have perseverance we must have hope that this will work.

From the time you first pick up a goalie stick to the time you jog across the line to shake the other goalie’s hand to the start the championship game, it is extremely important to learn to keep going when things are difficult.

Throughout the lacrosse goalie journey, we get knocked down. Both literally as you chase a groundball and figuratively as we suffer a setback.

At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down.

Those lacking grit, stay down, The gritty get right back and continue along the journey with deep hope that this process will bear fruit.

Duckworth Talking Grit: Ted Talk

This is Duckworth’s Ted Talk she gave on grit.


Mental strength is as rare as it is important. The good news is that any of us can get stronger with a little extra focus and effort.

Even if you’re not the most naturally talented the goalie, if you have a high level of grit you’re more likely to succeed.

Angela Duckworth’s book Grit goes through example after example of where this is true, including our cadets that I mentioned in the intro.

Some cadets might not be the strongest, might not be the fastest, might not be the smartest. But those likely to succeed have the highest grit.

I felt like this book was very impactful. Duckworth simplified the message, shared many examples, and showed the way to grow and cultivate grit.

The book increased my hope that I can become more gritty and reach my most important goals when it comes to coaching goalies and making a living.

Until next time! Coach Damon

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