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Thoughts on endurance

Over the last 6 months, I have become a more avid and consistent consumer of podcasts. An investigation of the podcast universe revealed a variety of options related to soccer, fitness, motivational theory, mindset, and other topics that interest me. A steady diet of driving back and forth to practice sessions over the winter allowed me to dial in a subset of podcasts that have been both inspirational and informative. Travel and recovery from shoulder surgery have put me off my podcast game during the last few weeks.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to listen to an episode of the Modern Soccer Coach podcast with Gary Curneen. On this particular episode, he was joined by Fergus Connolly to discuss Building and Maintaining an Elite Environment. One point made by Fergus has stuck with me the last few days – the notion of endurance as an attribute of success within the game. For example, the application of endurance in the defender role – a willingness to continue to put in the physical and mental effort throughout the match.

The more that I considered the notion of endurance and its discussion within this framework, the deeper that I began to consider my role as a coach, my life experiences, and the lessons that I want to teach my athletes.

In the context of psychological and emotional development, the concepts of resiliency and mental toughness are discussed. A variety of components have been observed to positively influence resiliency including mastery motivation, autonomy, moral character, confidence, and connectedness (Fraser-Thomas, Côté, & Deakin, 2005). I was introduced to the notion of “grit” during a lecture by Dr. Cindra Kamphoff that I attended at the United Soccer Coaches convention in Chicago last January. Grit has been defined as follows:

We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course. (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007, p. 1087).

Kamphoff (2017) provided a template for developing “grittiness” as a collection of best practices using a 52-week format broken into topics such as “dominate the controllables,” “own the moment,” and “live and let go.”

The notion of endurance is context-specific. Within the structure of a soccer match, it is the behavior of the player to remain “stuck in” – mentally and physically connected not just to the activity but also the particular role (for example, man-marking). In a player development context, endurance can be the ability to overcome adversity, trust in a process, take a strategic view. As a coach, it can mean maintaining a growth mindset, working collaboratively to solve problems, presenting and carrying a vision, and taking the highs and lows of results as a natural part of the position.

However, there is a larger picture outside of the realm of sports and coaching. The adoption of grittiness and a willingness to endure is a common theme among those who make a difference in life. Indeed, there are times where a situation is intractable, and the decision to exit may be necessary to move forward. I discuss this in my previous postings on necessary endings. I argue that when exiting becomes a habit, the individual is diminished.

Reverting back to my coaching hat, I think it is essential to identify endurance as a desirable characteristic of our players and teams. As youth coaches, we only have a short period of time with our players in the span of their lives – but our influence comes at a time when experiences and outcomes can shape behaviors for a lifetime. How we role model – our ability to endure and our presentation of grittiness – can serve as a standard for our athletes.


Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(6), 1087.

Fraser-Thomas, J. L., Côté, J., & Deakin, J. (2005). Youth sport programs: An avenue to foster positive youth development. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 10(1), 19-40.

Kamphoff, C. (2017). Beyond Grit: Ten Powerful Practices to Gain the High-Performance Edge. Wise Ink.