Angela Duckworth on Grit

Reward hard work

Talent recognition and grit

I have one of these alerts on and they notified me of this new post. Rugby is all about Grit?

What is talent?

I was one of the architects of the talent development program in the Netherlands and was educated by our National Olympic Committee. Defining what talent actually is and recognising it in youngsters was of course key to developing the program.

And yes, Angela Duckworth is right: the “Grit” characteristic were not in it……

So, what is talent identification and development? Lots of definitions floating around. Our National Olympic Committee had this one:

Talent identification refers to the process of recognising youth players with the potential to become elite players whereas talent development implies that these players are provided with a suitable learning environment and resources so that they have the opportunity to realise their potential (Régnier et al., 1993).

The prediction of long-term success in young players is complex because multidimensional qualities are needed. The physical aspect is dominating now I guess: how big will a player be once grown-up?

  • Physical advantage is always a dominant factor in talent recognition. This is when a December born player has a 11 month growing disadvantage compared to a January born in that same year.
  • With rugby we have late developers too: some players have their growth spurt early and dominate play, but are they the ones who end on top? Do they develop “grit”?
  • So what about the youngster make good – smart decisions rather than perfect skill execution?

Grit & Physical Development?

Angela tells us that sticking at it and work hard is key. Is that not what is needed when building that physical power?

  • Hard work in the gym
  • Discipline in execution of the routines, day-in day-out
  • Stick to the best diet

Grit and selection

With hindsight, we did make it tough for the players wanting to be in the squad for the European Under 18 Championships in 2013 with two very intense 20 minute S&C sessions and a physical endgame in one day. We did not pick players who regularly stepped out. The tournament was a great success, everybody fit and ready to go. Was Grit then part of our selection process?


  • I am convinced that toptalent decide on their own path to the top: talent is truly connecting him- or herself to the dream, is this not and example of “grit”?
  • Let us look for the player with this “grit” factor and facilitate;
  • Let us join Angela and learn more about “grit”;
  • and, enjoy the TED Talks, challenge yourself;

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