Why We Celebrate the Olympics

As we welcome the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics, professional judges, TV commentators and armchair critics alike take their places to evaluate the performances of Olympic athletes. Even on the sports that don’t require judges to give numerical scores, such as races or hockey, we all like to comment on the action.

If you watch the games, here are a few comments you’re likely to hear:

“He’s so talented.”
“It just comes naturally to her!”
“She makes it look so easy.”
“I can’t believe she missed that jump.”
“Wow, he sucks.”

Does this look easy? U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner.

Does this look easy? U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner.

What’s often obscured by how easy the athletes sometimes make their sports look — and, conversely, by the mistakes they make — is that they work incredibly, sometimes painfully, hard. Although some events may involve more rigorous training than others, in general the commitment of the Olympic athlete begins in childhood and is unrivaled in most other professions. Can you imagine wanting something so badly that you live, eat, think and breathe it constantly for years prior to the actual event?

That’s why psychological factors are as important as physical abilities in determining who will become future Olympians. You have to have grit.

In psychology, “grit” is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. This perseverance of effort leads to overcoming the obstacles on the way to any great achievement in the Olympics, as well as in school and life. But just as no figure skater was born being able to land a triple lutz, grit is an ability that can be learned with practice and strategic coaching. That’s what EduGuide’s work is about.

So as you watch the Olympics this year, and the critics make those inevitable comments, consider that what we often call “natural talent” is actually the product of many years of incredibly hard work. With training in grit, any child has the potential to achieve amazing things.

Bonus: Here’s more on how Olympians train their brains for competition, from “The Today Show.” Good conversation starter.


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