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Pittsburgh Parenting Blog by Sewickley Academy

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A Letter to Varsity Basketball Parents

A Letter to Varsity Basketball ParentsDear Varsity Basketball Parents,

It was a fun opening weekend as we played two different style opponents. Saturday's game in particular reflected so many different aspects of our team and a basketball game. The first half was tough to play, coach, and watch as we struggled to be a cohesive unit, partly due to Baldwin's play and part of it we owned. I was quite proud of the boys' demeanor at halftime despite the frustrations from the first half. They were not blaming each other; instead they readily listened to each other and the coaches' suggestions and ideas on how we could turn things around in the second half. There was no technical solution that we found at halftime, rather it was the inner confidence and belief that we could get it done together as a unit.

I told the team afterwards that it was a gritty victory, and that it is those types of victories that are truly important. When you face adversity, how do you rally and put the past behind you and focus on the present? We truly believe the entire team had a different affect the second half, as everyone pulled together as one and we were no longer 15 individuals. Outscoring Baldwin by 13 points in the second half after struggling in the first half was difficult to do.

This morning, I was reflecting on the word grit and discovered this University of Pennsylvania study that you may find interesting. It speaks to the enormity of what can be gained from a lengthy high school basketball season. I still remember a number of years ago, a young man saying to me, "Coach, all I want to do is play basketball - why do I have to think about these other things?" That young man is now a successful business man in his mid-40s with a growing family. While he has no memory of ever saying that, he still speaks to this day about the powerful lessons learned from his successful high school basketball teams that he instills in both his personal and work life.

A University of Pennsylvania (Penn) study found that “grit” (passion and perseverance for long-term goals) is the best predictor of success. Grit is unrelated to talent.

The Duckworth Lab at Penn's Positive Psychology Center focuses on two traits that predict success in life: grit and self-control. Founder and Scientific Director of the Character Lab Angela Duckworth defines grit as the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals, and self-control as the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions. "On average, individuals who are gritty are more self-controlled, but the correlation between these two traits is not perfect: some individuals are paragons of grit but not self-control, and some exceptionally well-regulated individuals are not especially gritty," Penn's website states. "While we haven’t fully worked out how these two traits are related, it seems that an important distinction has to do with timescale: As Galton suggested, the inclination to pursue especially challenging aims over months, years, and even decades is distinct from the capacity to resist 'the hourly temptations,' pursuits which bring momentary pleasure but are immediately regretted."

Some educators typically prefer the umbrella term “social and emotional learning,” whereas many other educators, as well as philosophers and positive psychologists, embrace the moral connotations of “character” and “virtue.” So, grit and self-control are facets of Big Five conscientiousness, but are also conceptualized as dimensions of human character, social and emotional competency, and non-cognitive human capital."

While I recognize this is not easy reading on a leisurely Sunday, it speaks to the powerful moments, thoughts, and lessons our young men are gaining through their experiences playing a challenging schedule facing a bull's-eye on our backs throughout the WPIAL since we are blessed to have many talented players who are also very hard workers, all while facing academic challenges that rival their athletic challenges. 
The leadership from our players that was witnessed on Saturday evening to rally and defeat a 6A team on their home court is truly special. I admire when players are willing to play without fears and do whatever it takes to make the team go, and we had a number of players who did so Saturday night, especially in that second half!
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Topics: Parenting

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