What does it mean to have grit? If you have ever been described as having this quality, take it as a compliment. It means that you have courage and the guts to stick to something despite the challenges that lay ahead. It is the essence of perseverance and persistence – each equally important.
Many times, I have noticed that people on the verge of a breakthrough will give up because they are not patient enough to allow the outcome to come to fruition. I love this quote from Usain Bolt: “I trained four years to run only nine seconds. There are people who do not see results in two months, give up and leave. Sometimes failure is sought by oneself.”
I am seeing this behaviour time and time again – even in my own kids. I spend a lot of time talking to them about never giving up and not to be afraid of failure; that is how we learn and grow. Do they roll their eyes at me and think I’m full of garbage? Of course! What would I know about having grit? Let me tell you about a couple of important events in my life that helped to shape my never give up attitude.
When I was eight years old, I wondered why my Grandpa wouldn’t let my Grandma cook or be alone in the kitchen. There was always someone with her and she never knew my name. I finally asked my parents, and they told me that before I was born, my grandma was in a horrific car accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury that affected her short-term memory. When she came out of her six-week coma; everything had changed. She had to learn who her children were, how to walk, use the toilet, feed herself – all things that we take for granted. However, her long-term memory was intact, which meant that she knew who she was and what she was made of.
The doctors did not have much hope for her learning anew, especially the skill of walking. She proved them wrong. With the assistance of her sister taking her to the pool every day to work on balance, she was eventually walking without a cane! Upon learning all of this, I looked at everything much differently. If she could overcome all of those obstacles, then I should be able to achieve whatever I put my mind to.
Fast forward to October 26, 1989, which proved to be one of the greatest memories I have ever experienced. My high school, Kenner Collegiate, was hosting the Central Ontario Secondary Schools Association (COSSA) field hockey tournament. Our team was playing for the top spot and the ultimate goal of winning COSSA and going on to the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association (OFSAA) tournament. Four days earlier, we had lost the Kawartha final and finished in second place. We had only lost once in the regular season, and to lose in that tournament was really disappointing. While we were disheartened at first, our coach talked to our team about what we needed to work on and gave us the encouragement we needed to move forward. We had two days to shake off that loss and we wasted no time. We put a lot of effort into each play and at the end of each practice, we came together in a huddle and cheered as loudly as we could, “We are Kenner (team repeat), mighty, mighty Kenner (team repeat), and if you can’t hear us (team repeat), we’ll shout a little louder (team repeat). Go, Rams, go, fight team, fight, win!” Before playing our first game and every subsequent game, that was the cheer that we bellowed before heading onto the field.
On the day of the COSSA championship, we had a small handful of students from our school cheering us on in between classes. Then big news hit; our team was playing in the COSSA final – woooooo!
Now, had this been the boys’ football team, the entire school would have been let out to watch but since it was girls’ field hockey, that was not the case. It was too bad, really – because we won the game and were going to OFSAA! Our team was ecstatic, hugging each other and crying tears of joy. It was the greatest moment.
In the Peterborough Examiner article about the game, “Rams Rebound to Win COSSA Field Hockey Title,” the reporter wrote: The spirit and determination were exemplified by the play of Patti Kimball, who scored what proved to be the winning goal at the 15-minute of the second half… “My goal really didn’t do it,” said the modest Kimball who didn’t want to talk much about herself, “This was a team effort, team spirit. We really wanted to go to OFSAA. Everyone on this team had this drive. We forgot about the loss on Monday and thought only about today. This is great for Kenner.”
How did we do it? Perseverance and persistence. We learned from our mistakes and, as a result, we succeeded in achieving our ultimate goal; our flame was still burning. Keeping the faith, especially on a team, is not easy to do but we did it! When I was being interviewed, I was coined ‘modest Kimball’ because I wasn’t going to take the glory for scoring the winning goal; I didn’t require any special recognition.
The real gift was proving to myself that with a strong effort and desire; anything was possible. True grit comes from inside you. Are you ready to put some skin in the game of life?