Examining the associations between grit, self-control and sport expertise: A replication study


To develop expertise, athletes need to amass a high volume of deliberate practice activities over a long duration. Two personality traits that relate to long-term goal pursuits and to achievement within sport are self-control (Tedesqui & Young, 2017a) and grit (Tedesqui & Young, 2017b). We compared the contribution of grit and self-control facets to explain criteria of sport expertise development. Athletes (n = 164, 87 female, Mage = 31.62, SD = 12.45) completed survey items assessing grit (perseverance of effort; consistency of interests) and self-control (self-discipline; impulse control), questions to determine skill group (beginner/intermediate; advanced; expert), and sport-specific practice amounts. We submitted all scale scores to criterion validity tests for group discrimination and associations with practice. Separate MANCOVAs for grit and self-control variables (controlling for age) showed grit variables significantly distinguished higher from lower skill groups, Pillai's Trace = .06, F(4, 314) = 2.48, p < .05, partial eta-squared = .03. Post-hoc tests showed only perseverance of effort distinguished groups, F(2, 157) = 5.08, p < .01, partial eta-squared = .06 (Mbeginner/intermediate = 4.37, Madvanced = 4.25, Mexpert = 4.58). Although we replicated prior effects of perseverance of effort on skill groups, we failed to replicate any associations with practice. The tendency to persevere in long-term goals despite setbacks might enable athletes to achieve higher skill levels in pursuit of expertise development. We problematize the non-significant findings regarding practice.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funding (430-215-00904) to Bradley W. Young and Joseph Baker.