The Power of Grit in Shaping Elite Youth Soccer Talent

In the ever-evolving landscape of youth soccer, understanding what differentiates the good from the great is crucial.

Read more: The Power of Grit in Shaping Elite Youth Soccer Talent

A fascinating study, “Gritting One’s way to success – Grit explains skill in elite youth soccer players beyond (deliberate) practice,” led by Paul Larkin and colleagues, published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 64, 2023, offers new insights into this.

Beyond Practice: The Role of Grit

Practice has long been known as a key predictor of skill in sports. Deliberate practice, characterized by focused, repetitive activities with corrective feedback, is especially beneficial. But what about factors beyond practice? The study introduces ‘grit’ as a significant personality trait influencing the skill level of elite youth soccer players, both directly and indirectly.

In-depth Study Methodology

The research involved a large sample of 388 elite youth soccer players. It aimed to explore how grit, defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals, impacts skill levels. The study examined the amount of time players spent in coach-led team practice, a form of deliberate practice, and other activities like self-led training or playing with peers.

Key Findings

The results were striking. Grittier players tended to accumulate more time in coach-led team practices, subsequently enhancing their skill levels. Interestingly, other practice activities weren’t as impactful in skill development nor influenced by grit. Crucially, grit continued to exert a direct positive influence on skill level even after accounting for hours of deliberate practice. A standard deviation increase in grit score correlated with a significant improvement in skill.

Implications for Youth Soccer Development

These findings underscore the importance of grit in the development of elite soccer players. It suggests that while practice is essential, intrinsic qualities like grit play a pivotal role in reaching higher skill levels. This insight is invaluable for coaches and trainers, highlighting the need to foster perseverance and passion alongside technical skills.

Grit: A Game-Changer in Talent Development

The study by Larkin and his team shifts the focus from traditional practice-based frameworks to a more holistic approach in talent development. It positions grit as a key differentiator among skilled players, offering a fresh perspective on nurturing soccer talent.

Why This Study Matters

In the competitive world of youth soccer, identifying and developing key traits that contribute to a player’s success is essential. This research not only highlights the importance of grit but also opens up new avenues for talent development strategies. It encourages a balanced approach, integrating both skill training and personality development.


In summary, “Gritting One’s way to success” is a groundbreaking study that adds a new dimension to our understanding of what makes an elite youth soccer player. It emphasizes that beyond the hours of practice, it is the grit within that often paves the way to success. For anyone involved in youth soccer, these findings are a beacon, guiding the way towards nurturing not just skilled, but also mentally resilient players.


Larkin, P., Cocić, D., Hendry, D. T., Williams, A. M., O’Connor, D., & Bilalić, M. (2023). Gritting One’s way to success – Grit explains skill in elite youth soccer players beyond (deliberate) practice. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 64, 102328.

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