“I do think that sometimes the narrative with athletes is we want this linear [progression],” says Redick, who read Duckworth’s book during training camp. “It doesn’t always work that way — and not only on the outside and kind of what the public sees and the media talks about, but the internal battles that every athlete faces. There are obstacles and maybe even moments of self-doubt.”
It’s little surprise, then, that Duckworth hears regularly from coaches interested in how they can use her research. While the concepts of hard work, dedication and resilience that are encapsulated in Duckworth’s version of grit are nothing new for coaches, her research into how grit translates in other fields of high achievement, how to measure it and how to build it provide helpful coaching tools.
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“She gave a greater clarity to the word ‘grit’ for me,” says Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown, who invited Duckworth to speak to his young team. “I think that through her examples of what her version of grit was, it resonated with me more clearly.
Now they are in the business of building for a repeat title. Of course, the memories from their magical run last spring will always be there. And they’ll serve their purpose when things go sideways this season, as they inevitably will, when guys have to remember what they’re all capable of accomplishing together.
However, the goal should be to become a championship team all over again. Not just through having the requisite talent or experience, but by — to use the buzzword of the night uttered in mirrored fashion by James, Irving, Love and Lue — “growing” into one.
That’s why as satisfying as the result might have been, it was just as important to see Lue experiment with a second unit surrounding James at the 5 or accepting that having Iman Shumpert play a heavy dose of backup point guard could look bad before it looks good, but having it look bad is the only way to know if it can ever look good.
“It’s a game we wanted to win,” Lue said. “Our guys wanted to win, they wanted to make a statement on [Toronto’s] home floor, second game of the season.”
A new season. A new goal accomplished. And a little bit of growth from the Cavs.
“It’s something that we’ve moved on from,” Love said of the surreal splendor of last spring. “We still have obviously a goal of winning another championship and repeating and defending a title, but that’s a long ways away. We have a lot of [time to go]. We’ve got to respect the process, love the process and just continue to go through it.”
“Both of my parents are schoolteachers, and her examples of different practices in different school systems and the different economic situations relative to some of her areas that displayed the most grit — and the people who were able to overcome different socioeconomic barriers or boundaries or obstacles and still persevere — that interested me a lot, as well as the coaching side of it.”
“I’ve always felt like the best players have these attitudes and the best players are able to bounce back from a tough night,” he says. “The best players are able to handle success. Certainly the best players always get better.