Campers dig into the meaning of grit
March 6, 2017 | Emily Moeschler
Our campers explore the meaning of grit.
“Grit is hardcore and awesome,” says 5-year-old Avid4 Adventure camper Cedra Crews. “Dirty and amazing.”
Grit is one of those intangible character qualities that Avid seems to give kids when they’re not even looking. The nature of adventure sports—the determination they demand, the confidence they inspire and the peer community they foster—help develop grit naturally.
According to Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” key assets like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control are not being taught in the classroom today. They are dependent on parents (and maybe even camps) to create opportunities for kids to uncover their hidden grit—and potential.
“Grit means you fight the whining, the wind and the cold,” says 9-year-old Olive Autumn Shrum, a deaf camper at Avid, who uses bi-lateral cochlear implants to access sound and language. “You don’t give up on yourself. It gives you personality of who you are. Grit makes me feel strong and confident.”
Bayleigh Reimer, 18, who attended the first session at Avid’s Colorado camp, has her own take: “I would describe grit as a great passion for something. A mentality of positivity or an I-can-and-will-do-this mentality.”
Shrum remembers two gritty moments at camp that inspire her to this day. “On the bike ride and the low ropes I got a little frustrated. But I thought to myself, ‘Don’t give up, just keep on trying, take a deep breath and just do it anyway, even though you think you can’t.”
Grit is something you learn simply by trying, she says. “I just learned it myself from doing all the fun Avid stuff that you have to be tough with. Stuff you don’t know how to do but you just do anyway. You just try it. Just keep on trying stuff until you get it.”
Tough describes this getting through “fear of failure” as one of the best methods for building true character. In his book he referenced an interview with head of Riverdale Country School, Dominic Randolph, who suggests that in most highly academic environments today “no one fails at anything.”
“The problem, as Randolph has realized, is that the best way for a young person to build character is for him to attempt something where there is a real and serious possibility of failure. In a high-risk endeavor, whether it’s in business or athletics or the arts, you are more likely to experience colossal defeat than in a low-risk one—but you’re also more likely to achieve real and original success. “The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure,” Randolph explained.”
The same profound perseverance—just trying things she never had before—paid off in a newfound sense of confidence for Reimer, too.
In fact, she can’t even pinpoint an isolated incident that led to learning grit. She laughs, “I would say that Avid one was giant grit moment.”