top of page


by Jeff Benson

Cheerleading Champions


Would you rather be the athlete who barely has to practice; walks into the gym with hyperextended jumps, crazy flexibility, can nail their elite tumbling pass, and is the most talented person on the team? Or Would you rather be the hardest worker on the team who works for everything they have; the first person at practice and the last one to leave? The athlete who asks their coach for feedback on how to improve, pays attention to the little details and never stops working? We talk about the beauty and wonder of talent all the time. Whether it be in school, athletics, music, etc. Though we know it when we see it, like the color blue, sometimes it’s hard to define. For most, they would describe it as the ability to learn things quickly and easily.


Grit has started to become a buzzword of the moment. From classrooms to the cheer mat, teachers and coaches have realized success has as much to do with grit as it does intellect or talent. Grit is passion + perseverance. It is the ability to stick with something, despite obstacles, and push ahead. Winston Churchill may have explained it best, “Moving from failure to failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” We believe that 9 out of 10 cheerleaders today, rather than striving to be gritty, would prefer to be talented. The problem is talent does not lead to long term success. In every situation, there will come a time where talent no longer serves you. If you learned your back handspring quickly, that’s great, but there will come a time when it will take you longer than expected to learn a tumbling skill, what will you do then?


At some point, you will be on a team where your talent will no longer set you apart. You will be with a group of others who have similar abilities to you and you won’t stand out—rather, you’ll be on a level playing field. What will you do then? Typically, at that time, the athlete wonders, “Wait, what happened to my special gift?” It’s rarer that we find athletes who aspire to be the hardest workers in the room.

‘I don’t care how many times we don’t hit this elite stunt sequence, we are not leaving this gym until we do.’ ‘It doesn’t bother me that I am on my level 2 team again. I am going to be the best leader I can for my team.’ ‘It’s disappointing we didn’t hit zero this weekend, but what can we do in practice to help us be better prepared next weekend?’


Grit sustains long term success. Maybe you’re thinking of Angel Rice. She’s strong, powerful, moves with ease and seems to be able to do anything she tries. It’s easy to think it all has to do with talent—that things just came easy to her. Is she talented? Sure, but if she hadn’t spent thousands of hours in the gym perfecting her tumbling skills, working with coaches to improve her technique and being open to correction, she wouldn’t be the amazing athlete she is today. It was her grit, hard work, patience to overcome her tough days, and willingness to put in the time has led her to where she is today. There were days when she wanted to quit, where she wasn’t able to complete a pass she dreamed of landing. Rather than quitting, she showed tenacity. She kept with it—day after day, hour after hour, perfecting her skills.

When we focus on effort rather than results, we are training our brain toward grit. When we are offended when someone calls us ‘talented’ rather than ‘hard working,’ we know we are gritty. It’s not until we no longer see talent as important, but rather our work ethic and coachability, will we truly succeed. WANT TO SUCEED? STRIVE TOWARDS GRIT

Interested in learning more, visit Jeff Benson is the founder of Mind Body Cheer, a sports performance company for competitive cheerleaders and best-selling author of “unBlocked: The Walls Come Tumbling Down.”