Canada, for all its mountains, has never produced a more successful snowboarder than Mark McMorris. After breaking his leg in a competition in 2016, Mark endured a long and painful process of rehabilitation back to the slopes. This journey required the support of many different people – coaches, friends, medical professionals, and family. Along with this support, Mark’s courage, character, determination, and perseverance paid off in PyeongChang last year with one of Canada’s first medals of those Olympic Winter Games – a bronze medal in men’s slopestyle. A boy from one of the flattest places in the world – Saskatchewan – made an impressive comeback on the mountains of South Korea within a year after a devastating injury.
Rebounding from any serious injury or illness (or personal setback) is an experience that demands a particular type of attitude. Darryl Floyd, former professional basketball player, believes that introspection and a support system are crucial to get athletes back on their feet. Without a skilled team of people that believe in you, the road to recovery can be fraught with frustration, setback, and discouragement.
Why do some people succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about success is the one about intelligence – success comes to those who score highest on tests. But the author of How Children Succeed, Paul Tough, argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control. These qualities are sometimes encapsulated as “grit”.
Researcher Angela Duckworth believes that grit is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” It involves working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over time despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon not a sprint and his or her advantage is stamina. When disappointment, boredom, or slow progress lead many people to change trajectory, the gritty individual stays the course.
This is true for many students in school and true for those on the path to recovery after injury.
The Middle School returned on Friday evening after four days at Boyne Mountain in Northern Michigan. It was a great trip led by committed and involved teachers who provided students with the opportunity to experience a memorable excursion – one in which they developed or improved physical skills, organizational ability, responsibility, and camaraderie with their peers and teachers.
And, of course, we had with us our own “Mark McMorris”, Grade 8 student, Noah Secord, who returned to the hill of his injury a year later to show himself and others that setbacks can be overcome and fears conquered with the love, support, and confidence of family and friends.
At various points in life, in big ways and small, we can get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails. May we all have the McMorris-Secord attitude when life’s bumps come along – even the ones that are found on the slopes!
Ric Anderson, Head of School