Resilience In The Sports Context

The practice of sport carries a lot of psychological pressure and it must be managed with resilience.

The  resilience is a concept frequently used by clinical psychology to define the c apacity with individuals to bounce back in adversity.

However, there is no single way to build resilience and, for example, numerous studies suggest that the ability to manage stress is a factor that contributes to good athletic performance.

Coping with adversity through sport

In sport, it is very common to find stressful elements related to the conditions of the competition or the organization. For this reason, the concept of resilience takes on a nuance closely related to the quality of life of the athlete.

Those who present a resilient profile experience greater knowledge  of coping skills towards adversity. That mental toughness contributes to injury recovery. A good resilient profile, in addition to good technique, commitment and high social support, are variables that are associated with high performance. 

Resilience studies have traditionally been focused on communities or families that have previously been subjected to stressful events. In the field of sport, there is still not as much research on resilience as has been done in the clinical area.

The resilient profile

It should be taken into account that most of the pressures can be self-imposed by the demands of the athlete himself. Galli and Vealey (2008) conducted a study with elite players through interviews about the adverse events they had to overcome in sport.

These included injuries, performance-related setbacks, illness, and transition to another category. They established a model and highlighted the qualities that would belong to a resilient profile; positive attitude, maturity, competitiveness, commitment and strong determination.

Various psychological variables related to optimism have been analyzed. These variables focus on the management of adversity and sports performance. To do this, they studied the athlete’s moods and mental strength, finding that optimistic people recover faster from stressful events. But it was also found that people who maintain an active physical practice, achieve higher levels of optimism compared to inactive or sedentary people (Kerr, Au and Lindner, 2005).

The case of athletes with disabilities

When it comes to resilience and sport, athletes with disabilities should not be forgotten either, these athletes have their own characteristics that drive them to face adversity.

However, differences were found in the resilience scores according to the type of disability they present. Those athletes with cerebral palsy presented worse results than those with spinal cord injuries.

The role of the Sports Psychologist

All these studies highlight the importance of protective factors without neglecting prevention. The use of positive strategies, social support that allows constant feedback, the establishment of clear objectives and the evaluation of the applied strategies are essential to develop useful coping strategies and in the formation of a resilient profile.

This work is the responsibility of the Sports Psychologist, the coach and the athlete, being an integrative work on the part of all in which good planning must be prioritized. The knowledge of both the coaching staff and the Sports Psychologist will generate feelings of self-confidence and security in the athlete, reducing the possibility that potentially stressful situations affect their performance.

The understanding and training about the concept of resilience by Sports Science professionals will allow addressing the ability of athletes to positively adapt to adversity, thus achieving optimal sports performance.

Regarding the intervention on the resilient profile, the programs to improve the resilient profile can produce important changes in psychosocial variables associated with injuries, illnesses and the intrinsic motivation of the athlete.

Extending resilience to other facets of life

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that many skills that have been acquired through sport are extrapolated to other areas of life (school, family, work).

Sports practice from its earliest stages is a school of values ‚Äč‚Äčthat promotes healthy habits. Therefore, the benefits in the acquisition of these strategies can be multiple, not only in sports performance if you want to be an elite athlete, but also in education and personal development in children and adolescents.  

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