There are many challenges presented to athletes whilst trying to be their best in their given sport. For me, the metaphor I like to use – it’s like a rollercoaster ride. There are many tools and strategies we need for the ride and one of them is resilience. Let’s look at what resilience is…


What is Resilience?

Resilience is a skill that is essential for all young people to develop. According to Benard (2004) –

“…personal resilience strengths are the individual characteristics associated with healthy development and life success”(p.13).

These personal strengths do not cause resilience, but are the positive developmental outcomes that demonstrate that these innate individual characteristics are engaged (Benard, 2004). The four categories of personal resilience strengths are:

  1. social competence (communication skills; being responsive to others; having empathy and caring for others; forgiveness and compassion);
  2. problem-solving (planning; flexibility; help-seeking; critical and creative thinking);
  3. autonomy (a secure sense of identity; self-worth; initiative; ability to cope; sense of humour); and
  4. sense of purpose (hope for future; personal goals and values; sense of faith; connectedness with others) – (Benard, 2004).

To develop these innate personal strengths and produce good developmental outcomes, young people need to be in a nurturing environment. Some of the environments the young people are involved in include schools, families, and communities (including sporting clubs). A nurturing environment is one where the young person experiences caring relationships; high but achievable expectations; and authentic opportunities to participate and contribute (Benard, 2004).


5 Ways an Athlete Can Start to Enhance Resilience

There are a number of ways to enhance resilience as an athlete, however I am going to share 5. They are –

1. Know What is in Your Control and What is Not.

Spend some time reflecting on the question – What can you truly control in your sport and / or life? Knowing the answer to this question for yourself is important for your resilience and as Denis Waitley said so well – “Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.” You can read more here on this topic. 

2. Adopt a Growth Mindset.

When you adopt a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, you embrace challenges, learn from criticism, persist in the face of setbacks and find lessons and inspiration from others.

3. Know your Character Strengths or Virtues.

Do you know what your character strengths or virtues are? If not, you can find them out here. Once you know your strengths, you can take the time to focus on them and create a life sharing them. “The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” ~ David Viscott.

4. Practise Mindfulness.

By practising mindfulness you can learn to savour and appreciate the present moments in your sport and life. Remember “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” ~ American Proverb. 

5. Invest Time to Reflect.

Yes, I realise you may be busy, however reflection is important sport and life. By reflecting, I mean taking the time to review a current situation or activity, your week, day, month or year. It is a great tool that allows you to take notice and become more mindful of what is happening in your life now. If you would like some ideas on reflection, click here.


Over to You…

I hope this has given you as an athlete some insight in to how to enhance resilience. It is my hope, that the sporting community can work together to develop the innate personal strengths of young athletes and contribute to the development of well-adjusted human beings and not just good athletes.

If you liked this article and want to keep taking the next step towards aligning your sport and lifeplease feel free to join the Cultivating Well-Being in Adolescent Athletes community by clicking here.


Reference –

Benard, B. (2004). Resiliency – What Have We Learned. San Francisco, CA: WestEd.


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