Resilience is a concept often used by clinical psychology to define that c apacity that individuals have to recover from adversity .

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

Facing adversity through sport

In sport it is very common to encounter stressful elements related to the conditions of the competition or the organization. Therefore, the concept of resilience is closely related to the quality of life of the athlete.

Those with a resilient profile experience increased knowledge in coping skills towards adversity. Such mental strength contributes to recovery from injury . 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 focused on communities or families that have previously been subjected to stressful events. In the field of sport, there is not yet as much research on resilience as there has been in the clinical area.

The resilient profile

It should be borne in mind that most 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 .

Several psychological variables related to optimism have been analyzed. These variables focus on the management of adversity and sports performance. They studied the athlete’s moods and mental strength and found that optimistic people recover more quickly 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 we talk about resilience and sport, we must not forget that athletes with disabilities have their own characteristics that encourage them to cope with adversity.

Nevertheless, we found differences in the scores on resilience 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 fundamental in the development of useful coping strategies and in the formation of a resilient profile.

This work is the responsibility of the Sports Psychologist, the trainer and the sportsperson, and it is an integrating task for everyone 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 sportsman or woman, reducing the possibility of potentially stressful situations affecting their performance.

The understanding and training of the concept of resilience by professionals in the field of Sports Science will make it possible to address the capacity of athletes to adapt positively to adversity, thus achieving optimal sports performance.

In terms of resilience intervention, resilience enhancement programmes can produce important changes in psychosocial variables associated with injuries, illness 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).

Practicing sports from its earliest stages is a school of values that promotes healthy habits. Therefore, the benefits in the acquisition of these strategies can be multiple, not only in sports performance if one intends to be an elite sportsman or woman, but also in education and personal development in children and adolescents .