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date: 25 February 2021

Psychological Resilience and Adversarial Growth in Sport and Performancelocked

  • David FletcherDavid FletcherSchool of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences, Loughborough University

Summary

The ability to withstand or adapt to environmental demands is an inherent aspect of performance sport. At the highest level of competition, phenomenal levels of psychological resilience are necessary to attain and sustain success. Although various biopsychosocial factors contribute to the development of this resilience, an important differentiating factor in the emergence of the world’s best athletes is an ability to benefit in some way from the adversity they encounter, to the extent that they psychosocially grow and develop their resilience beyond their pre-trauma functioning, resulting in superior performance. These interrelated experiences of adversity, growth, and resilience involve ongoing complex interactions of numerous personal and situational factors. To briefly elaborate, following adversity-related trauma, athletes go through a “transitional process” whereby growth is facilitated through a combination of internal and external processes. For the world’s best athletes, changes to their motivation and personality appear to be particularly salient psychological aspects of adversarial growth. With regard to the development of resilience, the combined influence of psychological (i.e., personality, motivation, confidence, focus, support) and environmental (i.e., challenge, support) factors underpin athletes’ enhanced ability to withstand or adapt to environmental demands. Although there are a variety of potential beneficial outcomes of these experiences, it appears that there may also be some darker aspects to the world’s best athletes’ development and performance that have less desirable effects on their mental health and relationships. The integrative synthesis of psychological resilience and adversarial growth offers one of the most exciting and insightful avenues for future research in sport and performance.

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