Resilience and Environmental Factors

In Sports by Brock Bourgase

The recent World Cup has proven to be an excellent opportunity to showcase resilience (or lack thereof). Asamoah Gyan may have missed a penalty shot over the net because of the high altitude or the defective Jabulani ball but he still needed to compose himself, take control of the situation, and score another penalty minutes later.

Resilience allows individuals to persevere in the face of adversity. Sport and play helps youth experience “to experience social competence, empathy, caring, problem-solving skills, critical and creative thinking, task mastery and a sense of purpose and connectedness” for the rest of their lives (Henley, Schweizer, de Gara, & Vetter, 2007). Self-efficacy is strongly related to exercise behavior. In many ways, we are how we play — and vice-versa (Horn, 2002, pp. 108-9). Athletes who can handle tough circumstances, realizing that they control the situation become people who overcome adversity later on.

Modelling the Way: In the Quarter-Final match against the Netherlands, the Brazilian team experienced some misfortune and collapsed, from the coach out. Victim of a handful of poor officiating decisions and an own-goal, Brazilian coach Dunga banged the plexiglass behind his bench and marched along the sideline in frustration. Soon, the players began to complain and give up on more and more battles for loose balls, eventually losing the game. Coaches must lead by example, mirroring the personality than they want their team to show. If the court is different from expectations and shots are not falling, the coach should remain calm and adjust tactics. If the officials are intimidated by the home crowd and making questionable calls, the coach should be confident and reasonable.

Create a Team Atmosphere: Players should always feel that they are part of something greater. Players from an at-risk environment don’t need help losing but need role models. In the huddle (at home or on the road), every team member should understand that they depend on each other in order to succeed.

Reframe the Situation: Reframing a situation allows athletes to see the situation from a different perspective and see opportunities amidst threats. Every situation contains several openings (Jensen, 2003, p. 29). The climate may be hot and tiring but both teams are equally fatigued. The gym may be loud and threatening but it is also a chance to achieve self-actualization goals.

Reassure and Recognize: Perceived threats can trigger fear of failure/feelings of inadequacy, social evaluation, and external control/guilt (Martens, Vealey, Burton, 1990, p. 79). Players need only feel threatened by a new situation – like a hot and humid climate or travelling for the first time – for performance to be impaired. Coaches should always support players and reassure them understand that the situation is beatable. When an athlete makes a good effort to overcome a situation, such as ignoring noise and taking leadership on the court, they should be recognized for their efforts, irrespective of the result.

Works Cited:

  • Henley, R., Schweizer, I., de Gara, F., & Vetter, S. (2007). How Psychosocial Sport & Play Programs Help Youth Manage Adversity. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation , 12 (1), 51-58.
  • Horn, T. (2002). Advances in Sport Psychology. Champaign: Human Kinetics.
  • Jensen, P. (2003). The Inside Edge. Rockwood: Performance Coaching Inc.
  • Martens, R., Vealey, R. S., & Burton, D. (1990). Competive Anxiety in Sport. Champaign: Human Kinetics.