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How can coaches foster resilience in elite athletes?
Resilience Part 3
To refresh, what is resilience again? Dr. David Fletcher and Dr. Mustafa Sarkar, leading experts in resilience in high-performance domains, define resilience as “the role of mental processes and behavior in promoting personal assets and protecting an individual from the potential negative effect of stressors”.
We have already looked at what resilience is and how coaches are able to demonstrate resilience. So how can coaches help foster resilience in the athletes they work with?
In this month’s 3 Points, I’ll introduce strategies coaches can implement to foster resilience in their athletes.
1. Research suggests there are 3 main buckets coaches can fill in order to effectively foster resilience in their athletes. The first is proactive strategies because we know resilience is more than simply bouncing back from setbacks, it is also protecting athletes from the potential negative effects of stressors.
Proactive Strategies for Foster Resilience:
Set and emphasize process and task-oriented goals, this leads to a mastery climate.
Promote individual development and give athletes a voice in the decision-making process around their development.
Prepare for potential future setbacks. What adversity is likely to hit during the season? Doing so can strengthen an athlete’s relationship with adversity and improve their decision-making under stress.
Deliberately practice under competition pressure. What are the sources of pressure that competition provides? And how you can simulate them to help your athletes be prepared for them in practice?
Train mental skills.
Promote Life Balance
Promote the importance of life outside of sport, sport is often stressful and it is key that athletes feel encouraged to invest in relationships, and support systems that allow them to detach from sport.
Facilitate life outside sport: Simple things like giving athletes the practice schedule in advance and giving off days allow athletes to plan and build time for their lives outside of sport.
2. Reactive Strategies for Foster Resilience:
Evaluate setbacks critically and constructively. The focus should be on the future and what can be taken away versus getting stuck in negativity. Additionally, coaches should evaluate their own roles and not be afraid to take a sense of responsibility.
Encourage athletes to self-reflect on the setbacks.
A key part of resilience is facilitative responses to stressors and setbacks. Model this as a team and use the lessons learned from the evaluation!
Promote a Positive Mindset
Normalize setbacks. Coaches can focus on the long-term development of athletes and emphasize that one setback does not make or break a career.
Challenge negative perceptions. Athletes can often get stuck in negative thinking patterns following setbacks. How can you find and highlight strengths that can aid in their ability to bounce back?
3. And perhaps most importantly, Interpersonal Skills:
The researchers found consensus among participants that a coach’s ability to foster resilience did not only depend on specific behaviors before or after stressful events. The effective use of the strategies listed above also depends on a coach’s interpersonal skills, that is, their ability to appropriately connect and interact with an athlete. The keys to doing so? Use an individualized approach with each athlete to build quality coach-athlete relationships.