What is psychological resilience and how does it help in sport

If you have the question whether psychological resilience is so important for an athlete, the answer will be definitely positive. In many interviews or speeches, sportsmen mention psychological resilience as one of the most important factors in successful competing at a high level. What is psychological resilience? How is it characterized? Why is it really so important in sports?

What is psychological resilience?

Doug Trichroic and Peter Clough, the creators of the concept, give their own definition of psychological stability. Psychological stability is a personal trait that largely determines how effectively we cope with problems, stresses and pressure despite circumstances.

what is psychological resilience in sport

The definition itself gives the answer to the question of how important is mental resilience in sport. In sports activity, and especially in preparation for competitions, you need to solve some problems, cope with difficulties, overcome stress and pressure. Therefore, it is not surprising that athletes and coaches often mention the role of psychological stability in their sports activities. It allows them to cope with all this. Thanks to it, the athlete can work at full capacity in spite of the suffocating pressure. This allows athletes to take on new, even the most difficult tasks, without doubting of the final result.

What does psychological resilience consist of

We have already said what psychological resilience is. Now it’s time to think about how is it grown in a sportsman. General psychological resilience consists of several parts: problem, self-confidence, grit and control.


Problems can be seen in two ways: as an opportunity to present and use your personal and physical skills or as a threat. Successful people perceive it in the first key. And in terms of psychological resilience, the problem is also primarily an opportunity. The problem should be perceived not as something negative, but as a chance to present and express themselves. Rather, the word “problem” should be replaced by “task” or “situation”.

emotional resilience and psychological resilience

Successful athletes enthusiastically accept a new opportunity to test themselves. And often they even look for such an opportunity. Even when they fail, they don’t give up.  On the contrary – they are able to draw the appropriate conclusions from the loss and continue to fight. And fight with more grit and passion.


In sports, a high level of self-confidence in one’s abilities and skills is especially necessary. It shows how an athlete copes with failures. It’s easy to keep high self-confidence when things are going their good way. However, real self-confidence shows only when a sportsman has to deal with failure. If, despite the loss, the athlete does not lose confidence, then his level of confidence is high and stable. This will allow him to take on new challenges that will lead him to success.


This is perseverance in performing tasks. Grit shows how purposeful an athlete can be. The need of this character traits for athletes causes doubt in no one. Achieving success requires long and tedious work. A stubborn person does not give up, even when the task is difficult and requires a lot of effort. And also if the task is boring. He will continue to pursue the goal, even if there is pressure on the way.


In this concept, control refers to the athlete’s belief that it affects his or her own life. Control concerns two aspects: emotions and life.

emotional control and positive thinking in psychological resilience

Psychologically resilient athletes can manage their emotions in such a way that it helps in competitions and training. They are able to adjust the intensity and nature of emotions in different situation. They are able to overcome anxiety and negative thoughts, manage their internal dialogue and not to get stuck in bad gloomy thoughts. Usually psychologically resilient athletes do not express their negative emotions and are able to cope with them without affecting others.

Control of life, in its turn, is the belief that an athlete influences what happens to him. If he sets a goal, he believes the achievements will depend on his work and perseverance.

Each of the described components fits perfectly into the world of sports. Therefore, the concept of psychological resilience is so popular in this area. Training aimed at developing these 4 components of psychological stability can contribute to success in and out of sports.

Is it possible to develop psychological resilience

Peter Clough and his colleagues in their research found out a depending of mental resistance on large amounts of gray matter in the right frontal lobe of the brain. Does this mean that “psychological resilience” is an innate characteristic? Yes, but to a certain extent. And this does not mean that people with less mental stability can not develop this feature of the character. Studies show that this improvement is possible with the help of appropriate exercises or professional training.

How sportsmen can develop the psychological resilience

First of all, you should start with consciousness and development of those character traits that are necessary in everyday life. This also applies to attention to other people, courteous attitude to them. After all, in the pursuit of psychological resilient you can also fall into the extreme. And it is always worth remembering the reasonable limits.

Too much mentally insensitive people (as a result of psychology resilient developing) are sometimes perceived by others as “overwhelming” and demanding from themselves and others too much. They may also be too involved in the task and do not see the need to worry about others. Whose mental stability may be much lower. That is why you should start with the above-mentioned care and courtesy.

extremes in psychological resilience development

Starting to improve directly positive thinking and psychological stability, one should not identify them with unrealistic motivational slogans. Such as “You are the winner, the whole world is yours”. It is better to start with a more realistic view of life. One should think carefully and make a list of your positive qualities and benefits that will help to achieve goals in sports. Some disadvantages can also be interpreted as useful.

During stress or excitement, use relaxation techniques. Don’t underestimate them. It will be useful to train relaxing out of a stressful situation, so that in case of need it will be not difficult. Emotions are felt “in the body”, so it makes sense to start with the simplest breathing exercises. For example, focus on your breathing for the next minute. Allow the flow of thoughts to calm down. None of these thoughts should occupy too much of your consciousness.

Many other methods and techniques can be found in the public literature. If an athlete is going to study the level of his psychological stability more professionally, he can use professional psychometric tests. They are conducted by certified consultants. Thanks to it the athlete learns on what aspect of psychological resilience exactly he is necessary to concentrate and how to make it. And continue to work on this independently or with the help of a sports psychologist or a coach.

psychological resilience in sport

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