Expanding the Reach for Mental Wellness for Better Performance in Sport & Life


It’s much more than just the specific sport; it’s about reinforcing positive attitude and lessons for life.

All high performing athletes will experience some form of adversity or failure throughout their career, whether it be through performance, injuries, strain on personal relationships or mental health problems. Interestingly, each athlete is unique in how long they take to rebound from these events.

The answer lies not in whether an adverse event occurs, but how the athlete responds. 



Individual Resilience vs. Team Resilience?

Individual Resilience

Resilience literally means to recoil, spring back and regain it’s original shape. It can be defined as a process of successful adaptation following negative events (Garmezy & Masten, 1999).

In sports performance literature, resilience has been defined as “the role of mental processes and behavior in promoting personal assets and protecting an individual from the potential negative effect of stressors” (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2012).

Recent studies on Olympic medalists and high performance athletes have discovered that both personal and external factors contribute to a resilient athlete: achievement motivation, focus, confidence, metacognition (evaluation of one’s own thinking), positive personality, coping ability and perceived social support.

Team Resilience

Team resilience differs from individual resilience because it considers the social environment, including the interactions between players and collective reactions to loss and adversity. Team resilience is defined as a “dynamic, psychosocial process that protects a group of individuals from the potential negative effects of stressors they collectively encounter” (Morgan, Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013).

Morgan, Fletcher & Sarkar 2013 identified 4 characteristics of resilient teams:

*(directly taken from Decroos et al. 2017)

  1. group structure (ie. maintaining a shared vision during adversity, a culture of open communication, shared leadership roles (Team Allies))
  2. mastery approaches toward adversities (ie. learning and improvement as a group during setbacks, thorough preparation to withstand stressors, and experience of challenging situations);
  3.  social capital (ie. deep emotional bonds between team members, perceived social support, and the absence of a blame culture when experiencing failures);
  4. collective efficacy (ie. gaining belief from successful past experiences of adversity, sticking together during setbacks, and gaining belief from the acts of team members during stressors)

The Coach’s Role in Promoting Resilience

In addition to providing your athletes and team with opportunities to foster the characteristics of both individual resilience and team resilience,  Morgan, Fletcher, and Sarkar (2015) noted that coaches can prepare their teams for adversity in these four ways: 

(1)Unite the team under pressure through a collective vision

(2)Provide examples of shared experiences for team to learn from

(3)Create and empower a strong sense of team identity

(4)Promote positive emotions and enjoyment in sport

Homework: Think of activities that you can incorporate into your training regime to nurture the above characteristics of individual and team resilience, as well as prepare your team for adversity.

Metacognition (Individual Resilience)

Invite your athletes to become aware of their inner self talk leading up to adversity or during adversity, what comes up?

Group Structure (Team Resilience)

Create shared leadership opportunities within your team structure (ie. give more responsibilities to your Captains as mental health champions, create mentoring between senior and rookie athletes)

Coping Ability (Individual Resilience)

Allow your athletes to brainstorm healthy coping strategies during adversity, and practice them during mock situations (pre-game mocks, time trials)


Decroos, S., Lines, R. L. J., Morgan, P. B. C., Fletcher, D., Sarkar, M., Fransen, K., … Vande Broek, G. (2017). Development and validation of the Characteristics of Resilience in Sports Teams Inventory. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 6(2), 158–178. https://doi.org/10.1037/spy0000089
Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological Resilience: A Review and Critique of Definitions, Concepts, and Theory. European Psychologist, 18(1), 12–23. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000124
Galli, N., & Gonzalez, S. P. (2015). Psychological resilience in sport: A review of the literature and implications for research and practice. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 13(3), 243–257. https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2014.946947
Masten, A. S., Best, K. M., & Garmezy, N. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. Development and Psychopathology, 2(4), 425–444. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579400005812
Morgan, P. B. C., Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Defining and characterizing team resilience in elite sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14(4), 549–559. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.01.004
Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2014). Psychological resilience in sport performers: a review of stressors and protective factors. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2014.901551