Athletes need resiliency; here’s how to build it

One of the traits of legendary athletes is that they usually had to overcome multiple obstacles along the way. That ability to overcome setbacks is part of the trait we call resiliency. As a parent or coach, you can take steps to help athletes develop this quality. After all, you know they will need it eventually.

What Is Resilience

Resilience is not about avoiding obstacles, it’s about what we do when they happen.  It’s that ability to bounce back when there is a setback.  Challenges in an athlete’s path will cause feelings that are uncomfortable, stressful and can be painful, but to be successful they must continue to move forward.

Some of the attributes you’ll see in an athlete who is resilient include:

  • Heightened problem-solving approach to obstacles
  • An ability to bounce back after setback
  • A generally positive outlook on life
  • An ability to manage strong emotions and stress with a clear mind

Resiliency doesn’t have to be left to chance.  It is a trait that can be nurtured. Parents and coaches can help athletes with key steps in developing resiliency.

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How to Help Athletes Build Resilience

As a coach or parent, you are often in a position to help frame how the athlete approaches a problem.  While it is something the athlete must experience and deal with personally, those around them can help them explore how they view the setback.

Start in the Past

Revisiting past experiences can be a good place to start.  This can be used to show the athlete where they have previously navigated obstacles before them.  This can positively impact how they interpret the uncomfortable feelings they may be experiencing and envision a way past them.

Ask: What challenges have I overcome in the past?  Finding past success can help lead to a positive outlook and show a path to forward.  Past experience might also provide insight into the strategies that helped.

Ask: Where do you get support and success from?  Most athletes will have someone or somewhere they turn for help.  Can they build on this more and focus on their potential sources of strength instead of an obstacle or perceived weakness?

AskWhat makes you feel energized and optimistic?  It may be connecting with a specific person, going for a run, or playing a game. The key is to find a way to see the bigger picture, so you’re less overwhelmed with the details of a stressful situation.

Build Toward the Future

Along with looking for past success and creating a positive framework, athletes need to develop the skills to deal with obstacles when they occur.  Daily habits can fuel someone’s resilience and are opportunities to build skills, before bigger problems arise.

Nurture strong bonds.  Having a sense of community and support from family, friends and team members can create a stable foundation they need if a problem arises.

Focusing on solutions.  Problem solving is a trait that can be practiced daily.  It’s a lot easier to focus on solving a big problem, when you’ve been practicing this mindset on lots of small problems along the way.

Focus on small goals. When an athlete has big dreams and goals it can be inspiring and fuel them.  However, when things get hard or go wrong those same big goals can start to make it seem impossible.  Adding smaller manageable steps along the way can assist an athlete having a proactive outlook, instead of one of being a victim.

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Resiliency for Success

Resiliency is a trait we appreciate in athletes in part because, we all know overcoming obstacles is part of life.  Whether it’s sport, school, career, or relationships, life will throw some road bumps in the way.  The resiliency to get back up and overcome setbacks is always a key to success.