There are many definitions of resilience, however, it is important to clarify because this allows a common language between sport psychologists, coaches, and the athletes themselves when working to develop resilience in an athlete.

Resilience is the ability to withstand pressures and adversity, maintaining performance and well-being through difficult situations.

Another definition states that ‘Sporting resilience is a person’s ability to evaluate what they think, feel and do when faced with an adversity which allows them to operate at their previous level and successfully adapt to persist’.

Similarly, Fletcher & Sarkar (2016) define mental resilience as the ability to use personal qualities to withstand pressure.

It is something that can develop, a learned process over time through interactions with the world and is not a case of having or lacking resilience.

Although sporting resilience shows an individual’s resilience process during sport, it is also learned and developed from non -sporting components, as individuals have experiences away from the sporting environment.

Developing Resilience

Research suggests that there are several ways in which to develop resilience.

  • Self-awareness – Helps athletes to have knowledge of their thoughts and emotions and to develop a positive outlook.
  • Self- talk – Helps athletes to concentrate.
  • Use of Mental Imagery – Helps athletes to visualise what they want to achieve and can help to reduce nerves and increase confidence.
  • Goal Setting & Preparation Skills – Helps athletes focus on what they can control when performing under pressure.

Mental Fortitude Training

Mental fortitude training (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2016) is an approach used in elite sport. Underpinned by resilience-related theory and research, the mental fortitude training programme focuses on three main areas to enhance performers’ ability to withstand pressure.

Personal Qualities

The cornerstone of this resilience training program is an individual’s personal qualities, which can be described as the psychological factors that protect an individual from negative consequences.

These personal qualities will likely be tested by stressors and adversities and/or supported by social and environmental resources.

Facilitative Environments

In the above diagram, challenge involves having high expectations of people, and helps to instil accountability and responsibility.

Support refers to enabling people to develop their personal qualities and helps to promote learning and build trust.

The unrelenting environment is characterised by unhealthy competition, leaders exposing and ridiculing under performers, a blame culture, when high standards are not met, an avoidance mentality due to the consequences of making mistakes, little care for well-being, athletes feeling isolated, unsustainable performance and potential burnout (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2016). These are all consistent with welfare concerns and issues that have been raised and investigated in recent years in some British Sports.

However, if too much support and not enough challenge is provided then the comfortable environment will not enhance performance.

In order to facilitate both performance excellence and welfare in elite sport, the environment must balance high levels of challenge AND support.

This facilitative environment is characterised by supportive challenge towards a goal, individuals having input into and taking ownership of goals, individuals seeking out challenges to develop, individuals craving constructive feedback, good relationships between performers and coaches, a psychologically safe environment that encourages sensible risk taking, healthy competition, everyone supporting one another, learning from mistakes and failures, recognition and celebration of success, and a “we’re in this together” attitude (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2016).

Challenge Mindset

This means that athletes face challenges positively and believe they have the resources to overcome them.



Developing Resilience: The Role of the Environment – Dr Musafa Sarkar

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Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2016). Mental fortitude training: An evidence-based approach to developing psychological resilience for sustained success. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action7(3), 135-157.


Gupta, S., & McCarthy P.J.  (2022) The sporting resilience model: A systematic review of resilience in sport performers. Front. Psychol. 13:1003053. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1003053


Sarkar, M., & Page, A, E. (2022) Developing Individual and Team Resilience in Elite Sport: Research to Practice, Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 13:1, 40-53, DOI: 10.1080/21520704.2020.1861144