The Edmonton Oilers are in the playoffs! We’ve made it to game seven in the second round. Hopefully, we’ll make it into the third round but that is a story that won’t be answered until tomorrow. No matter what happens from this point on, I can’t help but be impressed by the team’s resilience. They have come back from some devastating losses (7-0 for San Jose in the first round, and being significantly ahead until three minutes to the buzzer in game five against Anaheim jump to mind). They are showing incredible resilience as a team, and as individuals (way to go Talbot!). You might argue that athletes have to be resilient but unless you have faced complete and total failure and then had to come back from it you don’t know how hard that can be, and certainly some athletes aren’t able to do it.
As an athlete, you have to bounce back from losses, training setbacks, funding challenges, injuries, even facing new (or old competitors) when you thought it was your turn (I’m thinking of you Weaver and Poje (a Canadian figure skating dance team)). So how do they (at least those who are successful) do it?
Resilience is the positive response an individual has to situations of stress and adversity (Braddock, Royster, Winfield, & Hawkins, 1991). Or as Galli and Gonzalez (2015) summarize, resilience is the “better-than-expected adjustment to difficult circumstances” (p. 244). Some of the areas that have been connected to resilience are self-concept (confidence, positive personality), social support or perceived social support, coping style (including areas such as peaking under pressure, goal setting/mental preparation, freedom from worry, and coachability), motivation and focus (Galli & Gonzalez, 2015; Mummery, Schofield, & Perry, 2004).
Galli and Gonzalez (2015) reviewed several studies that found that explanatory style also affected the resilience of athletes. In other words, after being told that their performances were not up to either their personal or a common standard, athletes who had an optimistic explanatory style – failure was caused by factors that “are unstable, specific in effect, and external” (p. 247) – performed significantly better on a second attempt. Resilient individuals also viewed “stressors as challenges rather than problems” (p. 248). A challenge is something we can address, we can take small and big steps to overcome it, a problem is just something we can complain about and ask “why me?”
If you play the game for long enough everyone has a setback, what makes you successful is how you come back from it. That doesn’t mean that you have to come back and win, that just isn’t in the cards for everyone, but you do need to come back in some form.
Way to go Oilers, because, if nothing else, you have shown a whole city worth of people that everyone has the power to overcome a challenge.
Braddock, J., Royster, D., Winfield, L, & Hawkins, R. (1991). Bouncing back: Sports and academic resilience among African-American males. Education and Urban Society, 24, 113-131.
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.
Mummery, W. K., Schofield, G., & Perry, C. (2004). Bouncing Back: The role of coping style, social support and self-concept in resilience of sport performance. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology, 6(3). Retrieved from http://www.athleticinsight.com/Vol6Iss3/BouncingPDF.pdf