A grounded theory of psychological resilience in Olympic champions

2016-10-06T13:17:07Z (GMT) by David Fletcher Mustafa Sarkar
OBJECTIVE. Although it is well-established that the ability to manage stress is a prerequisite of sporting excellence, the construct of psychological resilience has yet to be systematically examined in athletic performers. The study reported here sought to explore and explain the relationship between psychological resilience and optimal sport performance. DESIGN AND METHOD. Twelve Olympic champions (8 men and 4 women) from a range of sports were interviewed regarding their experiences of withstanding pressure during their sporting careers. A grounded theory approach was employed throughout the data collection and analysis, and interview transcripts were analyzed using open, axial and selective coding. Methodological rigor was established by incorporating various verification strategies into the research process, and the resultant grounded theory was also judged using the quality criteria of fit, work, relevance, and modifiability. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS. Results indicate that numerous psychological factors (relating to a positive personality, motivation, confidence, focus, and perceived social support) protect the world’s best athletes from the potential negative effect of stressors by influencing their challenge appraisal and meta-cognitions. These processes promote facilitative responses that precede optimal sport performance. The emergent theory provides sport psychologists, coaches and national sport organizations with an understanding of the role of resilience in athletes’ lives and the attainment of optimal sport performance.