Further evidence for a sport-specific theory of psychological resilience from elite dressage riding

Daniel James Brown, Loughborough University, United Kingdom

Theme: Elite performance

Poster Number: 23

Program ID: POS-1

Presentation: October 3, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Over the past few years, there has been a burgeoning interest in the topic of psychological resilience in relation to sport preparation and performance. In the most recent sport resilience study, Fletcher and Sarkar (2012) developed a grounded theory of psychological resilience and optimal sport performance. To further explore resilience in elite sport, the authors acknowledged that “the theory is open to extension and can be tested and modified to accommodate new insights” (p. 676). The purpose of this study was, therefore, to further examine the grounded theory of psychological resilience in a different sample of elite sport performers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten members of the British dressage squad aged 18-23 years (M=20.70, SD = 1.20). Interview transcripts were initially (inductively) analysed thematically to identify repeated patterns of meaning within the data. The emergent themes were subsequently (deductively) categorized based on the aforementioned grounded theory. The stressors experienced by elite dressage riders were categorised into two overarching themes: sport-specific and sport-general stressors. Findings revealed that a positive personality and focus were the most important psychological factors in protecting riders from the potential negative effect of stressors, whereas confidence, motivation, and perceived social support were considered to be less integral in the resilience-stress relationship. Furthermore, while becoming more resilient appeared to lead to better performance, the results also indicated that global well-being was a significant consequence of resilience. Overall, the current study provides support for Fletcher and Sarkar’s (2012) grounded theory of psychological resilience and also highlights certain sport-specific nuances in terms of the relative importance of specific psychological factors and the different outcomes of resilience. From an applied perspective, practitioners should consider the best combination of psychological factors for different sport types when designing resilience training programs.

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