Mental skills: Your journey to becoming more resilient starts here

Jason Brennan is back with an examination of the factors that go into being a resilient competitor.

We all know resiliency when we see it.

The comeback victory, a team holding out a lead against the odds, an athlete bouncing up from a heavy setback to grasp success from the jaws of defeat.

But how many of us are actually aware of what goes into being resilient? How many of us have worked on building our resiliency?

Your journey to becoming more resilient starts here.

Ireland showed resiliency in Chicago. Source: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Resiliency of the mind

One of the beauties of sports is the raw competitiveness, the stretching and striving for human achievement and the instantaneous results. Without a doubt, one of the greatest pull cards is the instantaneousness and immediacy of sport – no one knows what’s going to happen.

The highest ranked team can play a bad game on any given day. The lowest ranked team can play a blinder. The top-paid and top-points-scoring athlete can fail to show up, while a complete unknown can steal the day. This is sporting achievement, this is competing.

When a team or an individual athlete looks like they are off their game, some of the regular comments heard include; ‘Will they have the ability to come back? Can they bounce back from this? Will they come back in time?’

At these times, commentators will ask, ‘What must be going through their mind?’

Spectators might comment, ‘It’s too late now, they’ve lost it, there’s no coming back now’ – even when there might still be over a quarter of the game left to play.

Another interesting phenomena is when a team is leading, but their supporters are worried now that they are ahead. We often hear comments like ‘Yeah, but can they hold on? Don’t give the ball away!’

Sound familiar? Coming from behind or holding on to win has a lot to do with the resiliency of a player’s mind and the resiliency cultivated within a team. Some teams or athletes are famous for their resiliency. You can think of a few you know in each sport.

Like any skill, resiliency can be taught, grown and developed. It doesn’t need to be left to chance.

Under pressure, it is not the technical and tactical skills that have deserted a player. These are skills they have trained hours and hours for and are secure in their body’s tissue memory.

At times like these, it is the athlete’s or team’s ability to psychologically regroup and harness these skills that counts. Understanding what resiliency involves is the first step towards growing it in yourself or your team.