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Understanding team resilience through the 2003 England Rugby World Cup winners

With the Six Nations in full swing and the 2015 Rugby World Cup coming to England later this year, sport psychologists at Loughborough University have published a study into the processes of team resilience shown by a World Cup winning team.

Paul Morgan, Dr David Fletcher and Mustafa Sarkar from the School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences have studied the autobiographies of eight members of the 2003 England World Cup winning team.

Under the guidance of head coach Clive Woodward, the England team faced adversity on the pitch through defeats in Grand Slam deciders and a difficult 1999 World Cup campaign, alongside problems off the pitch such as family bereavements and a player strike over pay and conditions.

By assessing the autobiographies the findings revealed five main psychosocial processes that underpinned team resilience:

• Transformational leadership
• Shared team leadership
• Team learning
• Social identity
• Positive emotions

Speaking about the research Dr David Fletcher from Loughborough University said:

“In order to achieve success at the highest levels of elite sport, the cultivation of team resilience processes appears to be pivotal over time in protecting teams from negative consequences that may be encountered along the pathway to sporting excellence.

“Our research has shown that by displaying these processes the England team was able to deal with adversity on and off the pitch, and go down in history as World Cup winners.

“Interestingly, the ability of the current England team to manage pressurised situations such as conceding early scores in both Six Nations matches so far, resonates with that of the 2003 team which frequently displayed a capacity to grind out a win despite a variety of setbacks.”

The importance of sport teams being able to manage such adversity over time was portrayed by Clive Woodward back in 2004, who stated in his book “Winning!”:

“Our success has not been a continual series of victories. We have had a number of devastating setbacks; how these are handled is the mark of a great team . . . It has been against all odds, but winning does not happen in a straight line.”

The team resilience study is part of a wider programme that Dr Fletcher and his research group are conducting. Current papers that have been published in this area include:

- Psychological resilience in Olympic Champions
- A review of resilience definitions, concepts and theory
- How should we measure psychological resilience in sport performers?
- Defining and characterising team resilience in elite sport
- Psychological resilience and thriving in high achievers
- Psychological resilience in sport performers: A review of stressors and protective factors

For further information about the research, contact Dr David Fletcher 

To view the full team resilience study please visit here.

 

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