News and events

News

Research has been published detailing the key building blocks needed to develop team resilience in elite level sport.

New research reveals the key to resilience in elite level sport

As England prepare for their Rugby World Cup quarter-final tie with Australia, the ability to cope under pressure is sure to be front of mind for Head Coach Eddie Jones and his backroom team.

As such, university academics have published research detailing the key building blocks needed to develop team resilience in elite level sport.

The research is the latest in a series from the Sport Psychology Research Group based at Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.

The group is made up of Dr David Fletcher, Loughborough University, Dr Paul Morgan, Buckinghamshire New University, and Dr Mustafa Sarkar, now at Nottingham Trent University.

The project included a prolonged season-long study of a leading English national league-winning semi-professional rugby union team. Here, data was collected across multiple methods, including interviews, observation, and field notes.

Once analysed, five key pillars were identified:

  • Inspiring, motivating, and challenging team members to achieve performance excellence
  • Developing a team ethos based on ownership and responsibility
  • Cultivating a team identity and togetherness based on a selfless culture
  • Exposing the team to challenging training and unexpected/difficult situations
  • Promoting enjoyment and keeping a positive outlook during stressful periods

Dr David Fletcher, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Performance Psychology, Loughborough University explained:

“A lot has been said and written about psychological resilience at an individual level, but our research suggests that resilience also occurs at a group or team level.

“Rather than simply aggregating individuals’ levels of psychological resilience, it appears that team resilience is, to quote Aristotle, ‘greater than the sum of its parts’.

“For any team performing under pressure, it is critical that it focuses on building not only individual capacity but also on interpersonal relationships, shared processes, and group functioning.”

Dr Paul Morgan added:

“The key factors identified provide advice and guidelines to coaches and managers to develop robustness within their teams. It goes without saying that at the elite level a certain edge of resilience is expected to bring success.

“By breaking down each pillar and implementing key practices, teams will become harder to beat in periods of difficulty during play. We are seeing a number of teams exhibiting this during the Rugby World Cup such as Wales, New Zealand, and England. These teams rigorously rehearse and practice how they will collectively respond to setbacks during matches (e.g., such as losing key players to injury, receiving tough officiating calls), and maintaining working communication channels.

“There is an increasing emphasis on developing a strong leadership group to navigate pressurised situations and this will be very evident during the final phases of this World Cup.”

The full research paper, titled ‘Developing team resilience: A season-long study of psychosocial enablers and strategies in a high-level sports team’, has been published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise and can be downloaded here.

Previous research papers in the series include ‘Defining and characterizing team resilience in elite sport’, and ‘Understanding team resilience in the world's best athletes: A case study of a rugby union World Cup winning team’.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 19/162

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2019 QS World University Rankings, University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 

Loughborough staff, students and alumni make a real difference. They challenge convention, think creatively and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing society today and in the future.

Meet the #LboroGameChangers at lboro.ac.uk/lborogamechangers

Categories