Friday, 19 April 2013

Mustafa Sarkar on Resilience in Sport

Today's guest blogger is a colleague, Mustafa Sarkar from Loughborough University. Mus is a researcher on resilience on sport and currently is completing his PhD on the subject. Having already researched this area at MSc level, and written papers with Dr David Fletcher at Loughborough, he is a go to man for questions on resilience. We spoke a few months ago and I said I'd love him to write an entry based on what we know about resilience in sport relating to psychological resilience in the World's best athletes and how it may help readers of this blog. This post also gives Mus an opportunity to share his research interest with this audience and if you are interested we ask you to please help Mus and participate in his PhD study here: (takes approximately 15 minutes).

With that in mind, over to you Mustafa!

Cheers Stu! Why is it that some sport performers are able to withstand the pressures associated with the Olympics and attain peak performances whereas others succumb to the demands and under-perform? Sport and Performance Psychologists (Dr David Fletcher and Mustafa Sarkar) at Loughborough University aimed to address this question in a recent study by interviewing twelve Olympic champions from a range of sports regarding their experiences of withstanding pressure during their sporting careers. They found that the world’s best athletes shared a unique mental resilience characterised by five key psychological attributes:

A positive personality: Olympic champions possess positive personality characteristics including openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, competitiveness, optimism and proactivity.

Motivation: Gold medallists have multiple internal (i.e. passion for the sport) and external (i.e. proving their worth) motives for competing at the highest level. Champions consciously judge external pressures as important and so choose to perform in challenging sports environments.

Confidence: Gained from various sources including multifaceted preparation, experience, self-awareness, visualisation, coaching, and team mates.

Focus: Champions are able to focus on themselves without distraction, and to concentrate on the process rather than the outcome of events.

Perceived social support: Olympic gold medallists believe high quality social support is available to them, including from family, coaches, team mates and support staff.

Mustafa Sarkar, a PhD student in Sport and Performance Psychology at Loughborough University, and co-author of the report explains:

“The interviews revealed many fascinating aspects of performing under pressure at the highest levels of international sport, but two things were very clear.

“Firstly, Olympic athletes experience considerable adversities during their preparation, training and competition, often over long periods of time.

“Secondly, and most importantly, athletes must learn to develop and maintain a very specific combination of psychological strategies and attributes to enable them to perform at their best and win in Olympic competition”.

Athletes interviewed had won Olympic gold at seven different Olympic Games spanning the past four decades. The champions represented nine different sports: figure skating, pentathlon, hockey, athletics, rowing, cycling, modern pentathlon, curling, and sailing.

Mustafa Sarkar is a final year PhD student in Sport and Performance Psychology. As part of his PhD, he has designed the Sport Resilience Study, research that explores how sport performers react to and deal with pressure. He would be really grateful if you would consider participating in his research study as he needs to collect 400 completed questionnaires. The only criteria for completion is that individuals have participated in competitive sport over the past month at club level or higher. The study itself takes just fifteen minutes to complete at the online link below. Please note the cut-off date for completion is Wednesday 1st May 2013.

For further information about the research, contact Mustafa Sarkar at


Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2012, October). Developing resilience: Lessons learned from Olympic champions. The Wave, 36-38.

Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2012). A grounded theory of psychological resilience in Olympic champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13, 669-678.

1 comment:

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