Resilience, discipline and goal-setting are all vital skills for every day life and they are also core for successful and enjoyable individual or team sport, whether for competition or leisure.

Resilience is:

The capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties. Physical resilience includes the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape (after stress). Psychological resilience is the ability to cope mentally and emotionally with a crisis, or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. (

Discipline involves:

Regulation, order, control, and authority but can be achieved through a variety of methods and approaches – some inclusive, some through dominance by one party.

Strategies include:

  • Time management
  • Punishment
  • Responsibility allocation
  • Obedience insistence
  • Team building
  • Habit tracking
  • Success spirals
  • Relinquishing immediate reward for long-term goals

The value of goals includes:

the purpose they provide. When we set a goal, we are giving ourselves a target to strive for. Holding onto that end result leads to a more structured and purposeful life. By having goals in place, we drastically improve our chances of success. Since structure, focus, and direction are all a result of setting goals.  (

Yet another reason for schools, universities and workplaces to recognise and provide for the potential of sport to help pupils, students and employees to increase their resilience, self-discipline and goal focus for personal, academic and business success.

Sport, of any kind, has its good and bad days. Sometimes your run, training, team, competition goes exactly as planned; sometimes you hit a plateau, an injury or a stronger opponent. The trick is to take the good and the bad in your stride, to learn from any mistakes and to get up and have another go.

‘Resilience is what gives people the emotional strength to cope with trauma, adversity, and hardship. Resilient people utilize their resources, strengths, and skills to overcome challenges and work through setbacks.’

“Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up.” — Mary Holloway, resilience coach.

The encouraging aspect of resilience training in both sport and life is that it can be learnt – and PE lessons at school, weekend local leagues, university sports opportunities and inter-office competitions give the perfect opportunity to hone these skills.

Resilience isn’t a fixed trait

‘It’s important to note that being resilient requires a skill set that you can work on and grow over time. Building resilience takes time, strength, and help from people around you; you’ll likely experience setbacks along the way. It depends on personal behaviours and skills (like self-esteem and communication skills), as well as external things (like social support and resources available to you).

Resilience theory tells us that resilience isn’t a fixed trait (you can grow your capacity to practice resilience). It’s not constant, in that you might demonstrate a lot of resilience when it comes to one challenge you’re faced with, but struggle more with being resilient when it comes to another stressor you’re up against.’ (

The development of resilience is almost a team sport in itself! Sports coaches, other team members, supporting family, famous inspirational athletes and friends can all contribute to someone’s view of their own ability, potential, enjoyment and perseverance. Support in sport can give the participant the self-esteem to become more resilient each time they encounter a setback.

Equally, the advice and guidance this support team provides can give the sense of optimism and problem-solving ideas that helps make the athlete more resilient to obstacles on their path to success. Having a good coach, team member or supportive family and friends also enables the student or athlete to verbalise their concerns and problems and work through them through discussion. This not only helps to structure thoughts to make them more manageable but develops a sense of community, empathy and trust – a strong background for being resilient in times of adversity.

Once the sportsman/woman has begun the journey of increased resilience, the hard-work of self-discipline comes in.

‘Studies show that people with self-discipline are happier. Why? Because with discipline and self-control we actually accomplish more of the goals we truly care about. Self-discipline is the bridge between goals defined and goals accomplished.’ (

“You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ~ Marcus Aurelius (Roman emperor and philosopher)

Of course, this discipline can be extrinsic – enforced upon the pupil or student by a strict PE teacher, or on the Olympic athlete by a driven coach with gold medal in their sights. However, although this approach can be productive with positive outcomes for specific competitions or personality types, the more intrinsic strategy generally has longer term advantage. Enforced obedience and punishment tend to be trumped by creation of a spiral of success through committing to one manageable step at a time and applying the self-discipline required to conquer this skill.

Once again, firm but supportive teachers, collaborative but ambitious team members, and empathetic but motivational family and friends can all help the athlete to establish a healthy pattern of self-discipline.

Now the student, employee or athlete has the resilience and self-discipline to handle the challenges of their chosen sport, goal-setting becomes central to practical success.

‘The reason we set goals is to provide direction and purpose in life. Without them, our lives can seem pointless. By setting goals, we ensure ourselves a certain level of motivation and desire each day. Once a large goal is set, small goals must be developed with the intent of achieving the large goal. By taking a large goal and breaking it down into steps, there is a much greater chance of success.’ (

Through sport, the PE teacher, coach or manager can help the pupil, student or sportsperson to understand how to set goals for success.  These same strategies can be as much applied to everyday life as for preparation for the big match or marathon.

Goals should be: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound…From large scale goals to smaller daily ones, the value is the same. Having a clear-cut plan for life increases the likelihood of us achieving what we want. It can also lead to a more fulfilling life. (Eli Straw, Sport Psychology Consultant)

Once again, it is clear that sport has a major role to play not only in people’s health and fitness but as a training ground for the development of a huge range of life skills, essential for general well-being, strong mental health and success in any sphere.