Can athletes benefit from difficulty? A systematic review of growth following adversity in competitive sport
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Research points to the notion that athletes have the potential to benefit from difficulty. This phenomenon—otherwise known as growth following adversity—has attracted increasing attention from sport psychology scholars. In this paper, we systematically review and synthesize the findings of studies in this area to better understand: (a) how growth has been conceptualized in competitive sport, (b) the theory underpinning the study of growth in sport performers, (c) the nature of research conducted in this area, and (d) the adversity- and growth-related experiences of competitive athletes. Following the application of inclusion criteria and methodological quality assessment, 17 studies were deemed suitable for inclusion in the systematic review. The findings of these studies are reviewed and synthesized in relation to study characteristics (viz. growth terminology, theoretical underpinning, study design, participant details, and data analysis), quality appraisal, adversity-related experiences (viz. negative events and experiences, and response to negative events and experiences), and growth-related experiences (viz. mechanisms of growth and indicators of growth). To facilitate understanding of growth following adversity in competitive sport, we address the definitions and theories that have informed the body of research, discuss the associated findings related to the adversity- and growth-related experiences of competitive athletes, and outline avenues for future research. It is hoped that this review and synthesis will facilitate understanding and inform practice in this area.
Progress in Brain Research;
Howells, K., Sarkar, M. and Fletcher, D. (2017) 'Can athletes benefit from difficulty? A systematic review of growth following adversity in competitive sport' In Walsh, V., Wilson, M. & Parkin, B. (ed.s) Progress in Brain Research. Sport and the Brain: The Science of Preparing, Enduring and Winning, Part B (Vol. 234, pp. 117-159)
Chapter 8 of the monograph series Progress in Brain Research (2017) available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pbr.2017.06.002 - copy not available from this repository
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Howells, Karen; Wadey, Ross; Roy-Davis, Kylie; Evans, Lynne (Elsevier, 2020-02-20)Background: Athletes experience adversity across many aspects of their lives. Challenging the dominant idea that adversity is just a negative experience, a significant body of research in sport has demonstrated that these ...
Howells, Karen (Routledge, 2020-07-29)Research involving elite athletes collectively points to the notion that athletes have the potential to benefit from negative experiences and events. These benefits are broadly recognized as comprising growth, a multi-dimensional ...
Howells, Karen; Wadey, Ross (Routledge, 2020-07-29)Adversity itself is never a good thing and no amount of growth can undo the pain of such experiences; it will not make everything better and put an end to any suffering. Although we do not recommend adversity as a pathway ...