Social identity and resilience in competitive youth sport


Organized youth sport has been identified as important for the promotion of positive mental health (Vella, 2019). A growing body of research in sport tied to positive mental health focuses on the processes through which youth define and internalize the sport teams to which they belong – called social identity (Vella et al. 2021). Through elevated social identity, individuals experience greater psychological connection to fellow group members, receive social support, and develop a sense of meaning and purpose (Haslam et al., 2011). This study tested how social identity associated with an athlete’s sport team relates to one indicator of positive mental health – resilience. A total of 163 competitive youth soccer players (Mage = 14.71, 55% Female, 57% White) completed measures of social identity (ingroup ties, cognitive centrality, and ingroup affect; Bruner & Benson, 2018) and resilience (Connor & Davidson, 2003). Results of a multiple linear regression highlighted a positive relationship between social identity and resilience (F(3, 159) = 5.52, p = .001), accounting for 8% of the variance. In terms of specific predictors, ingroup ties perceptions steered this relationship as the lone significant individual predictor (β = .19, 95% CI [.01, .23], p = .03). Collectively, the results support and extend recent social identity and mental health findings in an adult sport setting (Fransen et al., 2022). When athletes experience greater social identity with their team, in particular the bonding and belongingness with other group members, they also feel more capable of overcoming the barriers they face in everyday life.