Bouncing back: Does psychological resilience predict performance after failure on a sports task?


Introduction: An athlete’s ability to be resilient, or “bounce back”, from failures and prevent a “downward spiral” of poor performances is key to being successful in sports. We sought to test this in a controlled experiment. Method: In this study, 62 participants executed 40 dart-tosses each, aiming for the bulls-eye of a regulation dartboard. Performance in terms of accuracy was defined as the distance between the bulls-eye and where the dart landed for each toss. Participants also completed the Connor-Davidson Psychological Resilience Scale (Connor & Davidson, 2003). Data Analysis: Mean accuracy scores for each participant were calculated; in addition, participants’ “poor” tosses (defined as tosses that landed more than 1 standard deviation from their average toss distance), “poor toss streaks” (the number of consecutive poor tosses, as defined above), and worst toss were recorded. After controlling for participants’ mean accuracy, separate linear regressions were conducted to test whether resilience predicted accuracy in the toss(es) after participants’ (a) poor tosses, (b) poor toss streaks, and (c) worst toss. Results: Compared to those with lower resilience scores, participants with higher resilience scores had shorter poor toss streaks (p = .02). Resilience approached significance as a predictor of accuracy after participants’ worst toss (p = .06). Resilience did not predict accuracy after a poor toss (p = .68). Discussion: These results provide partial support for the importance of being resilient in sports performance.