Resilience in Young Performers: Bouncing back when faced with adversity

Resilience in Young Performers: Bouncing back when faced with adversity

“No written word, no spoken plea can teach our youth what they should be. Nor all the books on all the shelves, it’s what the teachers are themselves.”
– Anonymous, quoted by John Wooden

According to the American Physiological Association, “resilience is the process of adoption well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” It means “bouncing back from difficult experiences.”

Young performers – athletes, artists, and students alike – truly believe that their mistakes or failures define who they are. Most young adolescents are not emotionally rational enough to go through a process of dealing with setbacks or even understand how to separate setback from who they are as a person. As a coach, parent, teacher, or mentor, it is crucial that we understand ways we can help shape and develop resilience in young performers.

Some of my most vivid memories are of times when I had to bounce back from failure or setback. For me, it was the feeling of the time lost and exclusion from friends that was the most difficult to bounce back from. Whether it was being cut from a team or not reaching a goal, in that moment it felt like it was the end of the world. As a young athlete, like many others, I believed that no one could possibly understand what I was going through. However, as difficult as these setbacks seemed at the time, I persevered, proving the power of resilience and became stronger.  I would have not been able to do this if I didn’t have strong support around me, confidence in my abilities of being well-rounded, and my parents guiding me, but not solving my problems.

I want to share with you eight steps that will guide you in teaching, coaching and supporting the development of resilience.

  • Encourage the process. Teach young performers to understand deliberate practice and how important it is to work on the process to achieve the bigger vision.
  • Provide specific feedback/positive reinforcement. Instead of the “good jobs” or “great goal” express: “I loved watching you play today,” or, “Wow! You must of worked really hard for that ‘A’,” or, “I noticed you have been working on your speed lately and you got two goals today…seems your hard work is paying off!”
  • Teach problem solving and reflection. I often ask my clients to reflect after each practice session, audition, competition, etc., the three W’s – What went well? What needs work? What is next? Reflecting on the process is an essential tool for being resilient and performing at a high level.
  • Teach that failure is ok. As a parent and a coach, what is your reaction to mistakes or failure? Remember the coach that pulled you off every time you made a mistake? I certainly do! What were we being taught as young boys and girls?  Don’t take risks, because if you do you might make a mistake or even worse fail. How are we teaching young girls and boys to get better and become their best selves? We need to encourage risks as a part of deliberate practice and restructure our thought around mistakes and setbacks.
  • Understand there is not just ONE path to get to where you want to go. Everyone has a story and a different path to how they were able to accomplish their goals.  However, if you read on achievement – the research states the grittier, more resilient performers are the ones who become champions.
  • Most importantly, one must believe in themselves and their abilities. So encourage and be a positive role model.
  • Allow them to play and be creative. Even as adults, we do not need to be structured 100% of the time.
  • Empower your athletes to make decision in and away from their performance.  We want high-level performer to be able to make quick and informed decisions and to be critical thinkers.  If we keep telling them what to do and where to go, we will lose them from a young age.


“Turn you Potential into Reality”

Dr. Beth McCharles is a leading Mental Performance Coach in Canada. A former elite soccer player and coach, Dr. McCharles is passionate about helping performers find their inner drive and confidence. To find out how Dr. McCharles can help you reach your optimal performance potential, you can find her at