The Need for Achievement!
Everybody has the inherent drive for self-improvement and development. This desire for achievement places us in new scenarios (e.g. first day at university, job promotion, sporting competitions) and requires us to respond to the situational demands that these scenarios require.
In these scenarios’ individuals may:
· Become overwhelmed and struggle with or even fail at the task at hand.
· Manage and survive (barely!).
As part of a coaching team it is vital to understand how to promote thriving in a sporting context. This blog will initially outline what thriving is and then move on to highlight the impact the environment and those within it can have.
What is Thriving?
Thriving is best defined as the joint experience of development and success .
· The development component relates to progressive enhancements that are either of a physical (e.g., learning to throw a ball), psychological (e.g., learning to think rationally), or social (e.g., establishing relationships) nature.
· The success component is typically evidenced through a variety of temporally and contextually relevant outcomes (e.g., academic performance, cardiovascular capacity, wealth). When an individual is thriving this development and success is suggested to be experienced in tandem rather than in isolation.
People can experience thriving in all areas of their lives or in specific situations. To elaborate, an individual can experience development and success in their sport, but not necessarily in their job .
To achieve development and success individuals must experience holistic functioning, which is displayed through high-levels of well-being AND performance .
· Well-being: The state of being or doing well in life. This can be categorised into physical, emotional, psychological and social dimensions.
· High-levels of well-being are important for thriving as it ensures individuals have the personal and social skills to aid development.
· Performance: The level of quality shown in the execution of an action, operation or process that can be assessed through a range of performance related tasks (e.g. a footballer scoring a penalty kick).
· High-levels of performance may be necessary for an individual to achieve success.
If an individual repeatedly perceived high-levels of well-being and performance across a series of situations, then the experience of thriving could lead to sustained development and success .
High-levels of well-being + performance = THRIVING resulting in sustained development and success.
This can be achieved through two methods:
- Optimising the contextual enablers of thriving .
2. Understanding how their role as social agents can impact development and success .
Contextual enablers are the characteristics of an environment which can foster continued task engagement and subsequent thriving . It is important to note that most of the enablers are not just limited to sport and can apply across a vast range of contexts.
Coaches and support staff should work together to ensure the following enablers are reinforced:
· Challenge Environment — athletes should be placed in situations that provide an appropriate balance of challenge and difficulty. These situations should provide learning and career opportunities. In sport this could be seen at the academy level where thriving players are offered opportunities to play in senior teams.
· Attachment and Trust — Interpersonal relationships should be leveraged as a resource to permit the exploration of challenging situations and the instigation of behaviours aligned with the coaches’ desires. Both can increase the likelihood of human thriving. Furthermore, interpersonal relationships built on secure attachment, acceptance and trust can act as contextual enablers as athletes will be more likely to be committed and willing to any ideas/objectives. They will believe that future actions will be mutually beneficial in terms of success and development.
· Family Support — Research has shown that family support can act as a relational catalyst for thriving. For example, partners were suggested to alleviate strain caused by time-related work pressures . Therefore, professional athlete’s schedules should be designed to allow for adequate time for significant others.
· Teammates and Staff Support — Staff should encourage teammates to support and guide one another through completing daily tasks and overcoming challenges. Turning to the staff themselves, they should also provide support as it will encourage athletes to take risks which may result in learning and vitality. Creating this overall supportive environment will create various other enables of thriving (e.g. agency). Staff can further support athlete development and success through the provision of performance feedback, this informational guidance about performance is likely to facilities athlete’s perception of competence and in turn, enable thriving .
As social agents, coaches and support staff play an important role in facilitating an environment that creates human thriving in sport. Research has uncovered the environmental factors that may promote human thriving in professional sport and suggested how key stakeholders can support these mechanisms. These factors were grouped into two themes; establishing bonds between teammates and establishing a connection to the coaching staff & clubs . Through creating close and caring relationships thriving can be facilitated.
The methods used to support these mechanisms were suggested to be:
· To establish bonds between teammates;
· Form collective goals
· Decrease external player recruitment
· Maintain equality in the playing squad
· Create opportunity for interaction
· Ensure effective teammate communication styles
· Allow senior players to offer guidance
· To establish a connection to the coaching staff & club;
· Actively nurture and manage a family club culture
· Have consideration for non-playing squad members
· Create an honest and fear-free environment
· Facilitate enjoyment
· Decrease player turnover rate
· Establish a joint team & club goal
· Foster player development
Athletes want to operate within an integrated, inclusive and trusting environment . To promote thriving within this environment, coaches should participate in both overt and substantial gestures (e.g. team socials) and small subtle interactions with players. Furthermore, where possible athletes support networks should be supported. To support athletes in sports that often require emotion and desire to succeed, coaching staff must appeal to the sensitivities and welfare of athletes to help them achieve this .
In conclusion, this blog has introduced the concept of human thriving. Highlighting that athletes can thrive through the joint experience of development and success. This is realised through effective holistic functioning and observed through the experience of high-level of well-being and perceived high-level performance . Furthermore, the role of the environment and those within it can have on influencing human thriving has been outlined. It is hoped with the recommendations that coaching staff can effectively support athletes to achieve greatness.
1. Brown, D. J., Arnold, R., Fletcher, D., & Standage, M. (2017). Human Thriving. European Psychologist.
2. Su, R., Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2014). The development and validation of the comprehensive inventory of thriving (CIT) and the brief inventory of thriving (BIT). Applied Psychology: Health and WellBeing, 6, 251–279.
3. Brown, D. J., & Arnold, R. (2019). Sports performers’ perspectives on facilitating thriving in professional rugby contexts. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 40, 71–81.
4. Su, R., Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2014). The development and validation of the comprehensive inventory of thriving (CIT) and the brief inventory of thriving (BIT). Applied Psychology: Health and WellBeing, 6, 251–279.
5. Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2014). Ordinary magic, extraordinary performance: Psychological resilience and thriving in high achievers. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 3, 46–60.
6. Spreitzer, G., & Porath, C. (2014). Self-determination as a nutriment for thriving: Building an integrative model of human growth at work. In M. Gagné (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of work engagement, motivation, and self-determination theory (pp. 245–258). New York, NY: Oxford University Press