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  • Kate Mihevc Edwards PT, DPT

Building the Resilient Athlete: Team Culture

When we ignore that athletes are people full of emotions, struggles, opinions and needs outside of their sport we get into trouble. When we acknowledge athletes for who they are inside and outside their sport we build more resilient, stronger, and competitive athletes. Running is an induvial sport, yet many of us run with a group or on a team. That means, not only do we have to look at the whole athlete, but we also cannot ignore how each of these individual athletes interact as a team. Group dynamics play a key role in an athlete’s ability to perform well and stay healthy.

In our the recent More Than Miles podcast, we spoke with Olympic Athlete and the Atlanta Track Club Coach, Amy Yoder Begley. Amy is working hard on creating a supportive and positive team culture at the Atlanta Track Club. Her experience as an athlete at the Nike Oregon Project made her fully aware of the consequences of a negative team culture. While she was at Nike she was often pitted against her own teammates and training partners. This constant negative environment can create a culture of anxiety, sadness, fear, and emotional trauma for athletes.

This common practice comes from the idea that if you create competition within your team, teammates will play off each other and perform better.

But this is wrong.

We now know that …

  • happier athletes perform better

  • a positive training environment boosts performance

  • building friends, not enemies within a team create improved performance and competitiveness

  • watching your teammates succeed and cheering for them leads to competitiveness and better times

  • athletes that feel supportive take more risks in competition

Creating a supportive culture and happier athletes does not create weakness - it breeds strength.

Let’s learn from the past. Those of us who have been in negative team environments can help the next generation of athletes to create better, positive and inclusive team cultures. This is another way we can improve our athletes health and resilience for generations to come.

xo K


Evans, Blair, "INTERDEPENDENCE AND INTERPERSONAL INFLUENCE AMONG INDIVIDUAL SPORT TEAMMATES" (2014). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1641.

Rathschlag, Marco, and Daniel Memmert. "The influence of self-generated emotions on physical performance: an investigation of happiness, anger, anxiety, and sadness." J Sport Exerc Psychol 35.2 (2013): 197-210.

Ms Robyn Louise Vast, Robyn Louise Young & Patrick Robert Thomas (2010) Emotions in sport: Perceived effects on attention, concentration, and performance, Australian Psychologist, 45:2, 132-140, DOI: 10.1080/00050060903261538

Carron, AV, Coleman MM, Wheeler, J. “Cohesion and Performance in Sport: A Meta Analysis.” (2002) Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. 24, 168-188. Human Kinetic Publishers, INC.

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