Sport researchers have considered the processes that elite athletes undergo to achieve positive psychological adaptation during significant chronic stressors throughout sport careers and also, acute stressors within important competitions. This review contains a description of competitive and organizational stressors that can hamper an elite athlete’s pursuit of adaptation within the aforementioned circumstances, followed by an identification of the responses that together can foster the desired outcome of adaptation. The authors propose that there are four parts that contribute to an elite athlete’s positive psychological adaptation, presented as parts of a process: (a) the appraisal of stressors, (b) coping strategies, (c) self-regulation strategies, and (d) a consolidated adaptation response. Subsequently, athlete adaptation is considered through examples taken from anecdotal literature and formal research studies pertaining to elite athlete adaptation. Implications are discussed for sport psychologists, mental training consultants, sport scientists, coaches, and athletes.
Robert J. Schinke, Randy Battochio, and Timothy Dube are with the School of Human Kinetics, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Ronnie Lidor is a professor in the The Zinman College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at Wingate Institute, Israel. Gershon Tenenbaum is a Benjamin S. Bloom Professor of Educational Psychology with Florida State University in Tallahassee. Andrew M. Lane is a professor of Sport and Learning in the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure with the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.