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Psychological Resilience in Olympic Medal–Winning Coaches: A Longitudinal Qualitative Study

Mustafa Sarkar and Nathan K. Hilton

Although there is burgeoning research on resilience in elite athletes, there has been no empirical investigation of resilience in elite coaches. The purpose of this study was to explore psychological resilience in world-class coaches and how they develop resilience in athletes. A longitudinal qualitative design was adopted due to the dynamic and temporal nature of resilience. Five Olympic medal–winning coaches (four males and one female) were interviewed twice over a 12-month swimming season. Reflexive thematic analysis was employed to analyze the data. Findings revealed 14 higher order themes, which were categorized into the following three general dimensions: coach stressors (managing the Olympic environment, preparation for major events, coach personal well-being, directing an organization); coach protective factors (progressive coaching, coaching support network, maintaining work/life balance, secure working environment, durable motivation, effective decision making); and enhancing resilience in athletes (developing a strong coach–athlete relationship, creating a facilitative environment, developing a resilience process, athlete individual factors). The results are presented to demonstrate the interplay between coach stressors and protective factors over time, which offers an original and significant contribution to the resilience literature by providing a unique insight into the dynamic and temporal nature of resilience in Olympic medal–winning coaches.