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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Lebedev

Journey to Resilience: The Power of Competitive Sports


“Every challenge, every adversity, contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.” - Roy T. Bennett

A oriental-style vector art depicting battle with one's own reflection. Two figures facing each other in a fight.

It was an extremely stressful morning, and I could still recall the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I prepared to step onto the mats facing another little human being in my first Kyokushin competition. Martial arts have been my steadfast companion since I was just a sprightly five-year-old. Whether I was practicing Karate, MMA, or now, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the lessons learned from each discipline were invaluable. But beyond the techniques, there was one overarching gift these sports offered me: resilience. Today, as a researcher and a psychiatrist, I delve into the science behind this transformation.


➤ Why it Matters:


Our lives are marred with challenges - some trivial, others life-altering. In the midst of the storm, the most potent tool we have is psychological resilience. Through my personal journey and backed by extensive research, competitive sports have emerged as a formidable vehicle to foster this mental strength.


“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always…” - Unknown Author

The above quote reminds us of the underlying battles we all face. Yet, it is through overcoming these battles that we truly discover ourselves. While the realm of sports offers overt challenges – a demanding coach, a formidable opponent, or the pressure of a ticking clock – it’s the covert lessons in resilience, self-belief, and discipline that become life's most treasured lessons.


➤ How do we know this?


Research in the realm of psychology, particularly sports psychology, sought to understand this profound transformation. In a compelling study titled "The Impact of Regular Exercise, Competition Experience, and Physical Self-efficacy on Psychological Resilience" the methodologies used ranged from surveys to personal interviews, painting a holistic picture of the athlete's mental journey. Drawing from both athletes and non-athletes, this research dissected the intertwining dance between the mind and body.


➤ What was discovered?


The findings are striking yet unsurprising for those immersed in the world of competitive sports:

  • Regular exercise and exposure to competition fortify one’s psychological resilience.

  • A strong belief in one’s physical capabilities (physical self-efficacy) relates directly to heightened mental resilience.

In layman's terms, every drop of sweat, every bruise, every fall - they collectively whisper to our psyche, reaffirming the belief: “If you can endure this, you can endure anything.”

The countless hours on the mats, the bouts of exhaustion, the moments of triumphs and losses - they've been more than just physical endeavours. They've been mental conditioning, refining and redefining my perception of self and my understanding of resilience. Each choke, each tap-out was a lesson in humility, determination, and the art of bouncing back.


Reflecting on it all, I leave you with a thought: Amidst the challenges life throws at us, what have been your pillars of resilience? Have sports or any other endeavors paved the way for your personal growth?


Share your stories, and let’s inspire each other towards a resilient tomorrow.


@Alexander Lebedev | MD PhD


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