The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

December 23, 2012

Psychological resilience can make you a better athlete


Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running back, is a great example of resiliency. Last December he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee — an injury that can end an athlete’s career.
Instead, it has propelled him to be better. He worked tirelessly in the off-season to recover and rehabilitate, and now he’s about 200 yards away from the NFL single-season rushing record.
Adjectives such as remarkable, astonishing and unimaginable have been used to describe his recovery. Peterson himself described various psychological qualities — motivation, determination and mindset — as key to his successful return.
We are not all Vikings running backs, but we can all develop resiliency to help us deal with adversity in our daily lives. It is our daily habits, thoughts, and actions that make the biggest difference in its development.
I see performance broadly — we are all performers in the game of life. See the accompanying chart for a few tips about developing resiliency that can apply to you.
One of the reasons I like sports so much is its application to life. Sport is like life. We experience ups and downs.
There are days that go perfectly, and days we want to throw in the towel. There are training runs that seem easy and beautiful, and training runs that are cold, windy and difficult to get traction.
The key is to keep your chin up. Remember that this too will pass. See the bad days and the adversity as important for you to be at your best.
They are an opportunity for you to learn about yourself and what matters most. Adversity is an opportunity for you to be better than you were yesterday.
© Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology in the Department of Human Performance at Minnesota State University. She is the Director of the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology which will open this month in University Square. Her column appears in The Free Press periodically. Contact her at

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