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What the Olympics can teach us about “resilience training”

by Laurie Fraser, character integrator, Prep School

The Olympic Games resonate for many of us in various ways. At UCC we support our boys to develop their resilience. This particular character value seems so easily understood when it comes to sports. You lose a game. You reflect on what happened. You practise more. You fine-tune your skills. You build on your strengths. You rally your competitive and optimistic spirit and you play another game.

Athletes are applauded for their resilience and for making a comeback. (Thank you, Canadian women’s hockey team!) How can we transfer that same philosophy of learning to our boys’ academic and personal development?

Here at UCC we are trying various approaches to teaching our boys resilience. Here are just a couple of examples:

We practise mindfulness to help cultivate resilience. The boys in 5F learned how to meditate while watching the semi-final men’s hockey game against the U.S. They focused on their breathing, stayed silent and mindfully sent positive thoughts to the Canadian team. After the activity, they shared their personal wishes. One boy sent a thank you to Steve Stamkos for showing such grace when he had to step down from the team because of injury. Another boy wished a speedy recovery to John Tavarres. Curiously, they did not send the wish of “win” or “score” as I’d predicted. Their moment of mindfulness brought them to a place of empathy and gratitude.

Developing empathy can help to build and understand resilience. In Mr. Faggion’s Grade 4 class, they created an Olympic Wall of Canadian athletes who they researched, followed closely and cheered. Their enthusiasm caught on throughout the Prep, thanks to their morning announcements that kept us all up to date on what had transpired overnight, and the medal count.

They will continue this project throughout the Paralympics. They will then reflect on how life must be for the athletes after the games have ended and they return to their hometown life. What kind of character strengths must these athletes have so that they can continue on their post Olympic journey?

Here is a worthwhile read on the topic of resilience, forwarded to me from Upper School character integrator, Craig Parkinson which inspired my thoughts on this topic. If you have any stories about resilience or comments on this article, I would love to hear them:

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