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UPEI researchers ask if there's a positive side to negative experiences in sport Tags: UPEI research positive sports experioences negative no pain no gain pysch theories

UPEI researchers ask if there's a positive side to negative experiences in sport

Researchers at UPEI are hoping to put the "No pain, no gain" saying to the test by asking if negative experiences in sport can sometimes have a positive affect on young athletes.

Travis McIsaac, a master's student in sports psychology, is looking for 200 athletes between the ages of 16 and 19 to complete an online survey about competitive anxiety, burnout, and their relationship with their coach.

'I have an argument with my coach, how do I bounce back from that?'
— Dr. Dany MacDonald

"Pretending that negative experiences don't happen would be a fairly naive way of thinking," said McIsaac, who played hockey with the UPEI Panthers. 

"Not a lot of research has looked at the possible relationship between negative sport experiences and how youth can develop maybe in spite of — or perhaps, even because of — those experiences."

Dr. Dany MacDonald, McIsaac's supervisor, said it's possible athletes can take away important lessons from bad experiences.

UPEI researcher Travis McIsaac and supervisor Dr. Dany MacDonald have put the survey online to make it easier for teen athletes to participate. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"There's a lot of preconceived notions that sports build character and that people who participate in sports get some good experiences ... But there's also the idea that people can build some sort of resilience in the face of adversity," he said.

"If I get cut from a team does that necessarily mean that I'm going to disengage from sport or can I take something positive from that? Or if I have an argument with my coach, how do I bounce back from that ... how can I develop some good positive skills from that and use those in my day to day life?"

Click here to find out more about the UPEI survey

Playing to be your best

Yousef Sefau and Alex Campbell, who play basketball and soccer for Colonel Gray, say they've faced challenges like burnout and occasional friction with a coach.

Yousef Sefau, left, and Alex Campbell play basketball and soccer for Colonel Gray.

"There's always butting heads with coaches and players too," Campbell said.  "With your teammates, you learn to be open to what they have to say, and same with your coaches, and just be supportive of everyone on your team."

Sefau agrees there's a positive side to the challenges..

 "You learn that sometimes you just have to push through it if you want to succeed and be the best you can be," he said.

McIsaac hopes his research will help young athletes in the future.

"Hopefully we can show that negative experiences don't invariably lead to negative outcomes," said McIsasc. "[And] maybe provide some hope for youth whose sports experiences aren't always as positive as they'd like it to be."

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