By: Shona McCallin

Resilience is a skill. It’s a mental skill that is learned. It is, by far and away, one of the most important skills I have learned on my journey to becoming an Olympic and European Champion. It has helped me become mentally and physically stronger.

But what is resilience?

For me, resilience is the ability to bounce back from a challenging situation. Through my hockey career and my life, I’ve faced many challenging situations. Not getting selected for England U16’s when lots of my friends did, not gaining the exam results I wanted, missing out on major tournaments such as the Commonwealth Games and World Cup through injury are to name a few.

But what did I do when these things happened? How did I build my resilience towards these challenging situations? And what can you do when they happen to you because let’s be honest, everyone is going to face setbacks and challenges in life. How you react to them is so important.

  1. Learn about what is in your control, what is partially in your control and what isn’t. Not everything is in your control and once you realise that, you’ll be able to process situations better. For example, it’s not in my control whether I get selected for the Tokyo Olympics – it’s down to the coaching staff. What I can control is how hard I work in training, how much work I'm willing to put in and what my attitude will be. If I don’t get selected next year, and thus receive a setback in life, I want to be able to look back and know that I did everything that I could that was in my control. This will help me process that setback and improve my resilience.
  2. Learn about your mind and staying in the present in order to focus properly. This is a big one for me as an athlete. It’s easier said than done, but there is no point worrying about what happened in the past and what will happen in the future. I use the Headspace app to try and stay in the present and this helps deal with stress. If you are able to keep your mind consistent, you will be able to deal with setbacks in a more logical way and build resistance.
  3. Focus on the process, set realistic goals and be patient. For example, instead of thinking ‘I will only be a good person if I get 3 A*s in my A-levels’, set realistic goals on how you will achieve this – don’t just focus on the outcome. You could set out a balanced revision timetable (for each day or for each week), making sure what you are trying to achieve is manageable. If you know that you follow the timetable and focus on the process, rather than just the end result, this will help with confidence and ability to process the outcome.


Remember resilience is a skill that is learned and developed. Put time and effort into developing this skill and you will reap the rewards.