Defining and characterizing organizational resilience in elite sport

Kirsten J. Fasey, Mustafa Sarkar, Christopher R. D. Wagstaff, Julie Johnston

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Objectives: Organizational resilience has been investigated in numerous performance contexts outside of sport, with substantial conceptual and operational variance. Given the growing interest in organizational environments in sport, the purpose of the study was to construct a definition of organizational resilience and identify resilient characteristics of elite sport organizations.

Design: Using the Delphi method, 62 expert panelists working in or with elite sport organizations (n = 45) or having academic experience of resilience in various contexts (n = 17), responded to four online iterative surveys over seven months, yielding both quantitative and qualitative data through item responses and accompanying comments. A reflexive thematic analysis of the integrated data was conducted from a critical realist standpoint.

Results: Organizational resilience was defined as “the dynamic capability of an organization to successfully deal with significant change. It emerges from multi-level (employee, team, and organizational) interacting characteristics and processes which enable an organization to prepare for, adapt to, and learn from significant change”. The five resilient characteristics identified from the analysis were structural clarity, flexible improvement, shared understanding, reciprocal commitment, and operational awareness.

Conclusions: By proposing a definition of organizational resilience which is appropriate to and endorsed by those in elite sport organizations, and identifying resilient characteristics of elite sport organizations, this study provides an important foundation for future research and practice endeavors in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101834
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date22 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • change
  • definition
  • Delphi method
  • organizational sport psychology
  • performance
  • resilient characteristics


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