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From Zero to Hero: Joselu’s Resilience Has Helped Him Become a Real Madrid Legend

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”  



Joselu’s journey to the 2024 Champions League final with Real Madrid is a fantastic lesson in many things for young aspiring athletes, but from a psychological perspective, it’s his emotional resilience that stands out. 

After uninspiring spells with Newcastle United and Stoke City in the Premier League, Joselu moved back to Spain to play for Alaves, then Espanyol – from whom he is on loan at Madrid. Both teams were relegated from La Liga in the last two seasons prior to the current campaign. 

 For many players, the setback of failing in arguably the biggest league in the world and then being in two teams that were relegated would be too difficult to recover from psychologically.  

So how did the striker recover, bounce back, maintain belief in himself, and catapult Madrid to yet another Champions league final?  

Hard-work, commitment, and perseverance are just some of the qualities that spring to mind and each are factors that characterise the psychological skill resilience. 


What is Resilience? 

Resilience in sport is defined as the ability to cope effectively with major setbacks and disappointments; a strong will to succeed and the ability to bounce back from performance setbacks by focusing on the task ahead rather than the difficult emotions. 

Individuals with high levels of resilience can see setbacks as temporary glitches on their road to success, learn from failures, and refocus on what needs to be done to move forward. The exciting thing? Resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed and at HeadCoach we help you do that through our innovative mobile app. 


Building Resilience to Enhance Wellbeing and Performance 

So, if resilience is a skill that can be trained, how do you do that? What are some of the tactics and strategies that will help you hone it and develop the mental and emotional strength that Joselu has over the years? Let’s dive in and explore two specific strategies.  


Deploying a Challenge Mindset  

A ‘challenge mindset’ involves responding positively to stressors and adversity that you might encounter in your environment. It does not involve manipulation of events themselves but rather the way you interpret the events.  

When a performer encounters a stressful situation, they undergo a primary appraisal whereby they determine how they may be affected and whether they care about the situation. After this comes the secondary appraisal where the individual appraises whether they have the resources to deal with the challenge.  

If they believe they do not have the resources to cope with the task's demands, then this is a threat appraisal, whereas if they do believe they can meet the task's demands, this is the desirable challenge appraisal.  

Through training individuals to positively evaluate their resources by changing negative appraisals to positive ones, we can instill a challenge mindset and help performers build resilience.  

Put simply, this is about reframing negative thoughts, to make them something more positive, helpful and constructive. For example, instead of getting caught up in the thought “I’m really nervous today, I’m not sure if I’m good enough”, consciously change this to “this game today is an exciting opportunity to go out and showcase everything I have been working on in training this week. I’ll go out and enjoy it and be grateful that I have this opportunity”. Practicing this skill takes time but if you persevere, you will see the benefits.  



To grow resilience, it’s important to engage in regular self-reflection. Why? Because a key aspect of resilience is your ability to learn from stressful situations and failure, using this learning to bounce forward.  

There are many models you can use to reflect deeply on your experience and make sense of situations. I like Graham Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle that he developed in 1988. The cycle consists of six stages which must be completed for the reflection to have a defined purpose. The stages include:  

  1. Describe the experience 
  2. Reflect on feelings felt during the experience  
  3. Identify what knowledge was gained from it 
  4. Analyse decisions made in relation to it 
  5. Consider how this could have been done differently  
  6. Action plan for how you will approach similar experiences in the future 
  7. Engaging in this process after a setback will help you learn from it and move forward.  

At HeadCoach, self-reflection is core to what we do. It helps to develop self-awareness, build resilience and improve your overall levels of emotional intelligence. The result? Better wellbeing and enhanced performance on the field of play.  


Wrapping Up  

In the journey of Joselu, from facing setbacks in the Premier League to reaching the Champions League final with Real Madrid in 2024, his story teaches a profound lesson in emotional resilience. 

Despite the challenges, he exemplifies the power of perseverance and maintaining belief in oneself. Resilience can be cultivated through hard-work and commitment. One crucial aspect is adopting a challenge mindset, where setbacks are seen as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles. By reframing unhelpful thoughts and engaging in regular self-reflection, individuals can build resilience and enhance both their wellbeing and performance.  

Joselu's story underscores the importance of resilience in navigating the highs and lows of sports and life alike, reminding us that it's not the challenges we face but how we respond to them that truly matters. 


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