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UK Coaching Team
Safety and Welfare Organising and Planning

Understanding Thriving Environments

The first in a series on thriving environments, this resource explores the meaning of the state of thriving in physical activity and sport and what factors are needed for coaches and participants achieve it

In this podcast, Senior Support Advisor at UK Sport Elliott Newell introduces the meaning of thriving in sporting environments and how it differs from other states of striving/surviving, flourishing, or prospering.

It’s that sweet spot where you get experiences that incorporate growth, performance, and well-being."

Elliott Newell

The English Institute of Sport describe thriving as being energised through the experience of growth, challenge, and success in pursuit of evolving human performance.

This is in comparison to:

  • striving/surviving, where the pursuit of higher levels of performance and achieving high levels of performance that leads to growth omits participant well-being
  • flourishing, where participants experience high levels of well-being and high levels of growth, which is not particularly performance-focused, or targeted to achievement in any context
  • prospering, where performance and well-being come together, with a loss of focus on growth.

Thriving is the only state where performance, growth, and well-being happen at the same time. Participants that can be described as thriving experience high levels of performance or success, high levels of growth and development, alongside high levels of well-being.

Case Study

An acrobatic gymnast trains for 8 hours a week in a competitive squad at a regional level. The gymnast has experienced reasonable levels of individual and partnership skill development and success at regional level competitions, and appears to be content in training and at competitions.

As the end of the competitive season approaches, the gymnasts’ coach and wider coaching team review the acrobatic partnership and individual progress. They identify that the gymnast isn’t thriving in the current partnership or level of training squad and arranges a meeting with the gymnast and parents to discuss and gain a better understanding of what thriving would look like for that gymnast.

During the meeting, the gymnast and parents identify that although she is happy with the coaching team, partnership, and success at competitions, she doesn’t feel challenged and wants to develop her skill level on an individual and partnership level and increase the level and opportunities of competition.

Reflecting on the discussion, the coaching team agrees that the gymnast would benefit from the opportunities to gain experience and develop at an individual, partnership, and competitive level, and in turn to improve the gymnast’s sense of well-being.

The collective decision is made to transition the gymnast into a new acrobatic partnership in a training squad where they will be able to develop higher levels of personal and partnership growth by training with coaches and gymnasts working and competing at a higher level.

This will also offer higher levels of competitive opportunities and potential performance success, supporting the gymnast’s sense of thriving and consequently elevated levels of personal well-being.


What does thriving look like in your coaching environment?

What does thriving look like for your participants?

What might you expect to see in a participant that is thriving?

What factors do coaches and coaching teams need to consider to ensure that participants can thrive?


Continue Learning

Learn more about thriving environments and how the environment you establish supports the people you coach in our series


Related Resources

  • How to Create a Positive Coaching Environment

  • Curious Coaches' Club: Creating an Athlete-centred Environment

  • Mental Models of Performance


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