Jan 29, 2015
The Four C’s of Winning

By Max Appleby, CSCS

In performance training, and in life, resilience in dealing with adversity can form a strong foundation for success. In this article, I will explain psychologist Salvator Maddi’s Three C’s of hardy attitudes, how they contribute to resilience, and their application to athletics. I will also describe my take on a fourth and essential C: consistency.

The First 3 C’s

Salvator Maddi’s Three C’s of hardiness that form resilience came from a 12-year study he conducted with Illinois Bell Telephone (IBT) employees beginning in 1975. The crux of the study began in 1981 when the U.S Federal courts deregulated the A&T monopoly and therefore dismantled long-standing policies and work norms of IBT.

“By the end of 1982, IBT had downsized from 26,000 to 14,000 employees. During this time, most IBT employees endured massive levels of stressful, disruptive changes. 2/3’s of the sample broke down in various ways.” (Maddi, 2005).

As a result of this adversity and stress, some employees developed health problems (heart attacks, depressive or anxiety disorders), others abused alcohol or drugs, and some became separated and divorced. “In contrast, 1/3 of the employees were resilient.” The connection between hardiness and resilience was made by the study of IBT employees before the deregulation that determined the “vulnerable from the resilient.” (Maddi, 2005).

According to Maddi, “This hardiness enabled them to courageously face potentially disruptive changes and turn adversity into advantageous opportunity.” Maddi says hardiness can be seen separately and combined by these three attitudes: Challenge, Control and Commitment. These three attitudes were identified in resilient employees who faced adversity, coping positively and doing the hard work to make something from what seemed a fruitless endeavor.

1. Commitment: When you are strong in the commitment attitude; you view your work as important and worthwhile enough to warrant you full attention, imagination and effort.

2. Control: When you are strong in the control attitude; you will keep trying to positively influence the outcome of the changes going on around you. 3. Challenge: When you are strong in the challenge attitude; you will see change as instrumental in opening up new, fulfilling pathways to living.

Hardy Attitudes For the Athlete

I have taken Maddi’s Three C’s of resilient employees and adapted them to training successful athletes. I have also integrated a fourth C: Consistency. Here is my breakdown of the Four C’s and how they relate to performance training.

1. Commitment: The student-athlete needs to be committed to his or her team and that means a dedication to the long-term plan that coaches (sport coaches, strength coaches and advisors) have developed for them. They must commit to believing that every session has been prepared to fit into a long-term plan for success. This commitment needs to be constant.

2. Control: The athlete has control of punctuality (time management), focus, and effort. Often athletes place blame externally and shy away from the responsibility that they should have in their preparation and performance. Each athlete needs to savor the control they have over those areas of their lives. This control is actually the individual accountability for finishing a job that they have started, such as committing to improve.

3. Challenge: The most obvious challenge for aspiring collegiate athletes is the elevated level of talent they face as they leave the prep level. For collegiate athletes the challenges include adjusting to higher academic demands along with the added time constraints of practice, games, and study hall. Successful student-athletes will embrace these changes and understand that winners will not make excuses but face the challenges with hardiness.

4. Consistency: This fourth attribute of winning is an integral component for the successful student-athlete. A winning record on the field and a good GPA are both goals of the successful student-athlete and are dependent on consistency of the effort.

The importance of consistency can also be applied to the values placed on traits such as trust. In a team atmosphere, trust is key to the functioning of the unit and again depends on the constant practice of this characteristic.

Recognizing and Utilizing Hardiness:

I use these Four C’s almost every day with my athletes in hopes hope that they will appreciate how these hardy attitudes can affect their competitive life and their everyday life as well. I have an award shirt for athletes who represent each of these attitudes. It has a picture of a barbell with two plates on each side. Written in each weight are one of the Four C’s. It is my aim to make the concept of these attitudes understood by student-athletes and the value of resilience carried and utilized on the road through and beyond their college careers.

Helpful Quotes on Resiliency:

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”- Michael Jordan

“All of us get knocked down, but it’s resiliency that really matters. All of us do well when things are going well, but the thing that distinguishes athletes is the ability to do well in times of great stress, urgency and pressure.”-Roger Staubach

“Life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving”-Albert Einstein

“The greatest glory is never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”-Confucius

“Little drops of water wear down big stones”-Russian Proverb


1. Maddi, Salvatore R.; Resilience at Work, 2005

Max Appleby, CSCS, is Director of Athletic Performance at Radford Univeristy.

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