Mental Toughness in Sport: Motivational Antecedents and Associations With Performance and Psychological Health

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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We argue that basic psychological needs theory (BPNT) offers impetus to the value of mental toughness as a mechanism for optimizing human functioning. We hypothesized that psychological needs satisfaction (thwarting) would be associated with higher (lower) levels of mental toughness, positive affect, and performance and lower (higher) levels of negative affect. We also expected that mental toughness would be associated with higher levels of positive affect and performance and lower levels of negative affect. Further, we predicted that coaching environments would be related to mental toughness indirectly through psychological needs and that psychological needs would indirectly relate with performance and affect through mental toughness. Adolescent cross-country runners (136 male and 85 female, Mage = 14.36) completed questionnaires pertaining to BPNT variables, mental toughness, and affect. Race times were also collected. Our findings supported our hypotheses. We concluded that BPNT is generative in understanding some of the antecedents and consequences of mental toughness and is a novel framework useful for understanding mental toughness.

John W. Mahoney and Cliff J. Mallet are with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland. John W. Mahoney is also with the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, Birmingham University. Daniel F. Gucciardi is with the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University. Nikos Ntoumanis is with the School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University. Address author correspondence to John W. Mahoney at