Developing Mental Toughness: Attributional Style Retraining in Rugby

in The Sport Psychologist
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  • 1 The University of Queensland
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Recent research has identified optimism as an underlying mechanism of mental toughness (Coulter, Mallett, & Gucciardi, 2010). To further understand what elements of mental toughness can be developed, the current study evaluated the utility of an optimism intervention that employed cognitive-behavioral techniques (e.g., identifying automatic thoughts; testing accuracy of thoughts) to retrain attributional style. Seven male rugby players who were competing in first grade club rugby participated in the intervention. The effectiveness of the program was partially evaluated via self-reports of the Sport Attributional Style Scale (Hanrahan, Grove, & Hattie, 1989). Qualitative data were also collected via a focus group and semistructured interviews. The quantitative results provided minimal support for the utility of the intervention; there was evidence to suggest participants’ attributions became more external for negative events. The qualitative data suggested that participants (a) developed greater resilience in the face of adversity, (b) were more confident in their sport, and (c) developed a more optimistic explanatory style for negative events. The qualitative findings support the utility of a cognitive-behavioral based attribution retraining intervention for developing optimism in rugby players. The data also supported the flexible use of external attributions for negative events.

Parkes and Mallett are with the School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

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