Australian Football Coaches’ Tales of Mental Toughness: Exploring the Sociocultural Roots

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Stephanie J. Tibbert Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
AECC University College, Bournemouth, United Kingdom

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https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8623-3304 *
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Mark B. Andersen Halmstad University, Sweden and Institute for Social Neuroscience, Halmstad, Sweden

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7609-4096
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Tony Morris Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2883-7270
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Christopher Mesagno Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

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The present study explored how three professional Australian football coaches learned and understood mental toughness. Participants shared stories regarding mental toughness through semistructured interviews. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to interpret the data. Creative nonfiction was employed to develop a composite story. All participants’ voices contributed equally to the narrative, which follows Sam (our composite coach) through three periods in his career: as a junior player, an elite footballer, and, finally, a coach in the professional football environment. Mental toughness was fundamentally determined by the sociocultural environment in which one was immersed. Athletes and coaches were expected to internalize dominant understandings of mental toughness and reinforce ideals and were punished if they deviated from mentally tough standards set up in their clubs. Mental toughness was defined by various values, beliefs, and norms that originated from the sociocultural environment, indicating the importance of context in understanding the roots of being mentally tough.

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