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Mark A. Uphill and Brian Hemmings

The aim of this paper is to present a critical reflection on mental toughness using a creative analytic practice. In particular, we move from intrapersonal technical reflections to an altogether more interpersonal cultural analysis that (re)considers some of the assumptions that can underpin sport psychology practice. Specifically, in the ripples that extend from these initial technical reflections, we argue that it is important to understand vulnerability, and consider (a) wounded healers, (b) the ideology of individualism, and (c) the survivor bias to help make sense of current thinking and applied practice. Emerging from these ripples are a number of implications (naming elephants, tellability, neoliberalism) from which sport psychologists may reflect upon to enhance their own practice. In making visible the invisible, we conclude that vulnerability can no longer be ignored in sport psychology discourse, research, and practice. Should this story of vulnerability resonate, we encourage you, where appropriate to share this story.

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Jack A. G. Marlow and Mark Uphill

This study explored the characteristics, contextual factors and consequences of counterfactual thoughts in seven elite athletes using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Counterfactuals were experienced regularly with self-directed and upward counterfactuals (cognitions about how things could be better) being most frequent. These upward counterfactuals typically occurred following performance that was below participants’ goals and expectations. These thoughts were perceived by participants to have a negative affect initially, and that they then led to facilitative behavioral consequences around learning and development. Some elements of counterfactual thinking could be used as a useful reflective tool to encourage elite athletes to problem solve and motivate cognitive, emotional and behavioral change to enhance future performance.

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Joachim Stoeber, Mark A. Uphill, and Sarah Hotham

The question of how perfectionism affects performance is highly debated. Because empirical studies examining perfectionism and competitive sport performance are missing, the present research investigated how perfectionism affected race performance and what role athletes’ goals played in this relationship in two prospective studies with competitive triathletes (Study 1: N = 112; Study 2: N = 321). Regression analyses showed that perfectionistic personal standards, high performance-approach goals, low performance-avoidance goals, and high personal goals predicted race performance beyond athletes’ performance level. Moreover, the contrast between performance-avoidance and performance-approach goals mediated the relationship between perfectionistic personal standards and performance, whereas personal goal setting mediated the relationship between performance-approach goals and performance. The findings indicate that perfectionistic personal standards do not undermine competitive performance, but are associated with goals that help athletes achieve their best possible performance.