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.
Mark A. Uphill and Brian Hemmings
Andrew R. Levy, Remco C.J. Polman, Peter J. Clough, David C. Marchant and Keith Earle
To investigate the relationship between mental toughness, sport injury beliefs, pain, and adherence toward a sport injury rehabilitation program.
A prospective design was employed that evaluated adherence over the entire rehabilitation period.
70 patients undertaking a sport injury rehabilitation program for a tendonitis related injury.
Main Outcome Measures:
Adherence was measured using self report measures of clinic and home based rehabilitation alongside attendance.
No association was found between mental toughness and coping appraisals, although high mentally tough individuals displayed more positive threat appraisals and were better able to cope with pain than their less mentally tough counterparts. Greater attendance at rehabilitation sessions was displayed by more mentally tough individuals; however, more positive behavior during clinic rehabilitation was characterized by low mental toughness.
Despite the 0benefits of being mentally tough, sports medicine providers need to be aware that a high degree of mental toughness may have negative consequences upon rehabilitation behavior and subsequently recovery outcomes.
Thomas E. Hannan, Robyn L. Moffitt, David L. Neumann and Patrick R. Thomas
This study explored whether mental toughness, the capacity to maintain performance under pressure, moderated the relation between physical activity intentions and subsequent behavior. Participants (N = 117) completed the Mental Toughness Index and a theory of planned behavior questionnaire. Seven days later, physical activity was assessed using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. Attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control explained substantial variance (63.1%) in physical activity intentions. Intentions also significantly predicted physical activity behavior. The simple slopes analyses for the moderation effect revealed a nonsignificant intention–behavior relation at low levels of mental toughness. However, intentions were significantly and positively related to physical activity when mental toughness was moderate or high, suggesting that the development of a mentally tough mindset may reduce the gap between behavior and physical activity intention. Future research is needed to confirm these findings and apply them in the design of mental toughness interventions to facilitate physical activity engagement.
Jenny Meggs, Mark Chen and Danielle Mounfield
and ego goal orientations and mental toughness. Mental toughness is thought to be a collection of cognitive, affective and behavioral characteristics (a psychological resource) that allow an individual to manage the stressors of competition and perform well ( Gucciardi, Gordon, & Dimmock, 2008 ). The
Andrew P. Driska, Cindra Kamphoff and Suzannah Mork Armentrout
Using the mental toughness framework of Jones, Hanton and Connaughton (2007), the authors interviewed thirteen highly-experienced swimming coaches in a two-part study to determine the specific mental toughness subcomponents present in mentally tough swimmers, and to examine the factors that led swimmers to develop mental toughness. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using methods outlined by Creswell (2007). While confirming eleven of thirteen subcomponents of mental toughness previously identified by Jones et al. (2007), the participants identified (a) “coachability” and (b) “retaining psychological control on poor training days” as previously unidentified subcomponents of mental toughness. In the second part of the study, the authors identified six higher-order themes describing how both the coach and the swimmer acted to develop mental toughness in the swimmer. Implications for researchers, swimming coaches, and sport psychology consultants are discussed.
Robert Weinberg, Valeria Freysinger, Kathleen Mellano and Elizabeth Brookhouse
Most of the data obtained in studying mental toughness has come from athletes, coaches, and sometimes parents. The purpose of the present investigation was to explore sport psychologists’ experiences of building mental toughness and their perceptions of how coaches can build mental toughness in their athletes. A phenomenological approach to qualitative research guided the study. Semistructured qualitative interviews with 15 sport psychologists were conducted. A concept map was developed that illustrates the theme and subthemes that emerged from analysis of the interviews. As indicated, sport psychologists felt that coaches could build mental toughness in their athletes by behaving mindfully, which included putting athletes under adverse situations and providing (teaching) them with the mental skills to effectively cope with these adversities. These results both confirm and extend existing research on how to build mental toughness.
Anna-Marie C. Jaeschke, Michael L. Sachs and Kristen D. Dieffenbach
Ultramarathon running entails coping with unanticipated environmental circumstances and intense physical and psychological fatigue; a sport in which the role of mental toughness can be crucial. This research focused on semistructured interviews with 12 ultramarathon runners who volunteered to discuss their perceptions of mental toughness. The data allowed researchers to gather a multidimensional view of mental toughness from ultramarathon runners’ experiences and perspective in addition to providing a snapshot of the challenges and demands ultrarunners face, as well as ethical concerns associated with athletes pushing themselves beyond their limits. Central themes included: perseverance/persistence, overcoming adversity, perspective, life experience, psychological skills use, and camaraderie in the ultra community. A deeper understanding of mental toughness obtained from a sample of ultramarathon runners can inform consultants working to improve quality or consistency of performance, and become aware of ethical concerns of encouraging athletes to exceed perceptual or actual limitations.
John W. Mahoney, Daniel F. Gucciardi, Nikos Ntoumanis and Cliff J. Mallet
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, M age = 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.
Jarred F. Parkes and Clifford J. Mallett
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.
Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton and Declan Connaughton
The authors conducted an investigation of mental toughness in a sample population of athletes who have achieved ultimate sporting success. Eight Olympic or world champions, 3 coaches, and 4 sport psychologists agreed to participate. Qualitative methods addressed 3 fundamental issues: the definition of mental toughness, the identification of its essential attributes, and the development of a framework of mental toughness. Results verified the authors’ earlier definition of mental toughness and identified 30 attributes that were essential to being mentally tough. These attributes clustered under 4 separate dimensions (attitude/mindset, training, competition, postcompetition) within an overall framework of mental toughness. Practical implications and future avenues of research involving the development of mental toughness and measurement issues are discussed.