Developing Mental Toughness From Research to Practice (and back again) Dr. Lee Crust www.mtough.org.uk Reinventing the Wheel? One Perspective Over twelve years of researching MT. A broad range of sport,
exercise and non-sport settings. A range of different research methodologies. An appreciation of other peoples work (hopefully). One Key AimBridging the Gap Mental Toughness Definition
Mental toughness is a collection of values, attitudes, behaviours and emotions, which enable an individual to persevere and overcome any obstacle, adversity or pressure experienced, but also to maintain concentration and motivation when things are going well, to consistently produce high levels of performance. (Gucciardi and Gordon, 2008) Sink or Swim?
More about Less about Different Perspectives on MT Before 2002, mainly anecdotal (books) or research lacking rigour. Clough et al. (2002) 4Cs model and MTQ48. Jones et al. (2002) definition and conceptualisation of MT. Later produced a model.
Bull et al. (2005) MT Pyramid based upon work with elite cricketers. Gucciardi et al. (2009) have developed their own process model of MT. Hardy et al. (2014) Neuropsychological model reward / punishment / early threat detection. Some conceptual arguments, much overlap. Views on MT Taken from interviews with elite high-altitude mountaineers one example.
1. Its the way Im built. Its part of my personality 2. I have developed MT through general life experiences and in the mountains 3. Reported critical moments. 4. Numerous other perspectives in-between. Development of MT 1. Genetic influences. Inheritance, twins studies, fMRI.
2. Environmental influences. Parents, coaches, team-mates, motivational climate, rewards / punishments, surroundings. 3. Skills training approach. Imagery, goal-setting, coping skills, attributional re-training, strengths-based approaches. A coach has to work with what they are given!
Some key findings Mental toughness has been found to be associated with: Behavioural perseverance. Effective coping with pressure / adversity. Use of psychological skills. Psychological well-being. Performance on concentration task (and flow). Recovery following setbacks.
MT in a Premier League Soccer Academy - Context Football academies are challenging and stressful learning environments. Less than 5% of academy players gain professional contracts. Most previous research has focused upon athlete perspectives on MT while coaches are the ones that oversee and plan development.
Greater focus needed on coach perspectives (Weinberg et al., 2011). MT in a Premier League Academy Cook, Crust, Littlewood, Nesti and AllenCollinson (2014). Interviewed 8 senior PL academy staff concerning development of MT. Attributes of the mentally toughest players found to be consistent with previous work.
Approaches and Strategies Independence One thing I am always careful of is dont spoil them. Dont solve all their problems he has to become independent, we have to invest all our effort and all our energy to make the player independent, so independent it means, he is able to set goals, he is able to invest, he is able to solve his own problems (Participant 4)
Final Words from the Academy We probably invest 70 or 80% in technical and I would guess 5% or something like that on the mental side of it. So there is a big discrepancy straight away. Like I said earlier, the difference of players moving on to the first team or getting released...is generally the mental things and yet we have this big divide of what we do and there is a massive technical and tactical program and what seems to be the most important
thing, the mental side, there isnt a program in place for it; it just seems ridiculous (Participant 6) Broad Overview of Development What we know Long-term process that begins before sport and continues throughout a sporting career (Connaughton et al., 2008, 2010; Gucciardi et al., 2009) Both facilitative and debilitative mechanisms (Gucciardi et al., 2009). Mechanisms operate in a combined, rather than an independent fashion.
Both caught (i.e., indirectly through experience) and taught (i.e., directly through coaching, psychological skills training). Psychological skills training alone is not mental toughness training. Mental Skills Training Some of the skills found to be associated with MT include (Coulter et al., 2010; Crust & Azadi, 2010; Nicholls et al., 2008; Thelwell et al., 2010)
Relaxation strategies Thought control / logical analysis Focus in the present moment Self-talk Mostly correlational and /or qualitative evidence Parents and Home Life Parents provide much needed support and encouragement .
Installation of a hard-work ethic. The role of sibling rivalry. Environment as a toughening mechanism (divorce, external life events, inner city). Need for educational programs for parents??? Challenge and Support In training, go beyond the comfort zone. Psychological pressure drills. Present challenging situations that require
problem-solving / decision-making. Need to foster independence. Personal responsibility for part of own development (not just dictated by coach). Social Support Networks Social support found to be related to MT (Nicholls et al., 2008; Thelwell et al., 2010). Role of coaches, parents, peers, and senior players.
Especially important during transition periods. Use carefully to avoid dependence avoid solving problems for athletes. Can involve (1) emotional support; (2) esteem support; (3) informational support; and (4) tangible support. Setbacks are learning opportunities! Reflective Practice
Common role in many professions. Use of training / competition diaries. Use of Performance Profiles. Self-reflection can lead to perspective taking, reasoning skills, and logical analysis. Learning lessons from success and failure.
Links to Gucciardis process model. Strong Leadership To elicit change within an organisation / team / governing body etc. Changes comes from the top. Coaches have an important role. The need to buy-in to psychology in general and developing MT in particular.
The Dark Side of MT? Potential dysfunctional outcomes for performance and general well-being (Andersen, 2011) Push beyond physical limits costly perseverance. Risk of overtraining Appraise serious injuries as minor Silencing of emotions
Mental Toughness in Mountaineers Trait-like versus state-like (examples of both). Developed in general life and in the mountains. Some mountaineers are too tough (grit?).
MT mostly represented rational decision-making, remaining calm under-pressure, being patient, and showing restraint (understanding limits). Less gung-ho, more risk-managers / monitors. Able to maintain perspective. A Recipe for MT? One size fits all - unlikely. Development involves a complex interaction of important factors evidence to support a variety of
approaches. Perhaps more appropriate to consider which interventions work best in one context or another constraints (see Mahoney et al., 2016). The more appropriate route to further knowledge is likely to need researchers and practitioners working together.
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