Chapter Five, Part Two: Developing Mental Toughness
Part one of chapter five presented a working definition of the state and trait of mental toughness. Part two of our chapter on mental toughness presents a framework for developing mental toughness for coaches and athletes.
Athletes attribute the development of their mental toughness to motivational training environments, encouraging teammates, challenging training, and having to cope with failure. When we put ourselves in difficult situations in training, we are far better adapted on gameday. In fact, one of the best ways to develop mental toughness is by simulating pressurized situations. Simulating stressful situations in training allows athletes to dig into their mental skills toolbox, using arousal management techniques, self-talk, and focus, in order to respond and adapt to the stress of the situation. Remember, just as physical skills take time to develop, so do mental skills. Therefore, athletes should practice mental skills throughout each training session, particularly those which help them adapt to stressful situations (arousal management, self-talk, focus) in order to increase mental toughness. Further, setting specific goals as we discussed in chapter four, using constructive self-talk, and building confidence through rigorous training also aid in the development of mental toughness.
Coaches also play a key role in helping athletes become mentally tough. Autonomy supportive environments are more likely to support athletes in the development of mental toughness. Coaches can encourage players to be involved in decisions and take responsibility for their own development. An autonomy-supportive coach helps athletes develop mental toughness by increasing their self-belief, independence, and internal motivation.
Assessments can be a helpful way of helping athletes understand their level of mental toughness, and can provide them with information on which aspects of mental toughness they need to improve. An example of an assessment for mental toughness is the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC-10). The CD-RISC-10 measures the ability to adapt to change, the ability to cope with stress, the ability to focus, the ability to deal with failure and not be discouraged, and the ability to deal with unpleasant emotions. For more information, and to obtain an assessment, visit the CD-RISC website.
Values & Mental Toughness Worksheet
Athletes with a strong set of personal values are more likely to be mentally tough. Findings in the field of positive psychology suggest that personal values can increase resilience in the face of stress and trauma. This worksheet is useful tool helping athletes identify a challenge, identify reasons to deal with the challenge, and reflect on how their values could help in the given situation.
Fill out the worksheet provided,, and keep it handy.