Connaughton, D., Hanton, S., & Jones, G. (2010). The development and maintenance of mental toughness in the world’s best performers. The Sport Psychologist24(2), 168-193.


Also referenced:  Jones, G., Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2007). A framework of mental toughness in the world’s best performers. The Sport Psychologist, 21, 243–264.


by Rachel Webb

When we think about what an athlete possesses in order to be successful, often times the term mentally tough is attributed to the makeup of the athlete. Mental toughness has been defined as being a natural or developed psychological edge that inadvertently allows athletes to cope better than their opponents with the demands or pressures that come with performance. This is not the only support definition of what it means to be mentally tough and further more how to obtain that psychological edge. This study looks at the experiences of eleven superelite participants, which included athletes, coaches, and sport psychologists, and interviewed then regarding the development and maintenance of mental toughness. Researchers not only found that mental toughness progresses through four different stages of ones career, one being a maintenance stage, but also the multiple factors that each participant felt supported the development of mental toughness. These factors include skill mastery, competitiveness, successes, international competitive experience, education, use of psychological skills, access to an understanding social support network, and reflective practices. (Connaughton, Hanton, & Jones, 2010).

In order to identify these factors and understand how to develop this necessary psychological advancement, this study first looked at the mental toughness framework dimensions (4) and subcomponents (13) developed in earlier studies that support (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2007). They then interviewed these same participants for the current study, aligning their questions based on the original four dimension model. The results as previously stated were the different factors that were all supported through each participant’s interview and personal experiences in achieving this superelite performance level. The study also provided recommendations for increasing the ability for individuals to develop a sense of mental toughness. Some points of recommendation include the need to develop education programs for coaches, building belief in performers through successes in training or competition, setting challenging goals, and enabling good communication between athletes and their coaches, sport psychologist, and realms of social support (Connaughton, Hanton, & Jones, 2010). In sum, this study address amore through understanding of the mechanisms that are responsible for developing and this maintaining mental toughness through the varies stages of your career.