A cross-sectional analysis of mental toughness in an elite professional football academy

Crust, Lee and Nesti, Mark and Littlewood, Martin (2008) A cross-sectional analysis of mental toughness in an elite professional football academy. In: First World Conference on Science and Soccer, May 15th 2008, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION
Mental toughness appears to be one of the most important psychological characteristics related to outcomes and success in elite sport. Qualitative research has suggested that environmental factors are of central importance to the development of mental toughness. The present study is the first in a series of investigations looking at the development of mental toughness in an elite Premier League football academy. We explored age-related differences in mental toughness using a cross-sectional design, and hypothesised that given the academy operates like a natural filter (with players being regularly released), that the older participants would report higher levels of mental toughness through greater exposure to the demands of this competitive environment.

METHOD
Participants – 112 male academy football players aged between 12 and 18 years. Informed consent was agreed with the academy director.
Instruments – MTQ18
Procedures – Participants completed questionnaires in mid-season, following training sessions.
Analysis – One-way ANOVA conducted between age ranges (U13’s, U14’s, U15’s, U16’s, U19’s and football scholarship players). An Independent t-test was used to assess differences between players who were retained or released at the end of the season.

RESULTS
No significant differences in mental toughness were found between age groups, or between players who were either retained or released at the end of the competitive season.

DISCUSSION / CONCLUSION
The results of this investigation suggest no age-related differences in mental toughness between academy level football players. Surprisingly, the MTQ18 scores are consistent with data reported for undergraduate sports students. There was no evidence that retained players had higher levels of mental toughness than released players. This presents the possibility that the academy environment is not effectively nurturing mental toughness, or that mental toughness is more stable than previously thought. It seems more likely that differences do exist, but the MTQ18 was not precise enough to detect them. Future researchers should look to evaluate the development of mental toughness through longitudinal studies, and use qualitative methods incorporating the views of players and academy staff to control for self-presentation.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Additional Information:INTRODUCTION Mental toughness appears to be one of the most important psychological characteristics related to outcomes and success in elite sport. Qualitative research has suggested that environmental factors are of central importance to the development of mental toughness. The present study is the first in a series of investigations looking at the development of mental toughness in an elite Premier League football academy. We explored age-related differences in mental toughness using a cross-sectional design, and hypothesised that given the academy operates like a natural filter (with players being regularly released), that the older participants would report higher levels of mental toughness through greater exposure to the demands of this competitive environment. METHOD Participants – 112 male academy football players aged between 12 and 18 years. Informed consent was agreed with the academy director. Instruments – MTQ18 Procedures – Participants completed questionnaires in mid-season, following training sessions. Analysis – One-way ANOVA conducted between age ranges (U13’s, U14’s, U15’s, U16’s, U19’s and football scholarship players). An Independent t-test was used to assess differences between players who were retained or released at the end of the season. RESULTS No significant differences in mental toughness were found between age groups, or between players who were either retained or released at the end of the competitive season. DISCUSSION / CONCLUSION The results of this investigation suggest no age-related differences in mental toughness between academy level football players. Surprisingly, the MTQ18 scores are consistent with data reported for undergraduate sports students. There was no evidence that retained players had higher levels of mental toughness than released players. This presents the possibility that the academy environment is not effectively nurturing mental toughness, or that mental toughness is more stable than previously thought. It seems more likely that differences do exist, but the MTQ18 was not precise enough to detect them. Future researchers should look to evaluate the development of mental toughness through longitudinal studies, and use qualitative methods incorporating the views of players and academy staff to control for self-presentation.
Keywords:Mental Toughness, Elite Sport
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C820 Developmental Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
ID Code:6337
Deposited By: Lee Crust
Deposited On:27 Sep 2012 17:41
Last Modified:12 Jun 2014 07:53

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