Coaches' perceptions on mental toughness and its development in an English Premier League soccer academy

Crust, Lee, Cook, Clive, Littlewood, Martin , Nesti, Mark and Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn (2013) Coaches' perceptions on mental toughness and its development in an English Premier League soccer academy. In: BPS Joint Cognitive and Developmental Psychology Conference, September 4-6th 2013, University of Reading.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


Mental toughness has been commonly construed as an important resistance resource during confrontations with stress and in times of adversity but is also important to sustaining effort and maintaining standards when things are going well. Researchers have begun to examine how mental toughness develops but little attention has been afforded to those responsible for developing and preparing players for the psychological challenges of transition periods. Football academies are considered challenging and stressful environments that provide an ideal setting to understand mental toughness with less than 5% of academy players gaining professional contracts. The purpose of this study was to understand coaches’ perceptions of mental toughness and its development in an English Premier League soccer academy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight key coaching staff responsible for a range of different roles in the development of players. Interviews averaged 58 minutes with data recorded and transcribed verbatim. Each member of the research team independently analysed interview transcripts prior to meeting to discuss and agree emergent themes. Coaches perceived mental toughness in the academy setting to include focus on winning, single-mindedness, independence, discipline, self-assertion, self-confidence, physical toughness, resilience, and courage in the face of environmental adversity. Behaviours that characterised mentally tough players included high work rate and consistent on and off-field behaviour. Staff reported organising environmental challenges to foster independence and resourcefulness as pivotal to developing mental toughness which was broadly similar to an autonomy-supportive approach to coach-athlete relations. Senior players were used as mentors for aspiring professionals. Attention to the psychological development of players was reported to be inadequately addressed in comparison to other aspects of performance (i.e., technical skill or physical conditioning). Consistent with previous studies concerning the development of mental toughness, coaches reported a greater emphasis on manipulating environmental factors rather than formal mental skills training.

Additional Information:Appears in conference programme as part of symposium: Mental toughness: Its correlates and cognitive underpinnings, Helen St Clair-Thompson (Chair)
Keywords:Challenge, Elite Sport, Talent Development
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C820 Developmental Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
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ID Code:11851
Deposited On:13 Sep 2013 08:41

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