• The perception of mental toughness of student-athletes in their academic and sports domains

      Waters, Liam; Applied Health Sciences Program
      The purpose of this study was to investigate university student-athletes’ perceptions of mental toughness in both their sport and academic domains. This study took a general qualitative approach through a constructivist lens, to allow for student-athletes’ perceptions to shape the understanding of mental toughness. There were a total of 10 participants (3 male and 7 female student-athletes) interviewed from a variety of sports and academics programs. Thematic analysis was used to identify four main themes: the dynamic nature of mental toughness, outcomes of mental toughness, resilience, and relationships. Findings highlighted similarities and differences between sports and academics, that allow for a better understanding of mental toughness in general, specifically amongst this demographic. The theme “The dynamic nature of mental toughness” showed that mental toughness fluctuated within different environmental settings or with varying performance outcomes, but in general it improved over time. Outcomes of mental toughness refer to factors such as confidence that resulted when participants experienced high levels of mental toughness, and also included the pursuit and embrace of a challenge to compete at peak performance, staying consistent, and staying focused on the task. Resilience was mutually understood as an essential characteristic of mental toughness within both sports and academics, and was more pronounced amongst student-athletes when their mental toughness state was high. The theme of relationships was a unique finding that showed how personal and professional relationships contribute to mental toughness differently within sports compared to academics. Forming a personal relationship with a teammate/classmate outside of the direct sport/academic setting helped athletes with their mental toughness. Additionally, it helped form a stronger professional relationship within the respective domains as well, aiding their performance. Across all themes, mental toughness was more prominent in sports than academics, where student-athletes generally described mental toughness as playing a crucial role in their academics. In addition, results showed support for the unidimensional nature of mental toughness through its general applicability described by participants in both domains without restriction of different dimensions. Therefore, the findings of this study indicate that mental toughness is a crucial psychological resource for student-athletes within both sports and academics.