When the going gets tough: Mental toughness and its relationship with behavioural perseverance

J Sci Med Sport. 2016 Jan;19(1):81-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2014.12.005. Epub 2014 Dec 12.


Objectives: This study examined the association between self-reported mental toughness and behavioural perseverance among a sample of male Australian footballers in a naturalistic context.

Design: Cross-sectional field study, with the multistage 20m shuttle run test (MST) employed as a proxy for behavioural perseverance.

Methods: 330 male Australian footballers aged between 15 and 18 years (M=16.86; SD=.71) with between 2 and 14 years playing experience (M=9.32; SD=2.51) participated. Initially, footballers completed a mental toughness questionnaire, before having their height and body mass measurements taken. Subsequently, a performance testing session was completed, which included the 20m sprint, Australian football-specific agility run, vertical jump, and the MST. Bayesian estimation was employed to allow for the simultaneous examination of existing findings with our new data in a way that provides an automatic meta-analysis of evidence in this area.

Results: The analysis indicated a 95% probability that the association between mental toughness and behavioural perseverance lies between .14 and .34, even when controlling for other factors known to influence MST performance, including age, height, body mass, and years playing experience.

Conclusions: Taken together with previous research, these findings support the theoretical proposition that persistence, effort or perseverance represents a behavioural signature of mental toughness.

Keywords: Bayesian structural equation modelling; Beep test; Mentally tough; Substantive-methodological synergy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Football / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Self Efficacy*