The “x-factor” that determines success or failure in sport is winning – winning is the sole objective in any sporting endeavor. Therefore, anything that could give the athlete a competitive edge which would in turn facilitate an athlete’s capacity to win would be of great value in the sporting arena. Two things affect sporting performance and more importantly the ability to win: physical ability and mental toughness.
As athletes get to the top level of their sport, physical ability, skill, technique, diet and various physical attributes are levelled out and aren’t the main factor in distinguishing success (Moran, 2004). Consequently, the mental attributes, or more specifically mental toughness, becomes the vital element that aids athletes to become top performers and stay top performers. This is where the implementation of Sport Psychology has it’s biggest impact.
It is not a simple task defining mental toughness. Mental Toughness describes the mind-set that every person adopts in everything they do. It is closely related to qualities such as character, resilience, and grit. Mentally tough individuals possess characteristics that enable them to act in a tough manner, these attributes are related to having an unshakeable self-belief, bouncing back from setbacks, confidence in your abilities, having a desire and motivation to succeed, ability to remain fully focused on the task at hand, remaining in control, ability to push through physical and emotional pain, ability to cope with anxiety and stress, thriving under pressure, ability to remain focused on the sport and discard outside distractions, and the ability to focus and change focus when required.
BMT Sport Consulting’s focus is on the development of mental skills (using the MSI assessment tool) that contribute to the individuals overall mental toughness.
These mental skills include:
- Achievement Motivation
- Goal setting
- Mental rehearsal
- Arousal regulation
Furthermore, BMT Sport focuses on developing and assessing individuals sport anxiety and coping ability (how the athletes copes under pressure), as well as group cohesion and team focused assessments.
BMT Sport Consulting uses the Mental Skills Inventory (MSI) as well as the MTQ48 as mental toughness assessment tools. The MSI was designed by a South African researcher (Wheaton, 1998) and it identifies mental skills that attain to an individual’s mental toughness such as goal setting, achievement motivation, confidence, concentration etc. The MTQ48 (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2012) enables us to assess mental toughness with a different perspective and in terms of 4 C’s that define mental toughness- Control, challenge, commitment and confidence.
At the forefront, Mental Toughness is a major factor in:
- Performance (on and off the sporting field)
- Positive Behaviour
- More engaged, more positive, more “can do”
- Better general wellbeing
- More contentment, better stress management
- Aspirations, driven and ambitious
- Prepared to manage more risk
Instinctively the answer is “we can”. Sports psychologists and sports coaches would argue that they have been doing this for many years with significant evidence of success. More practically, the answer still appears to be “yes we can”. Mental toughness is an ability and therefore it can be developed and trained just as with physical skills.
One key question is “are we changing someone’s mental toughness or can we simply equip someone with tools and techniques that enable them to behave as a mentally tough person might behave”.
The answer appears to be that, where the individual wants to change or develop it is possible to change one’s mental toughness ability. BMT’s focus is therefore to equip athletes with the tools and techniques of mental toughness so that they can behave in a mentally tough manner when it matters most and will have an impact on their sporting performance.
BMT Sport focuses on 6 interventions to develop mental toughness:
- Goal Setting
- Attentional control (concentration)
- Positive self-talk and thinking
- Anxiety control and coping mechanisms