"NOT GETTING TOO HIGH, NOT GETTING TOO LOW" Exploring Mental Toughness Development in International Youth Football

Alan McKay, Brendan Cropley, David Shearer, Sheldon Hanton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Mental toughness (MT) is defined as a personal capacity to produce consistently high levels performance despite the experience of everyday stressors and significant adversities (see Gucciardi et al., 2015). To understand how being mentally tough is manifested and how it links to consistent performance under pressure, researchers have advocated the need to identify context-specific mentally tough behaviours (MTbs; Anthony et al., 2020). The current study sought to identify key MTbs within the context of a UEFA associated international football organisation. Specifically, international coaches (n = 6), players (n = 7), support staff (n = 7), and parents (n = 6) were interviewed to establish the key MTbs required in different situations in international youth football for player progression and performance, and understand how stakeholders help develop players’ MTbs. Using thematic analysis, a range of MTbs were identified relating to players’ abilities to perform consistently under pressure during competition (e.g., staying composed) and in training (e.g., asking questions). A range of MTbs were also identified relating to players’ abilities to continually learn (e.g., post-match reflection) to maximise their chances of consistent competitive performance. Further, while MT is defined as a personal capacity, its development was suggested to be contingent on key relationships (e.g., coach-athlete) and MT development strategies (e.g., challenge-support environments). These findings are being used to make a significant contribution to the football organisation’s approach to elite player development by creating a MTb framework designed to adapt the behaviours of international coaches to better facilitate the development of players’ MTbs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2022
EventEuropean Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC): Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology: Challenges and Opportunities in a Changing World - Padova, Padova, Italy
Duration: 11 Jul 202216 Jul 2022


ConferenceEuropean Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC)
Internet address


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