Mental toughness is a very advantageous and desirable trait among athletes and coaches as it can enhance performance, training and wellbeing. Mental is generally known as the ability of an individual to remain focused, determined and confident allowing them to perform and thrive in challenging circumstances. This concept of mental toughness is predominantly used in sports. A Lot of research has gone into the benefits of mental toughness even in education and business. The application of mental toughness has been broadened by the development of measurement tools such as the Mental Toughness Questionnaire 48 which has 48 questions.
However studies have shown that using the Questionnaire is limited. People that are challenged either by physical exercise of hardships in life such as business failures, breakup etc are also factors that enhance mental toughness. This does not mean however that people who suffer from these things always have positive results. Some might even have issues with drugs and alcohol. Such experiences may translate to trauma for some people.
In recent years, motivation has been a frequent topic among athletes. Many define motivation as the ability to initiate and persist at a task. Motivation is very important in sports because an athlete must be willing to maintain their efforts until they have achieved their goals. It is also important in sports because the athlete must be willing to put in the work even though factors such as fatigue, boredom, pain, desire to quit etc come in the way. Motivation will impact everything in sports for ex: physical condition, technical skill training, mental preparation etc.
The athlete’s personality will determine how the athlete will react to the given situation. The motivational climate that is provided by the coaches, parents, peers and teammates also play a role in the motivation of endurance athletes.
This essay will focus only on the how coaches impact the motivation and drive of the athlete. This essay will primarily focus on the coach created motivational climate (task and ego). I will also be using Self determination theory and achievement goal theory. With the help of these two theories I will be discussing to what extent are coaches responsible for the motivation of athletes
Motivational climate can be defined as the particular environment or motivational climate that is created by the teachers, coaches, peers or parents that can induce as state of task or ego involvement in sports. (Ames 1992) said that motivational climate has two types. Task(mastery) climate and Ego(performance) climate. Ego or performance climate according to Ames 1992 is mostly motivation through the comparison with others for self evaluation. The focus is on winning and improvement is of little or no significance. An example of this would be a coach pressuring his/her athletes to become better than the other athletes and being very competitive.
On the other hand, Task or mastery climate is evaluated mostly in terms of personal mastery and improvement without comparison to others. This focuses on coaches motivating the athletes thorough feedback and realistic goals.
Achievement Goal theory: Achievement Goal Theory proposes that in achievement settings such as sports and exercise, an individual’s main concern is to demonstrate or perform high ability and avoid demonstrating low ability. According to Nicholls 1989, abilities can be viewed in two different ways. Task involvement and ego involvement. As stated earlier, task involved individuals focus on mastery of the task, learning of the skills required and selpf improvement. While in the other hand, ego involved individuals focus on showing superior ability and winning in competitions with less work and effort than others. According to the achievement goal theory, three factors combine that determine motivation:
Nicholls 1989 argued that when task goals are adopted and the individual is task involved, perceived ability is not relevant. This is because the criteria for success is self referenced rather than comparative to others. In these circumstances, behaviours are most likely to be positive and the individual is predicted to persist in the face of difficult. On the other hand, when an athlete adopts ego goals and ego is involved, perceived ability is of greater importance because their only goal is to be better than their competitors and the demonstration of their ability is of high importance to the individual.
Self Determination Theory: Self determination theory is based on the premise that there are three psychological needs that motivate all human behaviours. Autonomy: The need to make our own decisions and to be in control over one’s behaviour. For example: Doing sports because you want to now because you have been told to do so. Competence: The need to feel and be able to accomplish things. For example: mastering a skill in football or mastering a technique in cricket Relatedness: The need to feel a sense of belonging. For example: being a part of a team or a club and having a sense of being valued by the teammates.
A coach is someone an athlete sees almost everyday of the week. Coaches have a very important role in shaping an athlete both physically and metally. Coach is someone that mentors an athlete, help them set goals, guides them, help with problems and give motivation to athletes. Every coach is different and have different styles of coaching. The motivational climate that a coach provides will determine how the athletes will perform. With that being said, coaches are one of the most important in sports. In my opinion, without coaching and guidance, the athlete wouldn’t be very successful. The following is an example of Siri Lindley and her coach Brett Sutton.
Brett Sutton is an Australian coach that lives in Switzerland. He is a coach for triathlon and is regarded as one of the best triathlon coaches because he has produced countless number of elite athletes who have performed well in big competitions. This example is about one of his athletes named Siri Lindley who was an American triathlete who was lacking confidence in herself. She didn’t qualify for the Olympics by a spot and was devastated. That’s when she decided that she needed to make a change. She decided to give Brett Sutton a chance. Brett agreed and invited her To switzerland with him and his group. In an interview, Lindley said “My fears for the most part, consisted of my fear of failure. Failing to keep up with the training, failing to improve, failing to stay healthy amid the rigorous new training regimen and failing to get the results I so desperately wanted to get from this big leap of faith. In trying to find a way to ease the anxiety these fears were creating within me, I came about a new realization about myself. I decided I would take it one day at a time.
I wasn’t going to focus on times, or how I compared to the others or future race results”. The important this is that Sutton’s attitude was the same. He wasn’t checking Siri’s times for intervals or measuring her ability or analyzing her performance. According to Siri, all he cared about was that she listened to what Sutton had to say. Brett believed that buying the fastest bike, expensive running shoes or training with the top swimmer, runner or cyclist etc will not get you the results. What Sutton did believe was by throwing all those things away, you have to focus on yourself and realize that there are no limits. Consistence, hardwork and non-stop devotion towards everything you do. With that kind of coaching from Brett Sutton, Siri Lindley became one of the best female triathletes in the world placing first in many triathlons and ironmans such as the 2001 ITU Triathlon World Champion, 2001 and 2002 ITU Triathlon World Cup series and 2001 ITU Aquathlon World Championships.
As discussed in the introduction of this essay, a motivational climate is the environment that a coach provides towards and athlete. Coaches have task and ego ways of motivating an athlete. According to Roberts and Harnish 1998, Although coaching is very important in an athlete’s career, his personal work ethic is even more important. According to (Jones et al., 2002;p.209), having the natural or developed psychological edge enables and athlete to cope better than their opponents with many demands such as competition, training and lifestyle that sport places on a performer. Mentally driven people are more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident and in control under pressure. This definition accepts that some athletes possess a natural mental toughness. (Thelwell et al.2005) accept that mentally tough performers “always cope better” than their opponents.