Tag Archive for 'tenacia.'

Does mental toughness increase the mental health?

Mental toughness, defined as the ability to persist, resist, and face challenges or difficulties with determination and resilience, is closely linked to mental health. Its relationship with mental health can be viewed from various perspectives:

  1. Resilience - Mental toughness is often considered a key component of mental resilience. It helps individuals overcome obstacles, recover from stressful or traumatic situations, and positively adapt to adversities. Strong mental toughness can contribute to reducing the risk of developing mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, or stress, and aid in recovery from mental health issues.
  2. Adaptation - Individuals with strong mental toughness often demonstrate greater adaptability. This can facilitate better stress management, enabling them to tackle emotional challenges and difficult situations in a more constructive manner.
  3. Self-esteem and confidence - Mental toughness can positively influence self-esteem and self-confidence. Being able to overcome obstacles or difficulties can strengthen belief in one’s abilities, thereby contributing to a sense of well-being and mental balance.
  4. Dealing with difficult situations - Individuals with good mental toughness often have greater capacity to cope with stressful or traumatic situations without compromising their mental well-being. They can remain resilient, maintain a positive outlook, and adopt effective coping strategies.

However, it’s important to note that mental toughness alone does not guarantee mental health, and mental health is influenced by multiple factors, including but not limited to genetics, environment, life experiences, and social support. Strong mental toughness can certainly contribute to better mental health, but caring for and attending to one’s psychological well-being requires a holistic and multidimensional approach.

You win or lose by “nothing”: how do you train yourself to compete until the end?

In sports the final score that distinguishes winners from losers is often very small. I’m not just referring to soccer where one team wins by the difference of one goal. It’s no coincidence that Mourinho says he is happier when his team wins 1-0 rather than 5-0, because that victory is synonymous with tenacity and concentration.

Sport teaches everyone a lot, because we lose by a point, by a handful of hundredths of a second, by an inch. In golf, the ball often misses the hole by a few millimeters, and the same is true in shooting, where Campriani explained to us that the difference between an 8 and a 10 is equivalent to three one-cent coins stacked on top of each other. In Al Pacino’s famous speech to the team in the locker room, in the movie Any Given Sunday, the coach states that we win or lose by an inch and that the sum of all the inches won or lost in a game will make the difference between living or dying.

This reasoning should certainly not distress you.

  1. It is the usual condition that all athletes face in competition; the conditions are the same for everyone.
  2. Sport requires extreme attention with the aim of encouraging the flow of one’s technical action and self-control.
  3. For how long? Until the end. Let’s forget that it is easier to maintain concentration if the race lasts a few seconds as in the 100m rather than two hours as in tennis. Tenacity is the necessary ingredient of a winning performance and is the result of the intensity with which you train and when you are oriented to react psychologically after a mistake.

Question: how much are your athletes trained in this and how much are you as coaches aware of the relevance and trainability of these three factors?

Assess how you are tough

Many athletes often explain their limitations in competition in relation to technical/tactical or athletic problems; they also often acknowledge their mental limitations especially those due to competitive anxiety or lack of confidence. Less frequently, however, they attribute their failures to a lack of toughness, which involves continuing to work hard throughout the competition, regardless of the outcome.

Toughness is necessary because in every cometition there are unfavorable moments and mental and physical difficulties to be overcome successfully.

Toughness  indicates how combative and persistent one is in this attitude throughout the race.
At times of increased competitive pressure or after a mistake one must work on oneself to quickly regain the optimal mental condition to overcome this obstacle.

The following are some questions to ask yourself to understand how tenacious you are:

  1. Having an unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals
  2. Bouncing back from performance set-backs as a result of increased determination to succeed.
  3. Having an unshakable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponent.
  4. Having an insatiable desire and internalised motives to succeed.
  5. Remainingfully-focusedonthetaskathandinthefaceofcompetition-specificdistractions.
  6. Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events (competition-specific).
  7. Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress (in training and competition).
  8. Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it.
  9. Thriving on the pressure of competition.
  10. Not being adversely affected by others’ good and bad performances
  11. Remaining fully-focused in the face of personal life distractions.
  12. Switching a sport focus on and off as required.

This concept of tenacity is well summarized and explained by the All Blacks coach:
“The warrior mentality of my players is based on the balance between courage and humility: being able to do extraordinary things but also knowing how to recover quickly from mistakes, being able to bounce back quickly and win.”
This ability distinguishes champions from other good athletes.

Toughness in sport

When someone asks me bluntly, “How do those who win repeatedly differ from other athletes? The equally firm answer is, “By how they react to competitive pressure, difficulties and mistakes.” A more specific answer to this question comes from one of rugby’s world-class coaches when he acknowledges that it is mental toughness that is an important dividing line between successful players and others who are their peers in skill level and fitness:

Mental toughness, to me, is the ability to keep doing what you’re supposed to do regardless of the situation, regardless of whether you’re physically or mentally fatigued. Why it hurts. Sport at a high level is uncomfortable. We try to teach players to be comfortable being uncomfortable (Eddie Jones).

In those moments the athlete’s other skills if they are not supported by toughness come to a standstill. An athlete can have a constructive dialogue with himself but at decisive moments if he is not supported by tenacity, his self-talk can become negative. An athlete knows what to pay attention to and how to adapt it to race situations, but when faced with an unexpected event he may lose this ability if tenacity does not intervene, which is the conviction to continue competing at one’s best even if it seems impossible.

Four dimensions were identified to define toughness: attitude, training, competition, and post-competition consisting of 13 components. Research on athletes who achieved world champion status showed that their goal was the enhancement of all 13 components to the highest level. Several factors influenced this enhancement during a 2-4 year period; these included competitiveness, a great desire to compete against and beat the world’s best, experience gained in major international competitions, awareness of opponents’ capabilities, and knowledge of competitors’ preparation programs. Athletes reported that the experience of competing at the highest level, and observing and speaking with world-class athletes and coaches, improved their knowledge of training programs and training styles conducted by the world’s best. This knowledge combined with the desire to win increased their mental toughness.

(Source: A. Cei, Fondamenti di psicologia dello sport, 2021)

The mental toughness

Mental toughness is an essential attribute of successful athletes. Therefore, understanding and developing mental toughness should be the goal of all coaches and athletes. Too often, however, athletes lose this condition almost immediately after a few mistakes, which in themselves would not be so bad for the end result, but which become so because they begin to think that they will not be able to express themselves as they would have liked. Tenacity has been defined as the ability to achieve personal goals in the face of pressure from a wide range of stressors.

In relation to the development of attributes thought to be important for the development of the athlete’s mindset (conviction, focus), effective daily practice (pushing oneself to the limit), absolute level performance (managing competitive stress), and post-race coping (managing defeat), research has identified a number of key themes for developing and maintaining tenacity in elite athletes at different stages of their careers. These themes include the aspiration for mastery and competitiveness, the desire to achieve goals based on training and competition, and the commitment to use psychological skills and reflective practice to rationalize and manage competitive expectations, successes and failures.

Mental toughness can be developed through deliberate practice that focuses on physical, mental and emotional elements. Suggestions include:

  • Being physically prepared and in excellent shape, but with a balance of rest and recovery.
  • Display consistent body language in competition that conveys confidence and determination.
  • Know your ideal state of emotional readiness and know how to achieve it.
  • Incorporate mental skills such as positive self-talk into one’s training program.
  • Embrace and harness the feelings and emotions of competition.
  • Meet challenges with enthusiasm and conviction.
  • After mistakes or setbacks, learn to recover quickly by staying in the present and focusing on what you can control.

The Significance of Grit: A Conversation with Angela Lee Duckworth

Resilience, grit and optimism are important psychological dimensions for any athlete who wants to cultivate his or her talents.

The following are the thoughts of Angela Lee Duckworth a leading expert in this area of study.

It’s all about one specific definition of resilience, which is optimism—appraising situations without distorting them, thinking about changes that are possible to make in your life. But I’ve heard other people use resilience to mean bouncing back from adversity, cognitive or otherwise. And some people use resilient specifically to refer to kids who come from at-risk environments who thrive nevertheless.

What all those definitions of resilience have in common is the idea of a positive response to failure or adversity. Grit is related because part of what it means to be gritty is to be resilient in the face of failure or adversity. But that’s not the only trait you need to be gritty.

In the scale that we developed in research studies to measure grit, only half of the questions are about responding resiliently to situations of failure and adversity or being a hard worker. The other half of the questionnaire is about having consistent interests—focused passions—over a long time. That doesn’t have anything to do with failure and adversity. It means that you choose to do a particular thing in life and choose to give up a lot of other things in order to do it. And you stick with those interests and goals over the long term. So grit is not just having resilience in the face of failure, but also having deep commitments that you remain loyal to over many years.

One of the first studies that we did was at West Point Military Academy, which graduates about 25 percent of the officers in the U.S. Army. Admission to West Point depends heavily on the Whole Candidate Score, which includes SAT scores, class rank, demonstrated leadership ability, and physical aptitude. Even with such a rigorous admissions process, about 1 in 20 cadets drops out during the summer of training before their first academic year. We were interested in how well grit would predict who would stay.

So we had cadets take a very short grit questionnaire in the first two or three days of the summer, along with all the other psychological tests that West Point gives them. And then we waited around until the end of the summer. Of all the variables measured, grit was the best predictor of which cadets would stick around through that first difficult summer. In fact, it was a much better predictor than the Whole Candidate Score, which West Point at that time thought was their best predictor of success. The Whole Candidate Score actually had no predictive relationship with whether you would drop out that summer (although it was the best predictor of later grades, military performance, and physical performance).




During the competitions are you aware of your thoughts ?

Athletes are often unaware of the role of their thoughts during a race.

In my opinion they make these mistakes:

  • They confuse having respect for the opponents with being afraid of them
  • They have a vision of themselves as athletes not very global and have the myth of physical fitness and technical perfection
  • They do not think that their opponents probably lives the same situation as them
  • They do not mentally hold up their positive results instead of benefiting from them for the next ones
  • They don’t understand that being in difficulty is normal believing that it shouldn’t happen
  • They think “But he/she is a champion” and not that he/she has trained better than them

How to manage the momentum according Maria Sharapova e Serena Williams

Some rules to achieve the excellence from two top tennis players.

Maria Sharapova

When you are in a competitive situation and you’re down, what do you do or say to yourself?
“I take my time in between in my service games. I walk to the baseline. I move my strings around. I do a little pep talk, and it’s very automatic. I think it’s more of putting my eyes onto my strings and having this repetition that it doesn’t matter if I won the point or lost the point. I’m on this this river that is going to get to where it’s going no matter what rock is in the way, no matter what storm is on the way. The water is, ultimately, going to go down the river. It’s a safe place for me because in tennis momentum changes so much, just like in life. One second, everything is positive, and you get bad news. You go from a great day to wow. I see those strings, and I see my fingers playing with those strings, and I think of being level headed and being not overly excited, not down. But being in this medium frame of mind.”

Serena Williams

My game is my mental toughness - “Just not only to be able to play, to win, but to be able to come back when I’m down. Both on the court and after tough losses, just to continue to come back and continue to fight, it’s something that takes a lot of tenacity.”

Practice under pressure -  Williams believes tennis is “70 percent mental,”, for this reason she tries to replicate match situations during the sessions. For instance: down 15 to 30 on her second serve. Competitive simulation is a  very efficient coaching method. P

Stay in the moment - many tennis players choke under pressure and tend to unravel when they are behind. It’s important stay there, using our mental strength to win. You reach this goal living the moment: “Even if you’re going through something in life, you can’t rush through it instantly. Take it one moment at a time. It’s the same on a tennis court. You have to take it one point at a time.” Live the here and now.

Forget the mistakes - “Another thing that makes me play poorly is if I’m thinking too much about my last match. I might have won it, but not happy with how I won it,” says Williams. “If you get really upset at mistakes, the best advice I’ve ever been given is to forget about it. You can’t rewind time, you can’t take back that mistake, but you can make it better and not do it in the future.”



Tennis: the mental approach to the match

One of the main reasons because so many young people who want to pursue a tennis career instead undergo continuous failures lies, in my opinion, in their excessive expectations and the desire to show off a brilliant style of play that they are not able to support. Federica Brignone, bronze medal  in the giant at these Winter Olympics, said that it’s needed “work and mental strength.” Unlike, be prisoners of the expectations and focused on brilliant play are exactly the opposite, because they distract the players from what has to be performed during each point.

Expectations - They are destructive. On one side is too trivial to remember that you want to win the match, because we assume that no one starts a match with the goal of losing it. This idea should remain in the background of one’s mind, if not out, since it does not help the young to be focused only on the next point. For the young tennis players, the first thing to learn is that there is just the next point to play and they must be prepared to play it according to the match momentum. Think beyond that point means to remove concentration and determination in the present and put it in the foreseeable future that cannot be controlled, because at the moment it does not exist.

The play - Many young people are focused on the play and when you ask them how many times they have achieved this strategy, they respond that only rarely they were able to follow it, even just for the duration of one set. In my opinion, they fail because they start from a wrong assumption. To show a play style is a point of arrival and not of departure, it will be achieved through a mental journey which they are not yet able to support. Furthermore, to think about the match is an abstract concept, they need to be focused on the specific actions that, instead, should make in trouble their opponents. So, really, the players think too much and in a global way and they are not oriented to how to perform the next step.

Roberta Vinci in the match won against Serena Williams, said her thinking about the game was: “Run and throw it in there.” What do these words mean?

Run - Put in evidence you need to be fast and this physical readiness starts from the mental readiness, which triggers the reaction. This behavior happens in receiving when you are on the front of your feet ready to shoot forward and in the continuous “hopping” showed by the  champions also during the warmup. Tennis requires to be fast and, typically, this is lost when we are losing, the speed slows down we get depressed and the mistakes grow up.

Throw it over there – It means to play a deep ball without running excessive risks, waiting for the opponent mistake or the right moment to close the point. This approach to the match highlights the personal toughness in pursuing the own goals, maintaining the control of the game. Otherwise the tennis players may tend to slow down too much the play rhythm or to speed up the game, looking for brilliant shots to quickly close the point.

Then the match is a continuous succession among these moments:

  1. be fast
  2. to hit the ball that
  3. must be deep and
  4. play with the opponent at least 4/5  shots to make the point, and
  5. use the breaks to relax and
  6. refocus on next point
  7. to be fast again …


The culture of mental toughness

The development of mental toughness has often been regarded as a strictly individual factor and we have few information to understand how the sport organizations show and build their culture of toughness and how this promotes the athletes’ toughness .

The article by Eubanks, Nesti e Littlewood (2017), A culturally informed approach to mental toughness development in high performance sport, IJSP, 48, 206-222, revived some new insights about this topic.

The purpose is to explore the importance of culture in the development of Mental Toughness (MT). This is done by means of a critical review of the current literature that exists in relation to the conceptualisation, definition and development of the concept. We argue that despite recent advances in our understanding, most research into MT has focused on the characteristics of mentally tough individuals. Although important and useful, the role of the environment, culture and context, and how these impact MT and its development has been given somewhat less attention and is perhaps not well integrated into practice.

The notion of Mental Toughness (MT) being broadly represented by “the ability to achieve personal goals in the face of pressure from a wide range of different stressors” (Hardy et al., 2014).

One of the criticisms frequently levelled at psychology as an academic discipline is that it often focuses on the individual, and forgets, or ignores the environment within which the individual exists.

Culture may be best seen as the hidden yet influential force, involving core values, beliefs, and traditions that operates as a type of soft power, which shape the working practices, ideas, strategies and philosophies of groups and individuals.

Weinberg et al. (2011) focused on the views of ten National Collegiate Athletic Association head coaches, who reported that a tough physical practice environment, a positive men-tal environment and an environment that provided mental toughness awareness and learning opportunities were fundamental to MT development.

The authors said that is clear that the optimum environments to build MT are those that are imbued with a challenging and stimulating culture, where personal responsibility is emphasised in all things.