Characteristics of mental toughness in young basketball players of different age groups
More details
Hide details
Department of Physical and Social Education, Lithuanian Sports University, Kaunas, Lithuania
These authors had equal contribution to this work
Submission date: 2024-02-20
Acceptance date: 2024-05-12
Publication date: 2024-06-28
Corresponding author
Romualdas Malinauskas   

Lithuanian sports University
Hum Mov. 2024;25(2):128-139
Assessing the development of skills that ensure personal mental toughness in adolescence is important because adolescents’ increasing autonomy and socialisation during adolescence inevitably create the conditions for an increasing number of external stressors to emerge. Paradoxically, adolescents’ confidence in their ability to cope with external stressors decreases during adolescence, which may lead to poorer sports performance in adolescent athletes. This study aimed to determine and analyse mental toughness skills in the cadet and junior age groups of young basketball players. Another aim was to reveal how general (total) mental toughness and age predict each athletic mental toughness skill.

This study surveyed 378 young basketball players using a two-stage cluster sampling approach. The Mental Toughness Questionnaire 48 (MTQ48) was chosen to assess general mental toughness skills. The Performance Inventory-Alternative (PPI-A) was chosen to assess athletic mental toughness skills.

The study’s results revealed that players in the junior age group scored significantly higher on challenge (p < 0.001; d = –0.41), commitment (p < 0.001; d = –0.65), emotional control (p < 0.001; d = –0.76), life control (p = 0.02; d = –0.26), overall control (p < 0.001; d = –0.64), self-confidence in one’s abilities (p < 0.001; d = –0.73), self-confidence in interpersonal interactions (p < 0.001; d = –0.50), overall self-confidence (p < 0.001; d = –0.73), total mental toughness (MTQ-48) (p < 0.001; d = –0.78), determination (p < 0.001; d = –0.47) and visualisation (p < 0.001; d = –0.81). Significant correlations (r ranges from 0.12 to 0.37) were found between mental toughness skills and age groups for all scales mentioned above, except positive cognition and self-belief. Total mental toughness strongly predicted athletic mental toughness skills, but age did not predict determination and self-belief skills.

The findings of the present study suggest that promoting mental toughness can lead to improved athletic mental toughness indicators, emphasising its relevance for coaches, trainers, and sports psychologists in enhancing athletes’ development and performance.

Brewer BW (ed.). Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science. Sport Psychology. Chichester: Wiley and Sons; 2009.
Liew GC, Kuan G, Chin NS, Hashim HA. Mental toughness in sport. Ger J Exerc Sport Res. 2019;49:381–94; doi: 10.1007/s12662-019-00603-3.
Benítez-Sillero JdD, Martínez-Aranda LM, Sanz- Matesanz M, Domínguez-Escribano M. Determining factors of psychological performance and differences among age categories in youth football players. Sustainability. 2021;13(14):7713; doi: 10.3390/su13147713.
Powell AJ, Myers TD. Developing mental toughness: Lessons from paralympians. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1270; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01270.
Mira T, Costa AM, Jacinto M, Diz S, Monteiro D, Rodrigues F, Matos R, Antunes R. Well-being, resilience and social support of athletes with disabilities: a systematic review. Behav Sci. 2023;13(5):389; doi: 10.3390/bs13050389.
Kristjánsdóttir H, Erlingsdóttir AV, Sveinsson G, Saavedra JM. Psychological skills, mental toughness, and anxiety in elite handball players. Pers Individ Differ. 2018;134:125–30; doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2018.06.011.
Lin Y, Mutz J, Clough PJ, Papageorgiou KA. Mental toughness and individual differences in learning, educational and work performance, psychological well-being, and personality: a systematic review. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1345; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01345.
St Clair-Thompson H, Bugler M, Robinson J, Clough P, McGeown SP, Perry J. Mental toughness in education: exploring relationships with attainment, attendance, behaviour and peer relationships. Educ Psychol. 2015;35(7):886–907; doi: 10.1080/01443410.2014.895294.
Mahoney JW, Gucciardi DF, Ntoumanis N, Mallet CJ. Mental toughness in sport: motivational antecedents and associations with performance and psychological health. J Sport Exer Psychol. 2014;36(3):281–92; doi: 10.1123/jsep.2013-0260.
Murray RM, Dugdale JH, Habeeb CM, Arthur CA. Transformational parenting and coaching on mental toughness and physical performance in adolescent soccer players: the moderating effect of athlete age. Eur J Sport Sci. 2021;21(4):580–9; doi: 10.1080/17461391.2020.1765027.
Gordon S, Anthony DR, Gucciardi DF. A case study of strengths-based coaching of mental toughness in cricket. Int J Sport Psychol. 2017;48(3):223–45.
Bédard Thom C, Guay F, Trottier C. Mental toughness in sport: the goal-expectancy-self-control (GES) model. J Appl Sport Psychol. 2021;33(6):627–43; doi: 10.1080/10413200.2020.1808736.
Gucciardi DF. Mental toughness as a moderator of the intention–behaviour gap in the rehabilitation of knee pain. J Sci Med Sport. 2016;19(6):454–8; doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2015.06.010.
Stamatis A, Grandjean P, Morgan G, Padgett RN, Cowden R, Koutakis P. Developing and training mental toughness in sport: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies and pre-test and post-test experiments. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2020;6(1):e000747; doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000747.
Connaughton D, Thelwell R, Hanton S. Mental toughness development: issues, practical implications, and future directions. In: Gucciardi D, Gordon S (eds.) Mental Toughness in Sport. Developments in Theory and Research. Routledge; 2011, pp. 135–62.
Strycharczyk D, Clough P, Perry J. Developing Mental Toughness. Strategies to Improve Performance, Resilience and Wellbeing in Individuals and Organizations. Kogan Page; 2021.
Loehr JE. Mental toughness training for athletes. Achieving athletic excellence. New York: New American Library; 1991.
Loehr JE. The New Toughness Training for Sports. Mental, Emotional, and Physical Conditioning. Nueva York: Plume; 1995.
Golby J, Sheard M, van Wersch A. Evaluating the factor structure of the psychological performance inventory. Percept Mot Skills. 2007;105(1):309–25; doi: 10.2466/pms.105.1.309-325.
Gucciardi DF. Measuring mental toughness in sport: a psychometric examination of the Psychological Performance Inventory–A and its predecessor. J Pers Assess. 2012;94(4):393–403; doi: 10.1080/00223891.2012.660292.
Jones G, Hanton S, Connaughton D. What is this thing called mental toughness? An investigation of elite sport performers. J Appl Sport Psychol. 2002;14(3):205–18; doi: 10.1080/10413200290103509.
Clough P, Earle K, Sewell D. Mental toughness: the concept and its measurement. In: Cockerill I (ed.) Solutions in Sport Psychology. London: Thomson; 2002; pp. 32–43.
Gucciardi DF. Mental toughness: progress and prospects. Curr Opin Psychol. 2017;16:17–23; doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.03.010.
Tenenbaum G, Eklund RC (eds.). Handbook of Sport Psychology. Hoboken: Wiley and Sons; 2020.
Kobasa SC. Stressful life events, personality, and health: an inquiry into hardiness. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1979;37(1):1–11; doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.37.1.1.
Luthar SS, Sawyer JA, Brown PJ. Conceptual issues in studies of resilience: past, present, and future research. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006;1094:105–15; doi: 10.1196/annals.1376.009.
Clough P, Marchant D, Earle K. The MTQ48 handbook. AQR; 2007. Available from: https://research. edgehill.ac.uk/en/publications/the-mtq48-handbook- 2 (accessed November 28, 2023).
Clough PJ, Perry JL, Strycharczyk D, Rowlands C. The Mental Toughness Questionnaire 48 (MTQ48) technical manual. AQR International, UK; 2015. Available uploads/2018/02/i2KDVs89QCT bXMjhOeSQ_ The-MTQ48-Technical-Manual.pdf (accessed November 12, 2023).
Geikie TL. The relationship between young athletes’ imagery use and mental toughness. Doctoral dissertation. Windsor: University of Windsor; 2016.
Perry JL, Strycharczyk D, Dagnall N, Denovan A, Papageorgiou KA, Clough PJ. Dimensionality of the mental toughness questionnaire (MTQ48). Front Psychol. 2021;12:654836; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.654836.
Farnsworth JL, Marshal A, Myers NL. Mental toughness measures: a systematic review of measurement properties for practitioners. J Appl Sport Psychol. 2022;34(3):479–94; doi: 10.1080/10413 200.2020.1866710.
Behnke M, Tomczak M, Kaczmarek LD, Komar M, Gracz J. The sport mental training questionnaire: development and validation. Curr Psychol. 2019;38:504–16; doi: 10.1007/s12144-017-9629-1.
Stamatis A, Morgan GB, Cowden RG, Koutakis P. Conceptualizing, measuring, and training mental toughness in sport: perspectives of master strength and conditioning coaches. J Study Sports Athletes Educ (JSSAE). 2023;17(1):1–28; doi: 10.1080/19357397.2021.1989278.
Brace AW, George K, Lovell GP. Mental toughness and self-efficacy of elite ultra-marathon runners. PLOS ONE. 2020;15(11):e0241284; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0241284.
Connaughton D, Wadey R, Hanton S, Jones G. The development and maintenance of mental toughness: perceptions of elite performers. J SportsSci. 2008;26(1):83–95; doi: 10.1080/02640410701310958.
Crust L, Azadi K. Mental toughness and athletes’ use of psychological strategies. Eur J Sport Sci. 2010;10(1):43–51; doi: 10.1080/17461390903049972.
Crust L, Clough PJ. Relationship between mental toughness and physical endurance. Percept Mot Skills. 2005;100(1):192–4; doi: 10.2466/pms.100.1.192194.
Dereceli Ç. An examination of concentration and mental toughness in professional basketball players. J Educ Train Stud. 2019;7(1):17–22; doi: 10.11114/jets.v7i1.3841.
Wheatley C, Batey M, Denovan A, Dagnall N. Mental toughness in the Football Association Women’s Super League: relationships with playing experience, perceptions of club infrastructure, support mechanisms and self-esteem. PLOS ONE. 2023;18(5):e0285594; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone. 0285594.
Frydenberg E, Lewis R. Boys play sport and girls turn to others: age, gender and ethnicity as determinants of coping. J Adolesc. 1993;16(3):253–66; doi: 10.1006/jado.1993.1024.
Gerber M, Kalak N, Lemola S, Clough PJ, Perry JL, Pühse U, Elliot C, Holsboer-Trachsler E, Brand S. Are adolescents with high mental toughness levels more resilient against stress? Stress Health. 2013;29(2):164–71; doi: 10.1002/smi.2447.
Gameiro N, Rodrigues F, Antunes R, Matos R, Amaro N, Jacinto M, Monteiro D. Mental toughness and resilience in trail runner’s performance. Percept Mot Skills. 2023;130(3):1202–20; doi: 10.1177/0031512523116581.
Gucciardi DF, Jones MI. Beyond optimal performance: mental toughness profiles and developmental success in adolescent cricketers. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2012;34(1):16–36; doi: 10.1123/ jsep.34.1.16.
Gucciardi DF. Mental toughness profiles and their relations with achievement goals and sport motivation in adolescent Australian footballers. J Sports Sci. 2010;28(6):615–25; doi: 10.1080/02640410903582792.
Mousavi SM, Abedanzadeh R, Darvishi V. The relationship between talent development environment and mental toughness among adolescent football players. J Sport Psychol. 2023;15(1):48–31; doi: 10.48308/MBSP.2021.220602.1007.
Kristjánsdóttir H, Jóhannsdóttir KR, Pic M, Saavedra JM. Psychological characteristics in women football players: skills, mental toughness, and anxiety. Scand J Psychol. 2019;60(6):609–15; doi: 10.1111/sjop.12571.
Nicholls AR, Polman RC J, Levy AR, Backhouse SH. Mental toughness in sport: achievement level, gender, age, experience, and sport type differences. Pers Individ Differ. 2009;47(1):73–5; doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.02.006.
McManama O’Brien KH, Rowan M, Willoughby K, Griffith K, Christino MA. Psychological resilience in young female athletes. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(16):8668; doi: 10.3390/ ijerph18168668.
Sural V, Güler H, Çar B. Examination of mental training and mental toughness in elite boxers. Pak J Med Health Sci. 2021;15(6):1647–53; doi: 10.53350/pjmhs211561647.
Inceoglu Ayaz E, Ilgar Y. The investigation of the relationship between mental toughness and cope with sporting problems in team and individual sports. J Sport Rec Res. 2023;5(1):1–12; doi: 10.52272/srad.1259854.
Konter E, Gledhill A, Kueh YC, Kuan G. Understanding the relationship between sport courage and female soccer performance variables. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(8):4654; doi: 10.3390/ijerph19084654.
Crust L, Earle K, Perry J, Earle F, Clough A, Clough PJ. Mental toughness in higher education: Relationships with achievement and progression in first-year university sports students. Pers Individ Differ. 2014;69:87–91; doi: 10.1016/j.paid. 2014.05.016.
Gucciardi DF, Gordon S, Dimmock JA. Development and preliminary validation of a mental toughness inventory for Australian football. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2009;10(1):201–209; doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2008.07.011.
Cowden RG. Mental toughness, emotional intelligence, and coping effectiveness: an analysis of construct interrelatedness among high-performing adolescent male athletes. Percept Mot Skills. 2016;123(3):737–53; doi: 10.1177/00315125166 66027.
Cohen L, Manion L, Morrison K. Research methods in education. 8th ed. New York: Routledge; 2018, pp. 334–336.
Pocius E, Malinauskas R. Determining positive behavioral skills in different age groups of young basketball players during the pandemic. Children. 2023;10(6):914; doi: 10.3390/children10060914.
Malinauskas RK, Balciunas P. Peculiarities of mental toughness among cadet and junior basketball players [in Russian]. In: XI Proceedings of the International Scientific and Practical Conference “Educational environment today: development strategy”. Cheboksary; 2020:100–102; doi: 10.21661/r-530497.
Pocius E, Malinauskas R. Examining the level of mental toughness skills in young athletes. In: Proceedings of the AHI EVRAN III-International Congress on Scientific Research. Baku; 2023;1: 408–413.
Hannibalsson KÁ. Psychological skills, mental toughness, anxiety and performance in young basketball players. Doctoral dissertation. Reykjavík: Reykjavík University; 2018.
Csáki I, Szakály Z, Fózer-Selmec B, Kiss SZ, Bognár J. Psychological and anthropometric characteristics of a Hungarian elite football academy’s players. Phys Cult Sport Stud Res. 2017;73:15–26; doi: 10.1515/pcssr-2017-0002.
Guillen F, Santana J. Exploring mental toughness in soccer players of different levels of performance. Rev Iberoam Psicol Ejerc Deporte. 2018;13(2):297–303.
Toros T, Ogras EB, Okan İ, Temel C, Keskin MT, Korkmaz C, Uluoz E. Investigation the relationship between mental toughness and courage levels of sports sciences faculty students for sustainable performance. Sustainability. 2023;15(12):9406; doi: 10.3390/su15129406.
Meggs J, Ditzfeld C, Golby J. Self-concept organisation and mental toughness in sport. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(2):101–9; doi: 10.1080/02640414.2013.812230.
Beckford TS, Poudevigne M, Irving RR , Golden KD. Mental toughness and coping skills in male sprinters. J Hum Sport Exerc. 2016;11(3):338–47; doi: 10.14198/jhse.2016.113.01.
Journals System - logo
Scroll to top