Measuring Mental Toughness In Sport As Well As Mental Health
Mental toughness in sport is frequently spoken about but almost never measured. The Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Athletes and Players (MTQ-A) below resolves this oddity. It is a simple way for competitors to gain insight into the mental aspects of what they do. It will assess both the mental aspects of your sport (Mental Toughness) as well as overall mental health and wellbeing.
If you are not an athlete/player complete the Questionnaire that best describes your role from the options here instead.
The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete. Once submitted you’ll be contacted by one of team with a summary of your results within 24 hours.
This Mental Toughness Questionnaire is available to all athletes/players for free. ‘Insight’ is often the first step to ‘improvement’ regardless of if you seek professional assistance or not.
The Development of the Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Athletes
“I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition”Bill Gates
Okay, I’ll admit it – we’re a little jealous of professionals who assist athletes with the physical side of performance. Tests like the VO2 max for cardiovascular endurance. Stretch and reach tests to measure the flexibility of various regions of the body. Even the humble bathroom scales to find out body weight simply don’t have objective mental equivalents.
In fact, assessing mental toughness is so tricky that when we first started in 2005 we didn’t even attempt it. In those days we preferred to simply ask a series of questions at the start of the coaching journey.
If not bothering because it’s too hard is something we did frequently then we’d be in the wrong business. So over the years we have tried to improve how we assess the very areas we help our clients with.
It’s worth quickly explaining that there is no direct way to measure anything psychological. We can try to assess a number of areas via questions and/or observations. However, any results will act as a “guide” to one or more psychological variables.
Most Psychometrics Are Subjective
The exception to this would be a formal intelligence test (such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale). Although it would be easy to fake a poor score on the WAIS (by giving incorrect answers on purpose) it would not be possible to get a high score without actually possessing those mental abilities. This makes tests such as the WAIS more objective than most other psychometrics which relies on opinions. Unfortunately, in the work we do knowing how intelligent someone is just isn’t that useful.
With the luxury of time (rare) the reliability of the MTQ-A answers can be improved via additional observation. Observing athletes in real situations can be invaluable. Imagine how useful it is to watch a tennis player smash her racket during a match. And compare this with just a couple of questions about her emotions.
But just because the answers are opinions doesn’t render these tool useless by any means. It’s just we need to be mindfulness of their relative subjectivity when interpreting the results.
What Exactly Are We Trying To Measure?
This is a great question when either choosing, designing or reviewing any psychological assessment. At Condor Performance we have always believed that the main purpose of questionnaires is to save time. Instead of spending that first 30 minutes with the client finding out what makes them tick we already have some idea. This allows us to move onto ‘solutions’ much earlier in the process.
What we’re most eager to find out about before and during the journey fall into four general groups.
- Mental aspects of training
- Mental aspects of competing (if competing)
- General functioning / mental health and wellbeing
- Other important stuff like age, sport and long term goals
Why we measure mental aspects of performance and mental health separately is explained in this seperate post.
The open and closed questions about mental toughness then generate scores for the five areas of mental toughness – Motivation, Emotions, Thoughts, Unity and Focus. This provides the sport psychologist or performance psychologist with incredible insight into how to assist this performer. For example, the conversation and suggested solutions for an athlete who has high motivation but poor levels of focus are going to be very different compared with if those two areas were the other way around.
Screening for Mental Health Issues
Mental Health is also assessed (screened) due to the inclusion of The Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) at the end of our Mental Toughness Questionnaires. Due to the fact that 99% of our work is done 1-on-1 then we can work on both mental toughness and mental health at the same time without pretending they are the same thing!
I have to admit the name of our four questionnaires – all which start with the words Mental Toughness – have become misleading due to the fact that they measure more than just mental toughness now (they didn’t at the start – hence a bit like a nickname – it has stuck).