Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance
Measuring Mental Toughness
By Gareth J. Mole (PSY0001372747)
“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, coaches and teams with the physical side of performance (to put it simply; strength, fitness and flexibility). Tests like the VO2 max for cardiovascular endurance, stretch and reach tests to measure the flexibility of various regions of the body and even the simple old bathroom scales used in order to find out body weight simply don’t have objective mental equivalents.
In fact, assessing mental toughness is so tricky that when Condor Performance first started offering sport and performance psychology services (back in 2005) we didn’t really attempt to measure anything with any real conviction – preferring to simply ask a series of questions at the start of the coaching journey.
But if not bothering with something because it was hard was something we did frequently then we’d be hypocrites – so over the years we have tried on an ongoing basis to improve how we measure mental toughness.
As the overwhelming majority of subscribers of the Mental Toughness Digest are actual athletes, coaches and sporting parents rather than fellow psychologists then 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 but at best the results to these will act as a “guide” to one or more psychological variables.
To begin any measurement process it is important to ensure you know what you’re trying to test and for us this starts with having a consistent way of breaking down mental toughness into smaller parts. As academics and applied colleagues of ours have argued passionately over the past decade about how to define mental toughness, at Condor Performance we have stuck to our guns and believe that this highly desirable area of performance excellence is made up of, according to our model, the following “Big Five” areas:
• Confidence (self belief, assuredness)
• Motivation (desire, passion)
• Concentration (attention, focus)
• Emotions (nerves / performance anxiety, stress, anger and many others)
• Communication (both with yourself and with others)
Most psychological assessments consist of either a self-assessment element or an observational element or even both. There is no doubt that if time permitted you’d want to incorporate both and at Condor Performance we certainly do plenty of ‘observing’ once the mental toughness training has begun. But before the process has started – and even before the client has decided to go ahead with one of our programs – we use self-assessment tools in order to get an idea of where the athlete, team, coach or non-sporting performer is in terms of The Big Five areas already mentioned.
For athletes we do this via the Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Athletes (MTQ-A) which, if answered honestly, will measure and produce scores for 13 different elements being The Big Five as they relate to practice and competition separately as well as an overall (non performance) mental health check via a depression, anxiety and stress score (one for each). Assessing practice and competition separately is a major benefit of the MTQ-A as it’s quite normal for an athlete to have, by way of example, a much lower confidence score for when they’re competing compared to when they’re practising.
These 13 scores are irreplaceably useful to our team of sport and performance psychologists when starting to work with someone and they allow us to move swiftly into ‘solution’ mode as the scores quickly suggest which mental methods are likely to have the greatest impact on that particular client. The 13 scores are also highly useful on an ongoing basis as the client can literally “see” their mental toughness improving before their eyes.
The MTQ-A takes about 10 – 15 minutes to complete and the results only get seen by one of our sport and performance psychologists and everyone that takes the time to complete it is provided with their summary of results without it costing them anything.
For coaches, we use the Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Coaches (MTQ-C) and although it contains similar elements to the MTQ-A, for coaches we’re more interested in looking at their mental coaching abilities and their own mental toughness separately. Yes, they are very different. A mentally tough coach doesn’t always make for a great mental coach to others and vice versa.
Finally, we have the Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Officials (MTQ-O) which is very close in nature to the MTQ-A but for referees, umpires etc and the Mental Toughness Questionnaire for Performers (MTQ-P) which is simply a non-sporting version of the MTQ-A.
So, we might never be able to compete with the physical side of performance when it comes to objective assessments but by filling in one of the 4 MTQs you’ll get a much better idea of ‘where you’re at mentally’ than virtually any other way you can think of. We looking forward to getting your completed MTQ soon.