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Mental toughness, optimism, pessimism, and coping among athletes

Nicholls, Adam R.; Polman, Remco C.J.; Levy, Andrew R.; Backhouse, Susan H.


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Professor Adam Nicholls
Professor of Psychology/ Leader of the Sport Psychology and Coaching Group

Remco C.J. Polman

Andrew R. Levy

Susan H. Backhouse


The concept of mental toughness is widely used, but empirical evidence is required to fully understand this construct and its related variables. The purpose of this paper was to explore the relationship between: (a) mental toughness and coping, (b) mental toughness and optimism, and (c) coping and optimism. Participants were 677 athletes (male 454; female 223) aged between 15 and 58 years (M age = 22.66 years, SD = 7.20). Mental toughness correlated significantly with 8 of the 10 coping subscales and optimism. In particular, higher levels of mental toughness were associated with more problem or approach coping strategies (mental imagery, effort expenditure, thought control, and logical analysis) but less use of avoidance coping strategies (distancing, mental distraction, and resignation). Eight coping subscales were significantly correlated with optimism and pessimism. In conclusion, the relationships observed in this study emphasize the need for the inclusion of coping and optimism training in mental toughness interventions. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Nicholls, A. R., Polman, R. C., Levy, A. R., & Backhouse, S. H. (2008). Mental toughness, optimism, pessimism, and coping among athletes. Personality and individual differences, 44(5), 1182-1192.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 14, 2007
Online Publication Date Dec 21, 2007
Publication Date 2008-04
Print ISSN 0191-8869
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 5
Pages 1182-1192
Keywords Mental toughness; Coping; Optimism; Pessimism
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