Motivational correlates of mentally tough behaviours in tennis

Daniel F. Gucciardi*, Ben Jackson, Sheldon Hanton, Machar Reid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to examine motivational correlates of mentally tough behaviours among adolescent tennis players.

DESIGN: Two-phase study, involving the development of an informant-rated measure of mentally tough behaviours, followed by a cross-sectional survey including athlete and parent assessments of study variables.

METHODS: In Phase One, 17 adult, high-performance tennis coaches and 20 athletes participated in focus group interviews. Four scholars with expertise in performance psychology also completed a short, online survey. In Phase Two, a total of 347 adolescent tennis players (nmales=184; nfemales=163) aged 12-18 years (M=13.93, SD=1.47) and one respective parent took part in this study. An online multisection survey containing dimensions of passion, inspiration, fear of failure, and mentally tough behaviours was completed. Athletes self-reported all motivational variables, whereas parents rated their child solely on mentally tough behaviours.

RESULTS: Structural equation modelling revealed that harmonious passion (β=.26, p<.01) and frequency of inspiration (β=.32, p<.001) were associated with significantly higher levels of mentally tough behaviours. In contrast, fear of failure (β=-.32, p<.001) and obsessive passion (β=-.15, p<.01) were inversely related to mentally tough behaviours. Inspiration intensity was not significantly associated with mentally tough behaviour (β=.13, p=.21).

CONCLUSIONS: Motivational variables that are dispositional in nature, contextualised and contingent upon features of the environment, and concern one's identity are important considerations for understanding mentally tough behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-71
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • characteristic adaptations
  • identity
  • personality levels
  • traits


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