Mental Toughness, Servant Leadership, and the Collegiate Distance Runner

Christopher Hammer, Eastern Washington University, USA

Theme: Elite performance

Poster Number: 100

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Mental toughness is commonly associated with successful performance in the realm of athletics. However, despite the prevalence of its usage, the concept remains somewhat ambiguous in its definition and practical application. Lacking a universally accepted definition, practitioners and athletes alike tend to regard a wide variety of desirable psychological qualities as “mental toughness,” creating a construct that is too broad to be of practical use. Fortunately, various psychological qualities (i.e. control, coping, consistency, confidence, etc.) are consistently reported across the literature serving to provide a more precise understanding of the concept. Regardless of the existence of conceptual discrepancies, mental toughness has been linked to achievement both anecdotally and in scientific research. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to determine the relationship between mental toughness and running performance amongst collegiate distance runners, a population that has yet to be the focus of a mental toughness study. Of additional interest was the concept of servant leadership and its association with athlete mental toughness. Participants (n = 334) were male and female track athletes representing 64 collegiate track teams spanning all divisions of the NCAA. Participants completed the Mental Toughness Questionnaire 48 (MTQ48; Clough et al, 2002), the Revised Servant Leadership Profile for Sport (RSLP-S; Hammermeister et al., 2008), and provided their current personal best track performance times. Participants were labeled as either “mentally tough” or “non-mentally tough” and “servant leader coached” or “non-servant leader coached,” depending on whether they scored above or below the mean on the MTQ48 and RSLP-S. Statistical analysis revealed significant differences between the mental toughness groups on reported personal best times, with the mentally tough group running faster. Significant differences were also found on the MTQ48 for the servant leader groups, with athletes that perceived their coaches to be servant leaders being more mentally tough.

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