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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Health and Human Development

First Advisor

Vernacchia, Ralph A., 1945-

Second Advisor

Martin, LeaAnn

Third Advisor

Hyman, Ira E.


Research on mental toughness has gained momentum in the past decade, yet there is still a need for exploration of the topic and definition, especially from a developmental perspective. This study explored the influence of mental toughness on the performance of elite intercollegiate athletes by considering the mental skills athletes used to achieve success in their sport; consideration was also paid to the developmental aspects of the athletes. This study utilized both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. In-depth interviews were conducted with 10 NCAA Division II All-American athletes using pre-determined questions related to the following content categories: developmental aspects, peak performance and flow, general performance characteristics, mental toughness, confidence, achievement motivation and passion for sport, coping with adversity, and performing effectively under pressure. Content analysis identified 418 raw data themes, from which 68 general themes were identified. Further content analysis resulted in 28 emergent themes which were grouped into the following umbrella categories: experiences, motivation, cognitive processes, success related mental skills, and mental toughness attributes. Several developmental aspects, mental skills, and mental toughness attributes were discovered as universal to all or the majority of the athletes who were interviewed. Based on the content analysis results, a definition for mental toughness is proposed. The athletes were also administered the Athletic Coping Skills Inventory - 28 as a quantitative measure of the mental skills used to achieve success in sport. The results obtained from this inventory were used in a descriptive manner. As a group, the athletes scored highest on the subscales of confidence and achievement motivation, coachability, and concentration. There was considerable variation between the athletes with regard to total scores obtained from the inventory.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

College athletes--Psychological aspects; College sports--Psychological aspects; Mind and body




masters theses




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