In the article Mental toughness and burnout in junior athletes: A longitudinal investigation, Daniel J. Madigan and Adam R. Nicholls explain their study, which attempted to explain the relationship between athlete burnout and mental toughness. The extremely high level of training required for optimal performance in competitive sport can leave athletes in a state of reduced well-being, reduced performance, and ultimately sport dropout. These are all negative outcomes that can occur when an athlete is feeling a reduced sense of accomplishment, physical and emotional exhaustion, and sports devaluation, which are the three symptoms that lead to athlete burnout. The second important aspect in this study is the idea of mental toughness, which is described as a personal characteristic that allows individuals to cope with internal and external stressors in order to consistently perform at a high level despite varying situational demands (Madigan & Nicholls, 2017).
The experiment was set up with a sample group of 102 athletes, 74 male and 28 female, between the ages of sixteen to twenty (Madigan & Nicholls, 2017). Participants were involved in a wide range of sports and trained on average 10.2 hours per week. The study conducted examined the relationship between mental toughness and burnout among junior athletes over a three-month period of active training. Experimenters hypothesized that there would be a negative association between mental toughness and burnout, and mental toughness levels will be able to be used to predict a decreases in athlete burnout over time. Mental toughness is thought to be extremely beneficial in the burnout process since it is both reactive and proactive, meaning mental toughness provides greater protection from stressors of varying intensity, duration, and frequency (Madigan & Nicholls, 2017).
To conduct the experiment, all participants received questionnaires that measured their mental toughness, The Mental Toughness Index, and burnout, The Athlete Burnout Questionnaire, at the beginning of the study (Madigan & Nicholls, 2017). Once the three-month interval passed, burnout was measured again and the results were examined, revealing that the findings of the study supported both hypotheses. The findings demonstrated that mental toughness showed a significant negative association with burnout, and mental toughness could be used to predict decrease in burnout over time. These findings add to the evidence that personal factors, such as mental toughness, are important for avoiding athlete burnout and provide protection from negative psychological health outcomes related to stress and anxiety (Madigan & Nicholls, 2017).
Once completing the experiment, limitations and possible corrections were determined in order to assist future research in this area. The first limitation discussed is that burnout was assessed at the beginning and end of the three-month period, but mental toughness was only measured at the beginning (Madigan & Nicholls, 2017). Another limitation mentioned is that the investigation lasted a very short period of time. Although the article states that three-months is a sufficient amount of time to study burnout in athletes, future studies should attempt to discover if the same positive effects continue throughout longer periods of time. During the experiment that was performed, the measurements of mental toughness and burnout were solely made based on the opinions of the participants through the questionnaires provided. However, it would be very beneficial if the measurements included different models of mental toughness and burnout, as well as include the examination of internal loads, such as heart rate, and external loads, such as distance covered, in order to determine not only the psychological effects but also the physical effects (Madigan & Nicholls, 2017).
Numerous people can use the information found throughout this study in the real world including athletes, coaches, and parents. Athletes would benefit greatly by learning about the concepts learned in this study since it would help them to understand why their performance is affected when they allow stress and anxiety to negatively affect their thoughts. This would teach athletes that mental toughness is a demanding and challenging skill to master, but will help to gain control over the emotional effects that arise while training and competing at a high performance level. One of the main aspects of mental toughness is exploring and discovering the coping mechanism that works best for each individual. Once a proper coping mechanism is found, and the athlete understands how to calm their nerves before an important competition, their overall performance will consistently be improving. This information would also be beneficial for coaches and parents to understand since they can be one of the biggest influences on young athletes. If a coach or a parent assists their athlete in learning coping skills, it will be much easier for the athlete to discover what works best for them since there is constant support surrounding them.