On the mental toughness of self-aware athletes: Evidence from competitive tennis players


  • Richard G. Cowden 1. Institute of Psychological Wellbeing, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa 2. Discipline of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa




self-reflection, self-insight, athletes, sport, South Africa


This study examined the relationship between mental toughness (MT) and self-awareness in a sample of 175 male and 158 female South African tennis athletes (mean age = 29.09 years, s.d. = 14.00). The participants completed the Sport Mental Toughness Questionnaire and the Self-Reflection and Insight Scale to assess MT (confidence, constancy, control) and self-awareness (self-reflection and self-insight) dimensions, respectively. Linear regression indicated that self-insight (β=0.49), but not self-reflection (β=0.02), predicted global MT. Multivariate regression analyses were significant for self-reflection (ηp²=0.11) and self-insight (ηp²=0.24). Self-reflection predicted confidence and constancy (ηp²=0.05 and 0.06, respectively), whereas self-insight predicted all three MT subcomponents (ηp²=0.12 to 0.14). The findings extend prior qualitative research evidence supporting the relevance of self-awareness to the MT of competitive tennis athletes, with self-reflection and insight forming prospective routes through which athletes’ MT may be developed.

  • Self-awareness attributes were predictive of higher levels of mental toughness among competitive tennis players.
  • Dimensions of self-awareness may offer routes for developing athletes’ mental toughness.


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How to Cite

Cowden, R. G. (2017). On the mental toughness of self-aware athletes: Evidence from competitive tennis players. South African Journal of Science, 113(1/2), 6. https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2017/20160112



Research Article