A subculture of mental toughness in an Australian Football League club

Coulter, Tristan J., Mallett, Clifford J., & Singer, Jefferson A. (2016) A subculture of mental toughness in an Australian Football League club. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 22, pp. 98-113.

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The current study aimed to provide a subcultural analysis of mental toughness in a high-performance context in sport.


Using Schein's (1990) framework of organisational culture, an exploratory qualitative analysis, employing focus group and individual interviews, was used to investigate mental toughness in an Australian Football League club.


Nine senior coaches and players participated in focus group and individual interviews. Photo elicitation was used as a method to capture mental toughness through the identification of prominent club artefacts. Participants were considered to have significant subcultural knowledge of their football club and were willing to describe personal experiences and perceptions of mental toughness through this cultural lens. Deductive and inductive analyses were conducted to capture the core themes of mental toughness across the disparate levels of Schein's organisational framework.


Mental toughness was found to be a socially derived term marked by unrelenting standards and sacrificial displays. These acts were underpinned by subcultural values emphasising a desire for constant improvement, a team first ethos, relentless effort, and the maintenance of an infallible image. At its core, mental toughness was assumed to be an internal concept, epitomised an idealised form of masculinity, elitist values, and was rhetorically depicted through metaphors of war.


It may be difficult to understand mental toughness without giving attention to the contextual norms related to the term. Appreciating how people promote, instil, and internalise prized ideals coveted as mental toughness could be intriguing for future research in sport psychology.

Impact and interest:

6 citations in Scopus
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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 90932
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Organisational culture, Sport subculture, Cultural artefacts, Cultural values, Cultural assumptions, Sport behaviour
DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2015.06.007
ISSN: 1469-0292
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Elsevier Ltd.
Deposited On: 02 Dec 2015 00:20
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2015 02:15

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