Does mental toughness affect esports performance? #PSYCHOLOGY


Poulus, D., Coulter, T. J., Trotter, M. G., & Polman, R. (2020). Stress and coping in esports and the influence of mental toughness. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 628.


This study explored stress and coping in electronic sports (esports) athletes and the influence of mental toughness (MT), as defined by two prominent conceptualizations: the 4/6Cs and Mental Toughness Index (MTI) frameworks. Participants were 316 esports athletes, ranked in the top 40% of one of five major esports: Defense of the Ancients 2, League of Legends (LoL), Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege. Participants completed the MTI, Mental Toughness Questionnaire 6 (MTQ6), Stress Appraisal Measure, and Brief COPE inventory. Results showed that MT (via both MT frameworks) was associated with perceived control, and MTQ6 subscales were associated with stress intensity. Mental toughness (both frameworks) was associated with the selection of more problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies and less avoidance coping strategies. The results indicate there is some overlap between the MT and stress-coping process in high-performing traditional sports and competitive esports athletes. These results suggest that esports athletes could benefit from sports psychology interventions designed for traditional sports athletes. Finally, the MTQ6 and MTI had low shared variance (20%), suggesting that the two questionnaires appear to measure different aspects of MT.

The Data

316 Esports Athletes representing 6 current Esports titles. All participants completed self report measures of stress appraisal, coping and mental toughness.


“The aim of the present study is to examine stress and coping in competitive esports athletes and explore how this regulatory process may be influenced by MT”

“The present study suggests that MT may influence the stress and coping process in esports athletes”

“Furthermore, MT was associated with how stress was perceived as being a challenge or threat (both inversely) and the selection of coping strategies”

“There is an overlap between the MT and stress-coping processes in traditional sports and esports athletes”

“Interventions to increase emotional control may help lower perceived stress intensity, potentially improving performance and quality of life”

Our Take on it

“Does mental toughness affect esports performance? Definitely! The authors do an excellent job at providing an in depth exploration of how much mental toughness affects performance. And whilst there is certainly evidence to suggest the higher the mental toughness, the better the performance, this study demonstrates that coping strategies play a big part in how this plays out. The study shows that higher performing players use problem focused coping strategies, while lower performing players tended to utilise avoidance coping strategies. The study also discovered that esports athletes with higher mental toughness had greater control over stressors in their environments, stemming from a higher belief in their own abilities, as well as greater emotional control.“ – Robert Houghton.

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