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UK Coaching Talent and Performance
Talent and Performance Developing Mindsets

Talking Talent: Developing Mental Toughness (Part 1)

Dr James Bell, national lead psychologist with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) shares his insight and experience of taking theory to practice through his work with international cricket and rugby union

UK Coaching was formerly known as Sports Coach UK. We changed our name after expanding our support as an organisation. We’re now taking it wider than traditional sports because great coaching goes much, much further.

Taken from a mental toughness conference in June 2016, Dr Bell:

  • controversially challenges the term mental toughness as a label with an accompanying stigma, preferring the term resilience instead. 
  • positions his approach to practice in the field of neuroscience and in particular, the theory of Reinforcement Sensitivity (Jeffrey Gray), that proposes three brain-behavioural systems that underlie individual differences in sensitivity to reward, punishment and motivation.
  • draws on rich stories and anecdotes to illustrate his approach, using a mental toughness intervention programme with England Cricket as a case study exemplar. 
  • highlights how he created fertile conditions for mental toughness through the use of behavioural consequences, along with how he and his colleagues went about developing the coping strategies needed to become mentally tough.
  • places particular emphasis upon developing mental toughness in a transformational way.
  • shares his practical insight as to what the mental toughness intervention actually looked like on the ground, in practice with athletes and staff. 

Related Learning

  • What is Talent?

  • A Head for Talent

  • Talent Across the Ages


Related Resources

  • Talking Talent: Developing Mental Toughness (Part 2)

  • Developing Young Players’ Mental Skills

  • Talking Talent: How to Identify and Develop Talent


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UK Coaching Talent and Performance