MTough Psychology Workshops for Talented Children

In addition to researching and developing the understanding of mental toughness, MTough members also share the groups knowledge with others. Recently, some MTough members have been busy working with talented children across the country.

Last month, psychology workshops were delivered to the British figure skating development squad, and gifted and talented primary school children from the Lincolnshire Inspire+ programme. The workshops focused on group dynamics and social support. Below is an outline of the workshops.

In small groups, the children completed the ‘interlocker challenge’ which involved assembling 18 strips of varying lengths of plastic to match the picture provided. The completed puzzle can be seen below. With only one order the pieces will fit together, it is definitely one of those ‘harder than it looks tasks’. At first it seems easy, however the joy of getting some pieces in place is soon followed by the frustration of a standstill requiring the order of the pieces to be reassessed, then the realisation of the difficultly sets in – this was our experience anyway.

The puzzle relies on a range of psychological variables, for example team work, leadership, concentration, and goal setting, to name a few. After an initial attempt the children reflected on their group’s processes and identified ways to improve. They then completed the puzzle again with the added pressure of racing against the other teams. This time, other psychological factors start to play a greater role such as mental toughness. Some will maintain focused and committed to their goal thriving on the pressure, whereas others may give up when other groups have made more progress or when part of the puzzle needs to be dismantled. Following the task the role of these psychological variables were applied to previous, and potential future, sporting situations.

Additionally, the session enabled the children to see that like each member in their group and each plastic strip in the puzzle contributing to the completion of the task, multiple factors contribute to their involvement in sport. To conclude the session the children made a relationships map, identifying people who facilitate their involvement in sport. Parents, coaches, physios, schools, and team mates were some examples. The children were reminded these people make participation in sport possible, and they need to appreciate and thank them for all the support they provide.

As always, both groups were a pleasure to work with and we look forward to working with them again in the near future.