Ayrton Senna’s “mental toughness” was one of the major contributing factors for his success, says Unicamp researcher.

Ayrton Senna is considered by many scholars to be an innovative athlete in several aspects of the sport, such as physical preparation, competitive spirit, work ethic and numerous other factors that contributed to solidify his status as an idol. In a study on mental strength in the area of Sports Psychology, Sheila Molchansky, a psychologist researching the field, has just her completed her Masters at the Campinas University Physical Education College, where she translated and adapted the British questionnaire “Sport Mental Toughness” to Brazilian Portuguese.

In her thesis, Sheila lists 13 attributes from the original document that were present in Ayrton Senna’s career: Assertive attitude; positive attitude; competitiveness; commitment; confidence in oneself and in others (includes trusting in one’s own skills); attention control; emotion control; desire to win (achieving success); understanding of challenges as opportunities for growth; team spirit, emotional intelligence; and resilience (growing due to obstacles faced).

The questionnaire comprises 14 close-ended questions directed to athletes. They are designed to rate three different psychological traits in the competitor: confidence, consistency and control.

Sheila spoke to the University’s newspaper about the three-time world champion’s “mental toughness”: “Ayrton Senna is the clearest example, in Brazil, of a complete athlete, since he had a crucial psychological component, called ‘mental toughness’. Senna obviously had all these striking qualities, including the ability to face obstacles and failures, a strong sense of ethics and team spirit. He demanded better and better results of himself, showing a lot of dedication and focus but not at any cost. Maybe his strongest trait was his resilience, the psychological elasticity one needs to deal with pressures and setbacks without ‘losing’ oneself”, says Sheila Molchansky.

She works as a professional sports psychologist, giving guidance to athletes and staff from rugby and wheelchair fencing teams, among others.


Thesis: “Translation and transcultural of the Sports Mental Toughness Questionnaire to Brazilian Portuguese”

Author: Sheila Molchansky

Advisor: Edison Duarte

Department: Faculdade de Educação Física (FEF)