BACKGROUND: In the quest to enhance rowing performance, coaches and athletes are seeking ways to gain a competitive edge. One potential catalyst that has emerged in this pursuit is the concept of mental toughness (MT). Despite its potential significance, the sport of rowing has remained notably underrepresented in MT research, predominantly relying on cross-sectional study designs. Collegiate rowing, a sport demanding both physical and mental prowess, employs the 2K time trial as a pivotal benchmark for evaluating rowers’ performance. Therefore, the purpose of this study was whether MT is a significant factor in explaining 2K rowing performance utilizing a repeated subjects’ design. METHODS: Drawing from an observational and hypothesis-generating framework, a total of 12 Division II female collegiate rowers participated in this study. They completed the Mental Toughness Index (MTI) on four occasions preceding their respective 2K time trials, integrated into their annual performance evaluation. Analysis employed a linear mixed model utilizing the GAMLj module in Jamovi version 2.4.8, with a significance level set at p < 0.05. MT was considered a fixed factor, while athlete, MT, and Athlete*MT interaction served as random factors to account for possible individual variations. RESULTS: Analysis revealed three mixed models in which MT was found to be significant and negatively related to 2K performance: Model #1, MT with Athlete Intercept: F1 = 7.58, p = 0.009, β = -0.93, 95%CI [-1.58, -0.27], p = 0.009; Model #2, MT with MT Intercept: F1 = 5.88, p = 0.019, β = -0.98, 95%CI [-1.77, -0.19], p = 0.019; and Model #3, MT with Athlete and MT Intercept: F1 = 5.34, p = 0.029, β = -0.81, 95%CI [-1.50, -0.12], p = 0.029. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, these models demonstrate the significance of MT in explaining rowing performance, whether considered independently, accounting for athlete-specific differences, or factoring in the baseline level of MT. Findings suggest the potential practical application of MT-oriented interventions within rowing. However, it is essential to acknowledge the study’s small sample size. Future investigations should explore larger participant cohorts and delve deeper into the impact of MT interventions on the dynamics of rowing performance.

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