Research findings have supported a relationship between psychological characteristics and optimal performance states, indicating that elite and successful sports participants are more motivated, committed, self-confident, focused and able to peak under pressure compared to non-elite and less successful participants. The reason for this is that a human being’s biomechanical and physiological harmonisation of movement is mediated by various aspects of psychological involvement. The psychological components of physical-skills execution in sport can be enhanced by the corrective application of mental-skills training. Personalised mental-skills training enables participants to understand their cognitions in order to allow a degree of flow in the coordination and execution of task-related skills through the various mood states of participation. A participant’s ability to control the mental and emotional aspects associated with competition not only facilitates task performance but also serves as a psychological keystone of self-belief and wellbeing. Sports psychology has recently directed its focus to identifying psychological skills relevant to different types of individual and team sports for the purpose of providing on-the-field psychological support. Investigations in South Africa, addressing the psychological constructs conducive to performance in cricket are limited, at both the professional and the amateur levels of competition. At this stage, there are no documented findings available in which the relationship between mental skills and skilled performance in cricket is addressed. Therefore, research questions for this study are formulated as: <ul><li> “Are there significant differences in the psychological background information on cricket players from different levels of cricket competition?” </li><li> “Is there a significant relationship between mental skills and the level of cricket player participation?” </li><li> “Is there a significant relationship between mental skills and the specialised roles played in cricket?” </li><li> “Is there is a significant relationship between mental skills and batting order in cricket?” </li></ul> The study was approached from a quantitative (descriptive) perspective since it was the perceptions and mental skills relative to cricket players’ levels of participation that were assessed. A questionnaire assessing the general perspectives on psychology of respondents, and three other standardised psychometric measures (Competitive Anxiety Inventory-2 [Martens et al., 1990]; The Athletic Coping Skills Inventory-28 [Smith et al., 1995], and Bull’s Mental Skills Questionnaire [Bull et al., 1996]) with Cronbach’s alpha coefficient ranging between 0.79 and 0.90, were used as research instruments. These Likert-type scale questionnaires were administered to 127 cricket players (30.7% Junior Academy; 53.6% Premier League/Senior Academy and 15.7% Senior Provincial players) to explore their general psychological background information and the mental skills differences between three progressive levels of cricket participation established and recognised by the Northerns Cricket Union (NCU) in the Pretoria Gauteng region of South Africa. Other aims were to investigate the relationship between mental skills and the different tasks (e.g. batting, bowling, wicket keeping) performed in cricket and as well as to investigate the relationship between mental skills and batting order. Overall results obtained from the respondents’ general psychological background information revealed that cricket players, regardless of level of participation, have insufficient exposure to, training in and knowledge of the psychological aspects associated with cricket performance. It is evident from the results that cricket players spent limited time on psychological-skills training and that they exercise only the physiological and skills-related aspects of the game. One-way analysis of variance (one-way Anova) indicated that there were no statistically significant differences between the three levels of participating respondents in terms of their performance in the various mental-skills and coping-skills subscales. Analysis of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 subscales indicated no statistically significant differences in the cognitive and somatic anxiety scores between the three levels of participation. However, a statistically significant difference was found in terms of self-confidence in the senior provincial players whose scores were higher on this construct than those of the other two levels of cricket participants. A comparison of the performance of the various specialised roles in cricket on the mental skills questionnaire indicated that the all-rounders had significantly higher imagery ability and motivation scores than batsmen and bowlers. The various specialised roles showed a very similar outcome on the cognitive, somatic and state self-confidence levels. A significant difference in batting order was revealed in top-order batsmen scoring the highest on motivation and lower-order batsmen scoring the highest on coachability. No other mental-skills difference existed between the different groups of batting order. The conclusion was that, in essence, there are no mental-skills differences between cricket players from various levels of participation in the one-day cricket format. A definite psychological-skills profile did come to the fore, indicating that successful cricket participants, regardless of what level of competition they compete in, express high proficiencies in motivation, self-confidence, coachability, imagery ability, concentration ability and peaking under pressure. The study concludes with recommendations for expanding knowledge on the direction and intensity of mental skills in contributing to cricket performance. A more holistic view on the psychological differences between successful and less successful cricket participants at the same level of participation is recommended as well as a comparison between the mental skills of one-day and multiple-day cricket players. Sports psychologists and cricket coaches are also encouraged to collate their experience and expertise in developing and implementing individualised psychological-skills-training (PST) programmes to satisfy the players’ psychological needs when dealing with the performance demands of the game. Implications for further investigations are listed since there were several aspects that did not fall within the aims of this investigation.
Dissertation (Master of Arts)--University of Pretoria, 2013.