The Loughborough University research project revealed that players experience extreme highs and lows in the sport, caused by a number of external factors.
Short-term contracts and job insecurity were cited as one contributing issue leading to potential negative mental health. It was also noted that the on-going transitional period – from joining an academy, to making the first team, to finally leaving the sport – could also have an impact.
Research showed that although The Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) provide adequate support and education, a stigma around mental health remains in the game, as in wider society.
To the contrary, factors associated with a career in professional cricket such as being part of a ‘family’, travelling the world, playing in different competitions, finals, and cultures, all, had a positive, stimulating and nourishing impact on participants' mental health.
This was further enhanced by players regularly featuring on live television and playing in front of large crowds.
Led by postgraduate student Dan Ogden and supported by Dr Jamie Barker (Lead Supervisor), Dr Janine Coates, and Dr Carolyn Plateau, the project focussed on current and former cricketers. Data was collected through one-to-one interviews with a mix of male batters and bowlers.
Participants were based nationwide and are at different stages of their respective careers, with an average of 14 years’ playing experience.
"Over the last decade cricket has led the sporting discussion around mental health, yet there has still been a lack of academic attention,” Dan explained.
“This study offers a detailed first look into mental health experiences in professional cricket and the full range of emotions player’s experience as well as highlighting the important role local organisations (counties) have in helping enhance and support cricketers’ mental health during their career.”
Dr Jamie Barker added:
“This is a really interesting and exciting project which starts to explore an important issue in professional cricket. While much of the media narrative is often about negative mental health experiences in cricket, our data really do demonstrate how cricket provides so many nourishing and energising opportunities for positive mental health.”
The researchers recommend further steps to protect player mental health. These include encouraging the development of healthy habits, such as having a strong support network away from cricket, and participating in meditation, yoga, and general exercise.
It was also stated that effective communication from coaches can improve player welfare. Investing the time into understanding individuals, clarifying their role within the team, and providing regular feedback, can all help harness positive mental health.
The full findings of the study will be presented at various sport conferences with potential for future research in the women’s game and other formats of cricket.
The latest review has been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and can be viewed by visiting: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10413200.2022.2040652