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County cricketers experience “rollercoaster” of mental health experiences – new study

County cricketers across England experience a “rollercoaster” of mental health emotions throughout their career, a new study has found.

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

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/124

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.