So having a working definition of mental toughness, and some insights into its genesis, how does mental toughness apply in cricket? In 2003 the E.C.B.’s Sport Psychology Support Team under the leadership of Stephen J. Bull set out to answer two questions;
1. To develop a deeper understanding of what mental toughness is within cricket.
2. To identify how existing mentally tough cricketers developed their mental toughness.
The research team asked 101 English cricket coaches to name the ten English cricketers they considered to be the mentally toughest of the previous twenty years. From the resultant list, a total of fifteen of the most mentally tough cricketers were selected for the research.
The methodology used was very similar to that of Jones et al featured in the previous piece. This was another qualitative study, using a mixture of one-on-one interviews and group brainstorming sessions.
I’ll spare you a detailed breakdown of their results, because if you need them you can download the paper for free – here.
What is important to us is the Mental Toughness framework, that they developed based upon their research, which you will notice bears close similarity to the results of Jones et al’s outcomes.
The framework develops five ‘General Dimensions’, twenty ‘Global Themes’ and four Structural categories.
Here is my reproduction of the framework
|Global Dimension||Global Theme||Structural Category|
|Development factors||Parental influence||Environmental influence|
|Childhood background||Environmental influence|
|Personal responsibility||Exposure to foreign cricket||Environmental influence|
|Competitiveness with self as well as with others||Tough character|
|Exploit learning opportunities||Tough attitudes|
|Belief in quality preparation||Tough attitudes|
|Self-set challenge targets||Tough attitudes|
|Dedication and commitment||Opportunities to survive early setbacks||Environmental influence|
|Needing to “earn” success||Environmental influence|
|“Never say die” mind-set||Tough attitudes|
|“Go the extra mile” mind-set||Tough attitudes|
|Determination to make the most of ability||Tough attitudes|
|Belief||Resilient confidence||Tough thinking|
|Belief in making the difference||Tough attitudes|
|Robust self-confidence – overcoming self-doubt/feeding off physical condition/maintain self-focus||Tough thinking|
|Coping with pressure||Thrive on competition||Tough attitudes|
|Willing to take risks||Tough attitudes|
|Thinking clearly – good decision making/keeping perspective/honest self-appraisal||Tough thinking|
‘The Mental Toughness Framework’ from Stephen J. Bull et al 2004
This framework is not in itself revolutionary, however it is unique in that it gives a cricket-specific explanation of the development of mental toughness, and it also gives us new insights into how those factors interrelate.
I will discuss the consequences of the framework in the next piece.
Towards an Understanding of Mental Toughness in Elite English Cricketers, Stephen J. Bull, Christopher J. Shambrook, Wil James, Jocelyne E. Brooks. Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, 17:209-227, 2005