Sports Science PhD – Awarded Best in the UK from the British Psychological Society!
The School of Sport Health and Exercise Sciences (SSHES) has forged a highly effective relationship with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for in excess of a decade. In fact, when the ECB want assistance with talent development and psychology related matters, they call Bangor (despite the ECB’s high performance centre based on Loughborough University’s campus!). For example, ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, a team of researchers from SSHES helped to optimise, by individualising, mental preparations for the senior England team which eventually won the tournament in the most pressure filled manner possible (via their super over success) thanks to a certain Ben Stokes. Of course, cricket is not just about big hitting individual players, it is a team sport but until recently, we knew very little about the most important team factors for cricket teams’ success. Fortunately, for Leonie Webster this meant that the ECB funded a PhD examining team factors relevant in professional cricket; supervised by father-son duo, Dr James Hardy and Prof Lew Hardy.
During her time as a PhD researcher Leonie also carried out applied work with the women’s national development teams. This led to her being head hunted by the RFU to lead psychology support for their senior national team. The outstanding quality of the research and the ‘noise’ that is created meant that The British Psychological Society recently acknowledged Leonie’s ability to conduct cutting-edge research by awarding her Best PhD Thesis of 2019 at their national conference in Birmingham in December. Although her research required the unparalleled collection of data from all the county teams in both men’s and women’s cricket, making use of technical features such as abductive approaches and pattern recognition analysis, it was critical that the scientific findings be fed back to the ECB in a manner that was meaningful to coaches. Leonie’s findings have subsequently gone on to directly influence and enhance the training of professional coaches in the UK!
The Schools Director of Postgraduate studies said “ ..the School is really pleased to facilitate an award of this prestige and it helps to reflect quality of the both research and the research training that Leonie completed during her PhD. The fact that the PhD was funded externally by the England and Wales Cricket Board meant the research programme was focused on a particular need they had. For that reason Leonie’s PhD was conducting important real world research to bridge the gap between theory and practice to answer a particular performance related question that they (the ECB) held real interest in understanding. It is of no real surprise that this approach to research give rise to Leonie’s PhD thesis being ranked as the Best in the UK by the BPS”.
Leonie has not dwelled on the success of her PhD or the prestigious award. Instead she has continued down her academic career path and is currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Southampton investigating teamwork in the military.
Publication date: 30 January 2020