Analysis of the Mental Skills Status of Volleyball and Field Hockey Players in National League Clubs in Kenya
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Mental skills as applied in sports are psychological profiles/attributes that athletes use to achieve excellent performance in sports. Mental and physical agility combine forces to enhance athletic performance. The purpose of the study was to assess the mental skills status of volleyball and field hockey players in national league clubs in Kenya. The study sought to determine the relationship between gender, type of sport, level of participation and mental skills status of the respondents. The study used a survey research design and targeted a total of 159 volleyball and 171 field hockey players using the Ottawa Mental skills Assessment Tool (OMSAT-3). The mental skills included foundation mental skills (that is goal-setting, self-confidence and commitment), psychomotor mental skills (that is fear control, relaxation control, activation control and stress reaction) and cognitive mental skills (that is focusing attention, refocusing attention, imagery ability, mental practice ability and competition planning). Simple random sampling was used to get a sample of 330 athletes; 207 (62.7%) males and 123 (37.3%) females playing in the Kenyan national leagues of volleyball and field hockey. Independent t-test and one way ANOVA were used to compare differences in the means of the variables. Significance was set at p<.05. Results indicated that there were more male volleyball and field hockey players than female players participating in the national league. A higher percentage of participants were aged between 19 and 21 years (33.3%) while the elite population of participants formed the largest sample of the study (45.2%). T-test results revealed that the mean differences between volleyball and hockey players were significant in foundation (t=7.85, df=2, p<.001) and psychomotor mental skills (t= -4.99, df=2, p<.001) and not significant in cognitive mental skills (t=-0.3.87, df=2, p=0.699). There was no significant difference between males and females in foundation and cognitive mental skills. However, there was significant differences between male and female players in psychomotor mental skills in relaxation control (t=-4.21, df=328, p<.001). Based on composite means, male and female players’ mental skills status was found to significantly differ (t=-4.4, df=328, p<.001) in favour of male athletes. Elite players had the highest mean score (3.43±.51) in all the twelve mental skills. However, there was no significant difference in the means between elite, pre-elite and non-elite volleyball and field hockey players (F=1.69, df=2, p<-0.19). Conclusions drawn on foundation, psychomotor and cognitive mental skills among Kenyan volleyball and field hockey players show that foundation mental skills are the basic skills that form the base for other mental skills and volleyball players had a better grounding than their field hockey counterparts. Secondly, mental skill status does not differ based on level of competition and exposure of volleyball and field hockey players in national league clubs in Kenya. This shows that Mental Skills Training (MST) is not prioritised in training. The study recommends that Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) and Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) should champion the recruitment and inclusion of more female teams in order to bridge the participation gap that currently exists. Attention could be given to expanding the league so that there are more non-elite and pre-elite players. The finding that foundation mental skills were the most developed can be used by KVF and KHU to prioritise equipping volleyball and field hockey players through offering MST that is geared towards enhancing goal setting, self-confidence and commitment. More studies comparing the mental skills of elite and non-elite athletes in different sports and the influence of gender on mental skills in varying sport disciplines are recommended.