Research Output
A qualitative exploration of the South African cricket development environment
  It may be argued that there are fewer sporting environments where politics and sport are so intertwined, however having undergone significant socio-political changes and development, South Africa (SA) remains a strong sporting nation with a rich and complex sporting history. After 28 years of sporting isolation, following SA’s re-entry to international competition in 1992, the country has since competed at international level and immediately reasserted itself as one of the top cricketing nations in the world. With very little non-politicised literature on the subject, the question of what SA’s talent development environment looks like in order to produce internationally competitive teams, after 28 years of isolation, remains relatively un-reviewed. In light of this, the SA cricket development environment offers a unique opportunity to explore one of SA’s oldest and most established sports.

The focus of this thesis will provide a pragmatic and holistic picture of the South African cricket development environment across four features, Organisational Culture, Structural Change, Coach Development and Coach-Administrator Relationships. Consequently, the aims of this thesis are fourfold:
1. To explore the use of an existing organisational framework, the Cultural Web, from the domain of organisational culture management to investigate organisational culture within SA cricket development environment.
2. To gather an understanding of the development pathway of SA cricketers and investigate if the changes made to the provincial structure in 2004 have impacted on the pre-2004 development trajectory of a SA cricketer.
3. To explore the learning and development environment of SA cricket coaches and their career progression.
4. To explore and illuminate the operational relationship between the coach and the administration within the context of SA cricket.

The four aims are addressed through the work presented in chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7. Addressing aim 1 and 2 involves the purposeful and representative selection of 12 extraordinarily experienced players, coaches and administrators with a unique and rich declarative knowledge of the SA cricket environment. Data analysis for aim 1 incorporates both deductive and inductive content analysis, presenting not only the usefulness of the Cultural Web as an effective framework to investigate organisational culture in sports organisations, but also findings unique to the SA cricket development environment.

Practical findings emerged, such as the effects of a hierarchical decision-making and a questionable board-related electoral system, together with the significance of subcultures highlighting the need for coherent functioning in order to produce elite performers. Due to significant socio-political changes, a cultural shift may be required in both national and professional cricket culture to realign to the new norms and values of SA society. Theoretically, findings highlighted the use of the Cultural Web as a credible tool for analysing sporting organisational culture. Findings also place emphasis on the benefits of utilising both the materialistic and ideational artifacts of the Cultural Web by confirming the interdependence between culture, organisational structures, power and control, while at the same time highlighting the interrelated nature of the materialistic and ideational artifacts.

The data addressing aim 2 was analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Emergent themes have highlighted the effects of structural change on the SA cricket development pathway, such as, a.) The reduction in opportunities at the top level of domestic cricket and, b.) The loss of competitive standard of club and affiliate cricket leading to a reduction in available pathway options. The possible practical consequences of these effects that may, in the long-term, not only reduce the participation base and narrow the performance pathway, but also impact on the overall health of SA domestic and international game. Findings also reinforce the theoretical models that acknowledge sports development as an individual and non-linear process and confirm cricket as a late developing sport, thus signifying the importance of those development environments between mass participation and elite performance (school/club/university) to retain structure, competition and exhibit the greatest flexibility and coherency.

Addressing aims 3 and 4 involved the purposeful selection of a representative sample (school, club, university, provincial, franchise) of 13 coaches with significant declarative knowledge underpinned by numerous, unique and multi-layered coaching experiences gathered across the SA cricket development environment. In retrieving this distinct and in-depth perspective, the data analysis for both aims 3 and 4 underwent inductive thematic analysis. Three higher-order themes emerged, 1.) Experience and development and knowledge, 2.) Disparities across operational levels, 3.) Barriers of the coach development pathway. In short, findings confirm that coaches learn through a combination of experiential learning, formal learning, and learning through mechanisms such as mentoring, while at the same time view coach education as a useful and worthwhile activity. The operational level of the coach (club, school, university and provincial) was an important factor in influencing the level of operational control and power, while increased levels of complexity was perceived at these development coaching levels due to lack of support and understanding. In addition, a lack of opportunities to progress to the elite domestic level (franchise) has reduced, by becoming narrow and defined due to the structural change made to the provincial pathway in 2004. Practically, it may be useful for SA cricket to focus on both providing more support to those coaching at the development stage and also engage those experienced coaches working out with the provincial development pathway.

Data analysed in relation to aim 4 revealed four higher-order and nine lower-order themes. A dominant factor emerged impacting on the coaches linked to certain administrators lacking a general understanding of the game of cricket. This factor impacted on the coach’s environment in a number of ways. 1.) The development of a cricketer and the significance of coach’s role in this process, 2.) Incorrect and biased decision-making, 3.) Detrimental to coach evaluation, 4.) Incorrect allocation of resources. Similar points were raised in chapter 4 relating to positions of control and power residing with certain individuals who were not well informed about the environment over which they reside, leading to a misalignment between understanding and subsequent decision-making. Findings highlight a need for SA cricket to develop proactive administrators who provide a consistent message to development and performance and are supportive of the coach, through developing relationships and promoting open communication.

Future recommendations for other contexts include, 1.) Utilising both materialistic and ideational artifacts, through frameworks such as the Cultural Web framework, to further investigations into organisational culture in sports organisations. 2.) To develop a broader and fundamental understanding of a sports talent development environment and the interaction of elements within the pathway, before automatically adopting cross-cultural policy and strategies. 3.) Not accepting a linear and one-dimensional view of coach development, by broadening future investigations of the complex negotiations and contexts impacting on both learning, development and career trajectory of coaches, specifically for those coaches operating at the developmental end of the spectrum. 4.) Begin a
multidiscipline approach to developing and supporting greater understanding and decision-making between sports organisational level leaders and coaches.

In remaining true to its pragmatic focus of generating practical and meaningful knowledge (Giacobbi et al., 2005; Savage et al. 2017) for the benefit of SA cricket, an integrated overview of the considerations and implications across 3 areas, the player pathway, the coach development and governance and administration is provided.

Analysis of the player pathway revealed a significant focus on mass participation with a strong influence of the school structure and age-related provincial cricket as a pathway to provincial and franchise level cricket. Adoption of the franchise structure in 2004 is perceived to have reduced the playing base and narrowed the performance pathway, highlighting a number of sensitive areas of drop-out occurring before and after the club/university/provincial environments. Considering this, it is important for SA cricket to focus attention on maintaining the overall competitive strength of the school, club, tertiary and provincial environments by concentrating on the coherency across these elements. In so doing, influencing more experienced players to remain in the game for longer, reducing the pressure to select players select early, while at the same time impacting positively on the learning environments for young players. This was through positive player role modeling and expectation management for developing players to observe the behaviours required to progress. Structurally, by increasing and maintaining the overall competiveness of the club, university and provincial environments will enable more routes to become recognised as viable development pathways and therefore genuine selection environments.

Practical implications relating to coach development highlighted factors crucial for SA cricket coach education programs to consider when providing the most conducive environment for coaches to learn and develop, especially for those at the beginning of their coaching careers, operating in the age-related players pathways or amateur environments or may not have developed the experiences from a past playing or teaching career.

With regards to coach career progression certain factors, such as the experience of the coach and whether they operated within or out with the provincial pathway were perceived to impact negatively on progression, leading to some experienced coaches operating outside the provincial development pathway system being dislocated from those who were operating inside the provincial development pathway.

It would be beneficial for SA cricket to review any current engagement and learning and development support of those coaches operating at the school, club, university levels across the following areas; 1.) To consider widening the Level 4 invitation for coach education opportunities to include these coaches operating outside the provincial pathway. 2.) Actively engage and support those coaches operating outside the system. Effective utilization of these experienced coaches will broaden the efficiency and coherency across development structures and assist in developing and maintaining the competitiveness of these levels. Consideration must also be given to establishing a coaches association to protect the interests of coaches in the same way the players association protects the interests of the players in order to encourage all the best coaches to aspire to the work in the top coaching positions.

Due to the perceived influence of the administrator, certain factors were highlighted as significant in impacting negatively on the development environment, such as a hierarchical decision-making and a questionable electoral system and the independent nature of the provincial structure. SA cricket may wish to consider a number of factors, such as 1.) Reviewing the provincial board and franchise-level electoral system, ensuring the selection of appropriate individuals and, 2.) Review the resource and funding criteria to franchises and provinces and for this to be based on an equitable set of criteria that may be contextualised to that region.

It is also important for SA cricket to ensure a conducive working relationship between coaches and administrators by building a culture of mutual trust and respect. Part of this process would include educating administrators to be more proactive than reactive and develop a relationship through open communication. This may promote administrators to provide a consistent message of support with regards to development and performance outcomes and to be more supportive of the coach’s philosophy and vision.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 June 2017

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    GV Recreation Leisure

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    796 Athletic & outdoor sports & games

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


English, C. V. A qualitative exploration of the South African cricket development environment. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



Sports, SA, organisational culture, structural change, coach development, coach administrator relationships.

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