8 Lessons From My Worst Game Ever

20th October 2023
Read time: 5 mins 5 secs

July 16, 2013, was the day of one of the most embarrassing moments of my career. My t20 debut – live on Sky Sports.

I was in great shape. Great form. A little nervous, but ready.

Before the game, I went through all of my normal routines: getting the body ready, warming up my skills, assessing conditions, and going over game plans. I knew what I needed to do.

I knew I was going to bowl the first over of the game, against a player that I’d played against many times. I had not only one plan, but two for him. As he was an aggressive player, if he was to get away with a few good shots, I was going to go straight to my new slower ball.

I felt good. My family was going to be watching as well. A blend of nerves, pride, and excitement.

3 days prior, I had met up with our Sport Psychologist, David. I’d not been to see him during his time at the club, but I felt with this big occasion coming up I would see if he had any words that might help tame the butterflies.

“I’m worried about nerves Dave, what would you recommend?”

“Accept that you’re going to be nervous”

Solid advice I thought. At the time, I hadn’t heard something like that.

Therefore, my goal was to not fight nerves but accept that they were going to happen. And then move forward.

Because we often want to try and rid ourselves of nerves, we sweep them away. But reality is that the harder we do that, the more we feed them.

This is where mindfulness plays a large role: learning to build a better relationship with anxiety and its impact on us in the moment. Learning to understand all of that and trying to control as much as you can.

Back to the game.

The moment eventually arrived, and I was standing at the top of my run. Only this time, something was different.

While I was preparing, a coach said something to me, which totally threw me off track. It massively distracted me from my original game plan, and a huge wave of doubt crashed in, bringing with it huge nerves.

Nerves took the front seat. There was no amount of acceptance that I could muster to build a better relationship with these tyrants.

My game plans became blurrier. I tried to show a strong front, but inside I was so unsure.

So I reverted to something I only knew I could do.

“Bowl as hard as you can” I remember thinking to myself.

So I did. The first ball was down the leg side. Pretty standard for a left armer that swings it. Missed my line. That’s ok.

The next ball I readjusted and was hit for 4 runs.

And there is where it began. It all went downhill from there.

What happened next is only a blur that I can tell you about by watching the footage again.

The whole over went for 26 runs.

I was devastated. I took my cap off the umpire and didn’t bowl again in the game.

I was totally crushed. I tried not to show it, I’m pretty sure it was obvious.

I was disappointed I didn’t meet my own expectations, others expectations, the feeling of shame, guilt, inadequacy was very real.

Not only because of what had happened, but because of how I dealt with it.

But now, 10 years after that moment, while I would have loved that day to have gone differently, I was able to find lessons that the experience taught me both then and now.

1. Remember, even the best have bad days.

This came from one of my team mates straight after the game. He came up to me, seeing that I was low, and told me “Honestly mate, I know it hurts right now. But some of the best bowlers in the world right now have had worse happen to them.”

And he was right, all of the best athletes had bad days, you can’t expect every performance to be a brilliant performance.

2. Learn to accept anxiety.

The early advice from my psychologist (to accept my nerves) was good advice. The only thing was that I didn’t have the the experience to know how to deal with it.

Learning to accept anxiety, it’s there to ready you, build a better relationship with it by being curious of it and perform alongside it.

Put yourself in uncomfortable situations (in training or in the day-to-day), reflect on how you manage anxiety, and learn to use mental skills.

3. Take a breath.

At the time, I wish I had just stopped to take a breath. Reset and take stock.

But I was on autopilot just to try and get it all done.

By taking a breath, I would have been able to control the physical response that was going on. Remember my game plans and try to execute them.

Take a breath.

4. Other people’s expectations aren’t in your control.

Some of what derailed me were expectations from other people. That left me distracted from what I was trying to achieve (executing my process).

Recognising that expectations of others aren’t in your control, so by giving energy to them you take away energy that you could be giving to your process & performance.

5. Prepare for the worst.

Good players and teams prepare to achieve victory and success.

Great players and teams prepare for what they will do when things don’t go their way, when they go down in a match and planning on how they will respond.

Whether it’s negative visualisation or setting out a strategy for when things don’t go your way, you prepare for how you want to respond to what could happen.

A powerful line to consider is:

When ______________ happens, I will do ______________

6. The worst thing to happen is never that bad.

While everything that happened to me could have been worse.

I thought at the time that it was the end of the world.

However, as with anything, time and distance from the experience make you realise that no one really does think about it as much as you do. People go about their own lives and problems very quickly.

7. Use self-deprecating humour.

One of the best things I did after the game was tweet, “Welcome to t20 Hatch!!”

I wanted to make light of the situation.

So often, self-deprecating humour can help change the tone.

By taking the piss out of yourself, it takes the sting out of the situation and we take things a little less seriously. After all, it’s only one game.

8. How you respond matters.

My response after this game was what I knew mattered most.

I went back to training and practiced my skills and game plans.

I got selected for future games.

And when they came, I executed them.

Rather than dwelling too much on what has been, get excited by what could be done moving forward.

Whenever you're ready, there is a couple of ways I can help you:

MindStrong Sport App – Mental Skills Training for Athletes

Personal Mindset Coaching - Contact for more

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