Obsession towards success and perfection might affect mental health, says Nicole Bolton

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Increased female participation, strong high-performance structure, key to Western Australia's recent success, says Nicole Bolton

Nicole Bolton celebrates a milestone. © Getty Images

Nicole Bolton, the Australian cricketer, feels that the obsession towards perfection and success have a role to play in affecting the mental health of young cricketers.

"I have never been involved in a sport that chases perfection like cricket does, and that's half the issue," Bolton told on The Inside Edge podcast.

"I watch young girls coming into the high-performance environment, and they get so upset with themselves when they are actually not able to execute their skills. <...> Add in the pressure of the game, and the feeling that they are actual cricketers, and what they are offering to the team, it might go to an extent where they feel bad about themselves. It could derail them, and it's hard to watch," she added.

Bolton is one of the cricketers who has been vocal about mental health issues. During the fourth edition of Women's Big Bash League, Bolton announced that she would be taking an indefinite sabbatical from cricket citing personal reasons. It came right after her match-winning performance against Sydney Thunders when she scored brilliant half-century with the bat and took 2 for 26 with the ball.

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"I was in serious stress leading into that game. I think, with the overwhelming emotion on that day, I knew it would be my last game and potentially my last cricket game. I just didn't know," she said. Bolton was out of the sport for five months before coming back and playing for her club Subiaco Floreat.

"To me, it was just coming back and having that connection with the sport is so huge to me in my life. It was such an important cog in my return to be able to play at the highest level. Because, I think, if you don't have the passion for the game, then you never want to go and enjoy what you're doing. It was actually nice for me to experience because I thought cricket was the issue," she said. Soon, she was on the plane to England for the Ashes tour.

However, it wasn't the first time Bolton had walked away from the sport. Having made her List-A debut for Western Australia at the age of 16, she took a break from cricket within a couple of years. "When I was about 19, I came back from an Aussie camp, and I was playing for Fury at the time, and everything was about cricket. It just got to the point that I hated it."

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She felt enraged when people kept talking about her untouched potential, and that made her step away from the sport and focus on something else in life. Bolton said that the break added some joy to her life.

"I was always a bit of a late bloomer. I put my energy into starting a degree. <...> It wasn't as if I took a break from cricket and did nothing," said Bolton, who has a degree in sports management.

Bolton believes that redefining perfection and success for younger athletes is the way to go forward in addressing mental health problems. "They always look at the numbers and stats and tell players this is the type of player that we want you to be. No one is asking the players what they actually want to be, what is success to them and to go and enjoy that."

She emphasised that a player has to be looked at in a way that 'this player is doing this, and they know what they are doing, and that's what success is.'