This is a letter that I didn’t think you would ever write. It’s a letter that explains a lot about the person you have become and the things you have been able to achieve, in a career pathway you never thought you would have.
You have always been one to get involved in sport. I mean it was inevitable having two older brothers, how else were you supposed to survive? You pick up cricket properly as a 15-year-old, not knowing then and there that you would forge a career in the sport for 16 years and still counting. At the time, you don’t understand the opportunities that are being presented to you or the people that start to have an influence on your life, let alone your career. You’re defined as a talent, some would say the next best thing in WA women’s cricket, but you have other ideas.
You are exposed to playing cricket with women twice your age and play in underage competitions above your age group. You still don’t quite understand the opportunities you’re being afforded, but you soon begin to develop an attitude of entitlement. As a 16-year-old you make your state debut for the Western Fury, on the hallowed turf of the WACA. You bat 9 and bowl, something that you will begin to see change over the years as you develop into the kind of cricketer you want to be.
You have no idea what hard work is until you get selected for your first Australian U23 side to travel New Zealand. At this stage you think you are “the shit” until you rub shoulders with players who are just as talented, if not more talented than you. They instill amazing work ethic and have high aspirations to one day represent their country. Naïve you are, to think your current standards would meet the criteria to not only get selected for another U23 tour but one day put your hand up for selection for Australia. This experience has a positive influence on your career moving forward, it teaches you discipline, hard work and what needs to change for you to rub shoulders with the best. Much like your “perfectionist’ attitude you start to develop, you go hard in instilling these new behaviours and actions to the point you experience your first bout of fatigue and burnout. This is when you begin to hate the game and decide that taking time out, as a 19-year-old, is that right thing to do because you’re no longer committed to your goal of playing for Australia.
During this time you make some poor life decisions and get caught up mixing with the wrong people but you come through the other side and you have your family to thank for that. They are your strength in finding yourself again. They save you from the black hole you were creating and from the skeleton of a person you were becoming. This is when you decide to give cricket another go, on your own terms and finish something you started all those years ago as a 15-year-old. You want to prove to yourself, family and friends that you’re committed to something. You’ve come through the other side and you want to create purpose in your life again, and purpose you did create.
You become Captain of the WA side as a 23-year-old, you become part of the changing of the guards in WA Women’s cricket, you start to create a culture where you experience not only personal success but also team success. The fire is ignited again. You set yourself a goal of getting back into the Australia A side. You achieve this through sheer hard work, and you couldn’t have done it without the guidance of your new coach at the time Steve Jenkin, a man who becomes one of the most important people in your quest to play for Australia. You also restart your love for fitness and hard work by re connecting with your trainer John Stoykovski. Another important cog in your life, who plays a massive role not only in your physical self but your mental self. You begin to establish a healthy relationship with pushing yourself to your limits, which you believe is the backbone of your success.
Fast forward two years later after being leading run scorer for two consecutive seasons, you get a phone call on your way back from playing in New Zealand. You have been selected for your first home Ashes tour for Australia. That phone call changes your life and a few weeks later you are making your debut on the MCG in an Ashes ODI. You make a 100 on debut, the only Australian female player to have been able to achieve that feat so far. From this moment you begin to forge a career at the top of the order for Australia for another 6 years.
Over the next 6 years you create a bubble, a cricket bubble. You begin to define yourself and your self worth through cricket. Who am I if I’m not playing cricket for Australia? Who am I if I’m not making a 100 every time I go out to bat for Australia? The “perfectionist” Nicole arises again as you begin to make cricket your life and you lose sight of yourself as a person. You become fixated on trying to stay in the Australian team instead of enjoying the thrill of the ride and learning’s from it. . You continue to compare yourself to the best players in the team and are continuously disappointed that you can’t reach their heights. Despite these internal battles you manage to find a way to be successful and consistently perform even though it was having a detrimental effect on your mental state. You were blind.
You experience heartbreak when you are at the top of your game and eventually acknowledge that your unhealthy relationship with cricket has played a role in the breakdown of your personal relationship. Your life is now a reflection of your actions and behaviours over the recent years. Your intention was never for your life to look like this but the decisions you make to ensure you are emerged in the “bubble” have a greater consequence than expected. Cricket is now your sole purpose in life. You realize this life you have started to create has cracks and isn’t sustainable anymore. You take your second break from the sport but this time it wasn’t your choice. You’re diagnosed with depression on the 27th December 2018 and subsequently play your last Big Bash game on the 30th December.
This becomes the biggest challenge of your life to date, who is Nicole Bolton without cricket? You re-invent yourself. You use this time to try new experiences and build yourself up from the ground. You find things/ people and places that bring you joy. At this stage you’re unsure if you will ever return to the sport you love, the quest to play for Australia becomes quickly the quest to get healthy and happy and find purpose in everyday life. You have many people to thank during this stage of your life that impact you in a positive manner and give you the energy you need to give this life thing another crack. You begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you begin to feel like your “true self” for the first time in 30 years. You return to cricket again for the second time.
What transpires in the months to come is nothing short of amazing. You return to the sport you love at an international level and you’re able to do it with purpose beyond what happens out in the middle. This challenge is just another chapter in the book you are creating. Your international return isn’t “picture perfect” but you are now equipped with strategies to cope and a strong self-identity to deal with adversity. You’re disappointed yes but you’re also committed to the rest of the season with WA and focus on what you can offer there. You win your first ever WNCL title for WA, their first inaugural title in the WNCL competition and WA’s first in 33 years. You’re able to sit back and reflect with staff, teammates, family & friends and go through your story. What a journey you have taken to get to that moment. You don’t know what’s in store for the next chapter, but you can’t help but think you would do it all again, as those experiences have helped shape who you are as a player and more importantly as a person. If I could offer you one piece of advice as you move in to the later stages of your life, something that someone once told me “the young man who worries about his future ends up being the old man who regretted his past” live this, breathe this and enjoy being in the moment, life’s too short.