It's been a while since I introduced myself (assuming I have already).
I'm Nikala Smith based in Perth. Former professional netballer playing with West Coast Fever/ Perth Orioles and Canberra Darters.
I created Thinking Rewired almost 3 years ago now, primarily from a selfish perspective. This was an outlet for me to be able to share information that I was learning with likeminded people, so I wasn’t bombarding my personal feed (so considerate). Particularly in my younger years I was very moody and snappy, particularly with the people I loved the most, so was something that had to change. It took me a long time to get to where I am now, of course still human and not always perfect and always room to grow, but in general I have better anger/ mood management.
As I was learning more, I was having deeper conversations with others, some strangers, some I had known for years. The more conversations I had, I realised there was a pattern. That we were all feeling the same BUT thought we were the only one. These conversations were, and sometimes still are, taboo and I wanted to be able to share my stuff (anxiety and unhelpful thinking), so then others could do the same.
After years of trying to figure out I guess my niche or genius zone, it became apparent that netball was my passion (it was life for at least a decade) and this is now the area I am primarily focusing on. When I played, I was my own worst critic and always put a tone of pressure on myself to perform. As I was a shooter my definition of success, was ensuring I was putting the ball in the hole at least 85% of the time. If this was not met, I did not play well. I didn’t matter that I may have got 2 intercepts, or that I was busting my arse decoying in the circle to open up the other shooter, or that I set up plays for my teams gain. In my head that was irrelevant. As a result of this black and white thinking every time I would go to shoot, my self-talk would be ‘don’t miss’ and I bet you can predict what happened next….
Yep. I missed.
This became an ongoing battle and where I would ruminate about this all day. Not just at the courts, or just at games. ALL. THE. TIME. I was constantly in a state of stress. At one point my hair was falling out significantly. I continued to play for some time, I feel quite unpredictable, but due to the stress decided quitting was the best option. Once I stopped playing, I would often tell people that I was burnt out and hated the sport, I took a real step away from the game and really wanted nothing to do with it. Now when I reflect, I realise I probably was little burnt out, but I have always loved the sport, and hate that I was unable to manage my thoughts in order to be as good as I should have been.
Last year I decided to return to the sport with my sister. She wooed me, as we hadn't played together since we were teenagers, and I said yes on the condition that I didn't have to shoot. I think I said that in case I did shoot and shot poorly, because the other half of me wanted to shoot and didn't want to let the anxiety win. I tell you what, when I'm in flow, I can shoot from anywhere and this is when I bloody love the sport, all I want is the ball. When I get rattled, then get in my head, I don't even want to touch the ball, I subconsciously go half arsed for rebounds, in fear of having to shoot. I was so lucky that I had a supportive team and embraced the anxiety. Even with all the work you do on yourself, you’re always going to fall back into the anxious state or unhelpful thinking, but when you are able to talk it out, have some strategies and know you have the support, it just lightens the load that little bit more. By the end of the season I was confidently running out full games in goals and didn't want to come off.
This is why I’m so passionate about building our mindset muscle. This was not an area that was a priority when I was playing and it certainly wasn’t something we spoke about often. If you did, the answer was speaking with a sports psychologist when things got really bad, which I certainly believe this has its place. I’m hoping to bring normality to these kinds of conversations and by sharing tools and information, we can reduce how often we get to this point. By consistently implementing the strategies and mindset tools, we can help players learn to become more self-aware and manage their mindset in a positive way. I believe the younger we start teaching this information the better, although it's never too late to start. I want to share information, tools and tips to help you perform better on court and off court.