New Zealand batsman Katie Perkins had dreamed of playing professional cricket since the age of five. When that dream became so all-consuming that her happiness and self-worth were linked to how many runs she scored, she knew something had to change
Katie remembers playing hours of cricket from a very early age with her cousins on their tiny front lawn, her first goal being to play for the New Zealand Whiteferns.
"I have plenty of other interests and passions... but cricket has always trumped them all," she shares.
In 2007 Katie made her debut for the Auckland Hearts as a medium pace bowler who batted in the mid to lower order.
Unfortunately her bowling got the cut after her debut round, but the challenge of batting against the best bowlers in the country was what she thrived on.
"Over the years I became a middle order batsman with the role of finishing innings for the team. I loved this, as I never knew what situation I might be faced with. My role required a fighting spirit in order to stop the opposition's momentum and swing the game back in my team's favour," Katie tells.
"As I've grown up in this team I have also grown in my leadership skills and roles. Vice-captaincy is something I really enjoy as I love leading by example and keeping standards high. I've been lucky to have had some great coaches and players over the years that have encouraged me, supported me, challenged me and even given me a kick in the pants when needed!"
But as the years past Katie realised the dream that drove her had become her god.
"My self-worth was defined by my success or failure on the cricket field. This meant I was a very happy person when I was playing well and an absolute downer when I wasn't achieving the expectations I put on myself."
After her toughest ever season in 2010/2011 and feeling further away from her dream of playing for the Whiteferns than ever before, she felt she needed something to change.
"The off season that followed turned my whole life around," she remembers.
That April she went to an Athlete's in Action 'Ultimate Training Camp' where Katie met other athletes, all with a heart for God, all wanting to understand more about God in their sporting environment.
"My eyes were opened to the fact God didn't care about my results, but cared more than anything about how I played the game. I learnt about playing for God (an 'Audience of One') and about my true worth which is found in God."
Katie had grown up going to church and always been a 'good kid' but it was only at 15 that she prayed to God telling Him that she wanted to follow Him and live her life for His glory.
After the Athletes in Action camp, as a 23-year-old, Katie was challenged by her best friend about where God was in her cricket.
"The truth was He wasn't there. A lot of soul searching, prayer, and tussling was done, as I tried to understand how to love myself for who I was, not what I may or may not achieve.
"By the time the 2011/2012 season arrived I had completed the scary and painful process of letting go of my lifelong dream of playing for the Whiteferns and given cricket over to God.
"The freedom and joy that I played with that season led to the most consistent and successful summer I'd ever had, and to the phone call to inform me that I would be a Whitefern."
Katie admits staying connected with a church is a challenge, due to all the travel and training. Which is why she fell away from attending church regularly for about three years.
"At the time I would tell myself 'It's OK, you don't have to go to church to be a Christian', but that was missing the point of what church provided. It is always so uplifting and encouraging to be alongside others who share your faith.
"I've had to become purposeful and disciplined in going to church every Sunday now that I am in Auckland. The difference is huge."
Katie says it is still a challenge to deal with a run of low scores or a poor performance.
"That is my battle. What I am working on though is reminding myself of God's truths about me, such as 'I am adequate' and 'I am perfectly loved'. And whenever I am lacking confidence in my ability I remind myself of 2 Timothy 1:7, which says 'For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline'."•