Ask Nick Compton what his biggest challenges are as a professional cricket player, and he’ll give you two answers. The obvious is his game. Playing for the famed Middlesex Club, Compton is focused on repeating as champions after climbing to the top last year, a task that never gets any easier.
But equally important to Compton is mastery of the mind game. “My mind has always been the biggest trick for me,” he explains. “It can get in the way – over-analysis, over-thinking – because I’m a little bit cerebral.”
Compton has called the pitch his second home since his early years spent watching his grandfather play for England’s national team. The young Compton followed in his grandpa’s footsteps to sign his first professional contract at 17. But it hasn’t all been a fairy tale – his path, as any professional athlete will attest, has been marked by highs and lows. “When you’re doing well in sport, you get given a lot – it’s easy to get caught up in it,” he says. “Likewise, when you’re not doing as well, suddenly you don’t hear from anyone.”
Compton addresses the affect this turbulence has candidly: “You can start to view yourself the same way – that when you’re doing well you like yourself, and vice versa,” he explains. “The best players I’ve seen are the ones that stay close to the equilibrium, regardless of how their game is going. That’s something that has always been hard for me.” Enter the practice of mindfulness – which Compton credits with keeping his consistency in check both on and off the court. “As an athlete, on any given day, your body's not going to be the same. You're not going to feel as good one day, or run as well the other,” he explains. “What you can control is your mindset.”
Meditation and visualization exercises (“I try to picture both the outcome I want, and the process,”) along with photography, writing, and exploring new neighbourhoods from the seat of his scooter help Compton keep his cool, regardless of the score. As for what’s next? He’d like to extend the lessons he’s learned on the field to a new generation. During a recent trip to LA, he spent some time with the Compton Cricket Club, and saw a group of young athletes realize lessons in sportsmanship, teamwork and perseverance through the game. “It’s something I’d like to grow – to give kids that haven’t had the opportunities I did to better themselves – both as cricketers and as people.”
Meet Nick Compton.
“You have to force me to dress up smart, but there’s a way of doing that and still feeling like yourself. I look for clothing I’m comfortable in.”
“A lot of kids can get lost in the cricket system. I want to help them bridge the gap between being very promising and going all the way.”
“You've got to put as much work into your mindset as you do your physical game; that's something that has taken me many years to learn.”
“Whether I get a high score or not, at the end of the day I'm still very much the same human being. It's just that my job either did or did not go well that day.”
Follow Nick Compton's adventures @nick.compton.