New Zealand International, Katie Perkins: “I learnt about playing for God, an audience of one”

New Zealand batsman Katie Perkins spoke to CTL about her career-defining moments and how God has changed her view of success.

What was your first cricket experience that you remember?

Playing cricket with my cousins on their tiny front lawn for hours on end.

Was pro cricket always the dream for you, or were there other interests that fought for your attention?

To play cricket for New Zealand’ was the first dream I ever really had. It has driven me ever since I was five years old. I have plenty of other interests and passions… but cricket has always trumped them all.

Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?

I grew up going to church and there was always a strong Christian influence in my life through my family. I was a ‘good kid’ growing up as I hated getting in trouble and enjoyed living out the Christian morals/values taught in Sunday school. However, being a ‘good kid’ and ‘knowing God’ were quite different things.

It wasn’t until I was 15 years old and after being mentored by a good friend for a number of years that I started to understand the relational side of God. Then one morning at church I was simply sitting by myself and prayed to God that I wanted to follow Him and live my life for His glory. The Holy Spirit then filled me and the emotion and adrenaline that surged through my body was something quite indescribable.

How much do you owe to Auckland Hearts for your all-round development as a player?

When I made my debut for the Auckland Hearts at the start of 2017 I was a medium pace bowler who batted in the mid to lower order. Unfortunately my bowling got the cut after my debut round, however the challenge of batting against the best bowlers in the country was what I 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.

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 up the bum when needed too!

Where were you when you were told that you were being called up for the first time to play for New Zealand?

I was hanging out at mum and dad’s trying to keep myself busy because I knew the phone calls about section were being made that day. Once the phone call came and I was told I was going to be a Whitefern I choked up. When the call ended I burst into tears… they were tears of pure joy.

How has knowing God impacted on your cricketing career?

Having always been driven by my biggest dream in life – to play cricket for New Zealand – this dream became my 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 my toughest ever season in 2010/11 and feeling further away from my dream of playing for the Whiteferns than ever before, I needed something to change. The off season that followed turned my whole life around.

I went to an Athlete’s in Action ‘Ultimate Training Camp’ in April 2011 where I 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.

As the winter progressed my best friend at the time challenged me about where God was in my cricket. The truth was He wasn’t there. A lot of soul searching, prayer, and tussling with the reality that I may never be a Whitefern 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 2011/12 season arrived I had completed the scary and painful process of letting go 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 that caused those tears of joy to inform me that I would be a Whitefern.

Who would you say is the best player that you have ever played against and why?

Suzie Bates and Meg Lanning are the best players in the world, but Suzie nudges out Meg due to the fact that Suzie has a greater all-round game. Suzie is also a really good friend so I know what a blimin’ great person she is too. It’s always a massive challenge for the Auckland Hearts to minimise the impact that Suzie has on a game when she is playing for the Otago Sparks.

As a Christian is it hard to be different and stand out in the ‘team sport’ culture?

No doubt it can be as there is always the desire to ‘fit in’ with the group/team you are with, however I’m grateful for the fact that the teams I have been a part of over the years have always valued people’s differences and not pressured people to ‘conform’ to some kind of norm.

What is your favourite place to go on tour?

India. I love it. The people, the passion they have for cricket, and the opportunities that exist to make someone’s day just by showing a bit of love and compassion.

Any particular innings in your career that you really look back fondly on?

My partnership with Sara McGlashan in the Twenty20 Domestic final in 2013/14. We were playing Canterbury at home and chasing 130 to win. I was batting number five but was in with the score on only 18 in the fourth over. Macca and I got to work and chased down the total with more than three overs to spare. Smacking a four straight down the ground to finish the game topped it off.

How do you cope with a run of low scores or poor performances?

Honestly, not very well. 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.”

A strong visual I have also connected with is that of a 100m runner standing in the starting blocks. Whatever happens between the gun going off and the end of the race will have an impact on the immediate future of that runner in a worldly sense, but God’s love and sacrifice for the person has not changed one little bit from when they were in the starting blocks.

Does all of the international travel make it difficult to stay plugged into Church? Do you have ways to get around it?

It’s not only the international travel that makes staying connected with church a challenge, but the home series, training camps, and the weekend rounds of Domestic cricket. This is exactly why I 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 and who share your faith and fellowship together.

I’ve had to become purposeful and disciplined in going to church every Sunday that I am in Auckland. The difference is huge. Recently, when I was away for a weekend at a Whiteferns camp, I emailed a couple of new friends from my church just asking them to pray for me while I was away at camp. I was a bit nervous about asking, but one of my Sports Chaplains suggested it and my friends were honoured to do so.


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