Phil Haigh ✍️
Steven Hallworth’s impressive recent run at the British Open was a sign of return to form on the snooker table, but more importantly that he has emerged from a dark time in his life.
The 26-year-old, who is competing as an amateur this year after dropping off tour, enjoyed a hat-trick of fine wins at the British, beating Julien Leclercq, Hammad Miah and then most remarkably Barry Hawkins.
He fell to Robbie Williams in the last 16 in a deciding frame, but it was a cracking effort and Hallworth revealed that he is winning a more important battle than anything on the baize.
In a Facebook post after his good run in Milton Keynes, he wrote: ‘I’ve taken massive pride in my performances and mindset this week. Those closest to me will know I’ve been in a torrid, dark place in recent months, so I’ve taken considerable time away to refocus on my mental health which was something I’d neglected without realising.
‘I’m back enjoying my snooker and more importantly appreciating everything in my life.’
Losing his professional status at the end of last season would seem to be an obvious blow, but Hallworth says it was a string of things that left him in a dark place, with the relentless grind of snooker contributing to it.
‘I dropped off the tour but I’ve dropped off before so I felt really prepared for it,’ Hallworth told Metro.co.uk. ‘You’re obviously trying your best for that not to happen, but I felt subconsciously okay to be able to deal with it.
‘I felt really good at Q School, played some really good stuff there and to finish high up on the Order of Merit was a good second prize to not getting a card because I fancied getting in all the pro tournaments.
‘I don’t know…I didn’t feel bad at all, if anything I felt really optimistic. I think it was an ongoing thing of playing non-stop, just snooker, snooker, snooker, everything was going well but I neglected myself a bit, I didn’t take a step back and think about how I was feeling. I needed to have a look at myself. It was continuously snooker, thinking about the next step constantly and eventually it just hit me.’
From seemingly nowhere, things got out of hand for the Lincolnshire talent, with a string of issues quickly causing something of a crash in the most unexpected of settings.
‘It was a build up,’ he explained. ‘I was feeling low for two or three months after Q School. I was just going through the motions with my practice. I’m not usually like that, I like the process, making progress, monitoring things but I was just hitting balls about.
‘Daft things would go wrong and I’d look at it all wrong. A parking ticket would feel like the end of the world, but things get on top of you. My nan passed away, people I know were getting ill, it was an accumulation of things that happened.
‘I’d been for a run in the gym and just broke down into hysterical tears in the changing room on my own. I knew it was pretty bad then because usually coming off the treadmill is when I feel high as a kite. That’s when I thought I had to take a step back because something wasn’t right. I just completely crashed.’
It was not the first low spell Hallworth has felt, and he is frustrated that he did not use what he had learned from last time to combat this problem when it began.
‘In 2013 I really struggled, the year before I turned pro the first time,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t working, it was just live, eat and breathe snooker. Bad day at practice or good day at practice, think about it all night. Lose at a tournament, think about it constantly.
‘I went to see a doctor and we did some sessions, that was my lowest, but I found mechanisms to deal with that and get through it. Then the year afterwards I turned pro so things turned a corner.
‘Since then I’ve not addressed the mental health side of things which is something I kick myself for because one of my best friends committed suicide a couple of years ago. As a group of friends we’re always on the phone with each other checking if we’re alright, always talking, so I felt disappointed in myself that I hadn’t reached out to anyone. I just got into a rut.’
The tears in the gym were an obvious sign that things were going wrong, but so was a complete lack of interest when Steven competed in events at the start of this season.
It is not a unique feeling among snooker players going through a bad time, but Hallworth’s reaction may be helpful to those who find themselves in that situation.
‘The biggest thing for me was the first two Q Tour events, which was a bit of an alarm bell,’ he explained. ‘I was in there and felt absolutely nothing.
‘Even when I’d been going through the motions in practice I thought I’d be up for the tournaments, but I didn’t have nerves, didn’t care if I won or lost, that was the moment in Brighton when I thought I’ve got no feeling for the game anymore.
‘I just put my cue away because there was no value in carrying on what I was doing, I needed to address something.’
He has addressed it, and on what he has done to emerge from the dark spell, Steven said:’ ‘I’ve been going over the stuff from 2013 from those sessions with the doctor. I have audio books I listen to to help rewire my thinking. I go out for walks in the morning listening to them, which addresses how you react to stuff and turns your thoughts around. The audiobooks help with taking things step-by-step, just tiny things to make yourself feel a little better, opening your mind to bringing some positive thoughts.
‘A break away from the game has helped address all that. It seems to have worked. I’m enjoying stuff again, enjoying practice. The British Open I thoroughly enjoyed, win or lose I was enjoying the battle again.
‘It’s amazing when you speak to people about it, it’s cliché about speaking out, but everyone has their own difficulties. I’ve offloaded some of them onto people now and they’ve offloaded onto me. It was another lightbulb moment that I’m not the only person that’s struggling.
‘A few mates had noticed I’d been distant. Oli Brown and Oli Lines, they’re two of my best friends and they were asking why I’d not been over for a game, why I’d not been messaging and that was a moment for me to say, look I’m really struggling and taking some time away from everything. I’m not going forever, just taking a minute to address my own problems.
‘I was low, miserable, wasn’t eating well, wasn’t exercising. I guess it was depression, I didn’t want to look it like that, but I guess it was. There’s no shame in feeling low, everyone goes through it, it’s how you react to it and do to help yourself.’
Hallworth’s wins in Milton Keynes were a great help to show that starting to treat himself better meant improved results on the table.
He is trying to not pile the pressure on snooker matches that he did earlier in his career and that seems to be helping the results come.
‘Massive. It was huge,’ he said of the British Open. ‘I went there not expecting a thing, but I was determined to think well when I was playing.
‘I was so up for the battle. I played Hammad Miah and was determined to not give him a look in and I think he scored 14 points in the whole game. That was a massive moment for me because I really enjoyed it. My sponsors came to watch and even they said I looked so up for it and focussed and I haven’t felt like that for a long time. That was a key moment for me to say the work I’ve been doing on my mental health has been working.
‘Snooker is not the be all and end all. I’ve looked at it for so long like it’s almost life and death. You need to take a step back sometimes and look within.
‘I think now that everyone’s goal should be to feel better than they do now. It’s my goal now. Usually I’d set snooker goals: winning money or matches, but now it’s just to feel better than how I feel right now, even just a little bit.
‘It’s a good way to focus your mind on being positive.’
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