MEET THE FOUNDER
Meet our founder Stefan Mauk & learn about his junior football career
For all of you who already have an Inner Game Journal, I hope you’re enjoying it. For everyone else, I hope this first newsletter inspires you to join us at The Inner Gamer.
I grew up in Adelaide, Australia. Since I can remember I absolutely loved being outdoors and playing all types of sports, especially football. When I was 10 years old, my Dad told me that if I wanted to make it as a professional, I needed to join a club rather than just play for my school team. I went out for trials and joined Adelaide City Football Club. I made the team! I played there for the next 5 years, representing the club at u11’s through to the Reserves team.
In those 5 years I had a lot of setbacks. Each year, I was selected to go out and trial for the State National team and each time I received a letter letting me know I didn’t make the squad. I found the constant rejection tough and took it personally. I wanted to be a professional footballer and all I can remember thinking was, if I can’t make the best 23 players in South Australia how can I become a professional? What I didn’t know was that this was building my mental resilience to be able to handle setbacks and rejection.
I had two choices when I didn’t make the team. I either give up and prove the coaches right, or I keep training hard for my club and training on my own to chase after my dream. I chose the latter and when I was 14 years old, I finally got my reward. Some people will say what happened next was luck, or as I would say, luck is preparation meeting opportunity.
Since I was 5 years old I had been dreaming and working hard to become a professional. So, when this next opportunity came up, I was ready to take it with both hands! I was playing for under 16’s at Adelaide City FC as a 14 year old. I got called up to the under 17’s to play a cup final as they were short on players. I had a great game off the bench and then a few weeks later the under 19’s needed players to fill in. The under 17’s had an important game, so they asked me if I wanted to go play because they were happy with how I played in the cup final. We played Para Hills Knights and I scored one goal and assisted another - I remember it like it was yesterday.
Straight after the game, the Reserves coach came and asked if I wanted to sit on the bench for them. Of course I said yes and then early the next week the First Team coach, Damien Mori asked me if I could train with the 1st Team. He said he saw I had a lot of talent and wanted me to be with them. I then also got asked to go and train with the State Team just before they went away to the National Championships in Coffs Harbour.
I ended up going away with the State Team. I was starting every game and was making the All Star Team, which was the best 23 players of the tournament. From then on I was training with the State team to prepare for another State Championships being held at the Australian Institute of Sport, (AIS) in Canberra. At that tournament, they were going to select 10-12 players to receive scholarships to move to the AIS and be part of the program.
This was the next step to becoming a professional. I just knew it! I played well in the tournament but didn’t make the All Stars Team. I was so disappointed and thought my dreams were over and that I wouldn't be getting selected for a scholarship.
During January 2011, I received an email saying I was on the shortlist of players to be offered a scholarship. I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited but also nervous as I wasn’t guaranteed a spot. My best friend, Ben Garuccio, had already been offered a scholarship so I was even more anxious to receive one. A week later, I received the best email of my life! I was going to the AIS to be with the best 23 players in my age group and the one above.
What I want you to take out of this story is that not every single player’s pathway or journey is going to be the same. I believe I should have been in those State Teams but the coaches of those teams didn’t think so. Then, less than 9 months later I was good enough to be in the top 10 players in the country. Football and all sports in fact, are a matter of opinion. You are going to have some coaches who think you are the best player in the team and others who don’t think you are up to the standard.
All you can control is your reaction to the situation and to work hard and believe in yourself. If you give up, then you are proving them exactly right.
Next week we will discuss my time at the AIS, how I started to understand what it means to be professional on and off the pitch and signing my first professional contract.