Person First, Athlete second
Person First, Athlete Second
New club, new city and a fresh start! It was exactly what I needed and I was ready to give everything to get back to my best. My focus was equally split during pre-season between my mindset and physical performance. Pre-season was tough but I had a good routine, so I felt like I was doing well and my confidence was slowly building.
I started to get a bit of pain in my groin about a month out from the season but I didn’t want to say anything to the physios in case they took me out of training. I thought I could manage it myself but it was gradually getting worse and then the season was just about to start.
We drew our first game at home and I played well but the last 10 minutes I had no power to sprint, change directions or pass. The second game the same thing happened but this time it was with about 30 minutes to go so I decided to say something. Then, I went and got scans and was told I had started to develop Osteitis pubis, (OP) but that I could try and manage it throughout the season.
While I tried to manage my OP over the next month or so, I was missing a lot of training. To manage, I was getting either local anesthetic or cortisone injections to be able to make it through the game. It wasn’t ideal but my entire self-worth was wrapped up in being a footballer, so I didn’t want to say I couldn’t play. It got to a point where I was just training the day before the game and one occasion, we were due to play Wellington away. I went out for the warm up of training and I was in so much pain with every step I took and I couldn’t pass with my right foot, (this was not ideal because my left isn’t great!). So, for the first time I think in my career I ruled myself out.
I felt so much shame and embarrassment walking off the training field but I needed to do what was right for my body. The next month was just about trying to get it right without having to get surgery. But it wasn’t getting any better after letting it rest and trying to strengthen it. In my mind it just felt like 3 seasons in a row of things going from bad to worse. My identity was Stefan Mauk the footballer, if I couldn’t play football well or even play at all then who was I?
My OP wasn’t improving and I was told I needed surgery. Then the strangest thing happened. After a couple of weeks, I was feeling the most relaxed and happiest I had been since I was a kid. I couldn’t understand how I was so happy and relaxed when I couldn’t train or play, but I was genuinely loving my life! I started to ask myself if I even wanted to play football anymore. If I enjoy my life more when I am not playing, then why would I keep on doing something that isn’t enjoyable? I kept asking myself questions and got the answers I was looking for.
It was the first time there was no pressure on me to perform, not from coaches, teammates, supporters, media and mainly no pressure from MYSELF. I could just be, Stefan Mauk the person.
I told myself, ‘when I get back from this injury, I just need to have the same attitude I have now, go out every single day to improve, have fun and be the best I can be, but if I have a bad session or a poor game that doesn’t make me a bad person. My family will still love me, my friends will still want to go and get dinner and my dog will always be so excited to see me.’
Since then, I’ve changed what my purpose is. It’s no longer to be the best footballer. My purpose now is, ‘to inspire everyone around me to be the best they can be.’
Whether it is to inspire my team mates, a fan in the crowd, a child in the street or just someone reading this blog post, I know that my self-worth is not reliant on if I am a footballer and that has been the single most important lesson I have ever learned.
I am really big on spreading this message to all the schools, clubs or academies I present to. I also started writing down what I was grateful for, my goals and planning out each day. It was another step towards the creation of The Inner Game Journals.
Next week I will go into my move back to Adelaide, Coronavirus stopping the competition and becoming a leader.
Listen to your body, it is always telling you if there is something wrong
Your achievements or failures don’t define who you are
Figure out what your true purpose is