This year I’ve been pondering on just where the next opportunity will come from.
Over the past five years I’ve had some very dodgy experiences in football, ranging from academies that promised to give opportunities and false promises from agents, coaches and men.
If I look at my career right now, I’m proud of myself in terms of where I was and how far I’ve come. Today I have the amazing opportunity of living and playing in one of the European capitals of football, Amsterdam. I train every week alongside former products of the world’s best youth academy, AFC Ajax, as well as players from some of the top academies in Europe. In Holland they come from Jong Vitesse, FC Utrecht, Groningen, Telstar, Haarlem, Almere and Volendam to name a few.
Okay, the level is technically not ‘professional’ , but it’s a very professional environment, semi-pro to say the least. Getting into those caliber of teams was my goal when I started this journey five years ago, and it says a lot that I’m now playing alongside guys who’ve had the privilege of being where I wanted to be.
My Californian friend Oscar who moved from my club JOS, to the 1st division club Kaposvar Rakoszi in Hungary even told me that JOS would probably better them in a match!
My environment here is actually competitive and challenging and I don’t give enough credit for that. Football is a huge part of everybody’s lives here in Holland (over 1 million of the 16 million population are registered to a football club) and they know without a doubt know how to play. I’m at a good level, and at a level where it’s just a leap up to the professional leagues. I am proud.
I’m turning 21 soon and that hits me. I’m getting older. The other day I got a long email from someone telling me all the reasons I’m crazy to keep thinking of playing professionally. But never let someone tell you that you can’t do something. I set myself an ‘impossible’ goal in 2010 that I would make it into a premier league academy and I’ve achieved that in terms of the quality of players I play with.
I still have dreams to play professionally and it would be amazing to represent Australia one day. I do not believe it’s impossible despite what some say. I believe I’m good enough and I believe I can make my own luck in getting seen, as I have already done in the past.
The fact of the matter is, I’m not making the difference right now at my club. I’m not proving that I’m better than everyone else each training and game. I don’t take it seriously enough. I don’t prepare as if I was playing against Chelsea on a Sunday. I don’t sleep enough, I don’t eat enough and I wear myself out before games by overtraining. I show up too late to games and training. That mindset needs to change now. I’m judged by each training session I’m involved in and each match I play. I have to make it count each and every time.
Over the last five years I’ve done all I can to improve physically and mentally. Now it’s all about really showing it!
So my mindset is positive, but what stresses me out each morning when I wake up is this one thing… my complicated life. Imagine living the last three years of your life not knowing where you’ll be exactly in a month. It’s fun and spontaneous, but with a family abroad, a girlfriend abroad, and a busy schedule, planning gets a bit complicated when you’re always keeping your schedule free for an opportunity with football to come up. Seriously, every time I do groceries I make sure I don’t buy too much just in case I have to leave for a trial the next week and the food will go bad. I’m not even joking. I have the opportunity to experience some amazing things in the next few years and I don’t want to mess that up. Something has to change now.
There’s the possibility of a really exciting next two years. I have the chance to travel with my lovely girlfriend, the chance to go study abroad for six months anywhere in the world and after that have the chance to do an internship in a big city for an exciting company. This is all apart of my international business degree which I never really planned on finishing, but anyway.
I’d love to do these things with peace of mind and to have the pleasure of looking forward to the experience, instead of holding everything off to the last minute, wasting other opportunities in my life because I’m waiting around for a chance.
I’m tired of knowing that it’s the opinion of other people that determine how far I go in football. But, I just accept that as one of the downsides of this game, and I have and will continue making my own luck. I am always trying to get myself out there, talking to people and making connections – but it takes time and alot of hanging around waiting for a call back. Honestly I don’t want to waste the next few years of my life stressing about football, when I know I could potentially be having some of the best times of my life. I don’t want to spend everyday with a voice in the back of my head saying “hold up Nick! Before you make that plan, what about that football trial?”
I believe in the concept of ‘winning without losing’ in that if you plan and organize your life with discipline, you can do everything you want to. I know that I am very disciplined.
So now what I’m doing is simply re-organising my life so there are fixed priorities in my mind. I’m going to make football more manageable physically and mentally by planning for the long term (one year from now), and if at any time a person reaches out to me and offers me an opportunity, it’s at that point I weigh up where I am with my life and if the opportunity is valuable enough to pursue.
I think I’m going to be playing for a long time, perhaps until I’m 38 or something. I’ll always be playing football and aiming to play at the highest level I can. It’s always in my nature that I’m giving 100% towards improving no matter what. I still have many years to play at a high level and I will only get better and better, month-by-month, season-by-season.
Football, I truly realize now is my passion and my biggest hobby. I’ve come to understand that nothing compares to it’s excitement. It’s the best way to be fit and healthy, it’s the best way to make new friends and feel at home in a new place. That’s the value it brings to my life. To any of you reading this thinking of stopping football, ask yourself what it brings to your life? Could you really live without it?
Time Invested =13-20 hours per week.
I’m still training as much as I did before, but this makes it clear in writing the role that football plays in my life. If you dedicate 20 hours a week to your passion, you still have 148 hours in a week to focus on other things in your life. For those of you who are stressed out on the role football plays in your life, just write it out like I’ve done here. Again this will help reduce stress related to football.
Written in June, Edited in October