In the lead up to the Madden Medal presentation on Thursday, the retiring class of 2019 have put together a letter to their younger selves detailing the lessons they learned during their careers. Over the next week, aflplayers.com.au will publish the letters of these players to help celebrate their achievements. Here is former Saint Lewis Pierce’s letter to his 17-year-old self.
Dear 17-year-old Lewis,
Your name is about to be called out in the 2012 AFL Draft and I have a list of tips and tricks for you that will come in handy for your football journey. Consider it a ‘A Guide To Satisfaction With More Years Than Games In The AFL – For Dummies’.
You’re about to enter an identity-defining seven years of your life.
Your physical limits will be tested, but that’s not the real challenge ahead.
You need to be ready for the mental challenges – you have no idea what you’re stepping into.
It may not be the 100-plus AFL game career you’d hoped for. Things won’t come so easy.
Every slim opportunity will be earned… the hard way.
You may be a skinny tall kid, who is full of potential and ready to work hard, but that doesn’t mean your ‘time will come’ once your body is ready.
For most, nothing is given at AFL level, instead everything is earned.
In your case, get ready to push s**t up hill.
You’ll need to do everything possible to fill the selectors with confidence for a look in ahead of others.
Because I know you’re not one to read much I’ve compiled five key life and football lessons to help guide you.
Lesson one: Learn to be happy with the little things
Change your mindset to a positive one sooner.
Just because you’re toiling away in the VFL, playing full back when you’re a ruckman, sitting on the pine longer than you’d like or even lacing up and kicking off the dew in the development league, be happy with every opportunity and play in a way that leaves you walking from the field with your head high… a smile never hurt anyone either.
Lesson Two: Respect and give time to the community
I doubt you’ll be able to impress people by just showing up in your team polo all your life.
So while you represent one of the 18 AFL clubs as a player, embrace the community and the opportunities you have to influence someone’s day for the better.
Even when you’re absolutely knackered from training, teaching footy and bringing excitement to people’s day is one of the best parts of your job. Sometimes a chat to a hardcore fan or a life-long supporter can have a positive impact.
Lesson three: Your low points will be the biggest test of your resilience
You will face serious mental challenges along your journey – never forget them.
For all those lows you will experience, and believe me, you will experience many over seven years, always know that each one will fortify your mental strength.
The memories of tough times will allow you to draw upon those experiences in future times of doubt.
The years of your best football will be the years where you feel both mentally and physically equipped.
You cannot rely on just a healthy body. A healthy mind will become equally as important.
Lesson four: Be yourself
In your first year you’ll be wide-eyed and amazed you’re employed alongside faces you’ve seen on TV for years.
Don’t let the want to be accepted alter the way you are as a person.
Your confidence will grow throughout your career. You will go from a kid to a man by the end of your time.
You need to realise two things sooner: you are your own biggest critic and just because you’re not older than 25 and in the top 10 players at the club, it doesn’t mean you can’t speak confidently.
Lesson five: Be present
Once you get your opportunity, embrace the excitement and possibilities with every sense in your body.
Enjoy the emotional ride, because all that mental and physical hard work has culminated into two hours that you deserve.
There will be two moments in your career, years apart, that will stay with you forever: the moment you kick your first goal and your return to the AFL team for your second game (more than two years after your first).
One is a moment of pure elation and the other of redemption and satisfaction.
These will be the most memorable flashes of your career and the fact that they can be summed up in a sentence is confirmation you must always be on the edge of your seat in the here and now.
That’s enough looking back for me, time to get back in the present.