It’s talked about all the time in the sports world: a promising rookie fails to live up to expectations the following season.
Some call it “second-year blues”. Others the “second-year curse”. In the United States, it’s the “sophomore slump”.
I can’t claim a catalogue of honours from my first year of football, as Luke McDonald (North Melbourne Best First Year Player 2014) or Brisbane’s Lewis Taylor (NAB Rising Star 2014) can.
‘For every new trick you learn, you can bet your opposition just learned a new one too.’
There is no doubt, however, that the weight of expectation can begin to eat away at you if you let it, no matter how accomplished you may be.
The pressure to perform can come from fans, the media or even friends and family; now, more than ever, football is an open forum for comment and opinion.
I have found that the vast majority of the pressure I feel is that which I place on myself.
The day-to-day journey at North Melbourne is full of pressures and uncertainties.
I would be lying if I said I never questioned my ability or my preparation, or that I had never been nervous before a game or felt overawed by the quality of players around me.
These feelings are part and parcel of life as an AFL footballer; they come with the job, just as the exhilaration of kicking a goal or the elation of victory do.
I have heard, on multiple occasions, about how much tougher it will be this year and about how I would have to watch out for “those second-year blues”.
In a player’s second year, opposition teams will know more about his style of play and his weaknesses, and it is likely forwards will draw better and more experienced defenders.
It is Newton’s Third Law — for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every new trick you learn, you can bet your opposition just learned a new one too.
This much is simply a given in a professional sporting climate where the amount of opposition information gathered by coaches and football department staff is so comprehensive.
Dealing with the increased attention and knowledge of the opposition is undoubtedly a challenge for second-year players, but it is also a phenomenon faced by all AFL players, regardless of their experience.
— Footy Classified (@FootyClassified) September 15, 2014
If there is one overriding piece of knowledge that I gained from my first year of AFL football, it is that you must be willing to learn.
Whether it is a debutant, a second-year player or a veteran of the game, there is always scope for improvement, and every player in the AFL will have a “learning game” every once in a while.
There is no doubt that footy is going to get more challenging for me this year.
‘If there is one overriding piece of knowledge that I gained from my first year of AFL football, it is that you must be willing to learn.’
I can only remain open to learning each day at training, and from good games, poor games and everything in between to try to become the best player I can be.
It is also important to remember, I think, that it doesn’t matter how many times I hear about the “second-year blues” or how often I hear that I won’t succeed; most of the pressure that I feel will come from within myself.
Every player in the AFL will experience “blues” of one kind or another at some point in their career.
Every veteran of the game had to negotiate their second year.
All I can do this year is to focus on those aspects of my game that I can control — my training, my preparation, my effort and my willingness to learn.
North Melbourne forward Ben Brown is studying journalism at Deakin University and currently doing an internship with NMFC media department.
This article was originally published on SuperFooty and can be accessed here
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