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Matthew appeared to lead a charmed life early. He performed well at school, was well-liked, and was drafted to a professional team at the age of 18.
As he adjusted to life as a professional footballer Matthew felt anything but charmed. He was told that his skills counted for nothing and he would have to work hard to prove himself. It was tough to survive in this game and this world of men. He was physically weaker than the other players and was criticized for being shy. He was no longer a starter for every game. All the feedback he received from the coach and teammates was negative. He started to wonder if he would make it. Matthew noticed his heart racing on game day. Perhaps he wasn’t strong enough for professional footy.
Matthew’s girlfriend Celia noticed that he was more nervous than before on game day. He had started to make excuses to avoid catching up with friends. Celia spoke to Matthew. He told her that he was worried that he might not make it in footy and felt like a fraud. He didn’t know what to do. Celia suggested that Matthew talk to a sport psychologist.
When he met the sport psychologist Matthew was relieved to meet someone who he felt ‘understood’ his world. He learnt that his experience can be very different to the perceptions and expectations of others. The sport psychologist helped Matthew to understand his racing heart in relation to life at the club and seeing friends. They worked on strategies to help him sleep, manage his emotions and on building helpful connections with key personnel in his club.
Matthew is now in his fourth season as an AFL player, and is physically working as hard as ever. The skills that he learnt with the sport psychologist allow him to make sense of his internal world as well as his external world. This helps Matthew play well.