As an incorrigible football addict for several decades, the game has inspired many profound and pertinent psychological insights, learning valuable lessons from different players along the journey.
At age 11, I attended weekly matches, believing footballers were pretty perfect, never making mistakes and always doing exactly the right thing for the team. As role-models, I admired their ability to bounce back after defeat, apparently without entertaining any great sense of failure or negative impact to their confidence, self-belief and skills.
Playing their next game as if past misdemeanours never happened, they appeared unconcerned about concentration lapses or mishaps that undermined their usual, great acumen with the ball.
Watching this season, I noticed how even the best, if not the greatest player ever, Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin, inadvertently kicked the ball directly to an opponent, a mistake surprisingly incurred by so many top players.
Contrary to my youthful, naïve ignorance, I realised players are less than perfect, inexplicably prone to errant decision-making, misjudging the bounce and handpassing inaccurately to the opposition. Under intense pressure, they are vulnerable to error, appreciating at the same time those errors do not interfere in playing on, shrugging them off nonchalantly.
They move on, unperturbed.
Comparatively, I often reflected with quiet recrimination when I made a mistake at work, however trivial, the unprofessionalism I considered inherent in those mistakes sometimes taking days, even weeks, to overcome.
The best footballers also err in private, with Dustin Martin in the public spotlight a few years ago after a verbal altercation with a woman in a bar. He has since steered clear of controversy. Regarded as a “king” on the field, Wayne Carey was reduced to a mere commoner over sexual indiscretions, while more recently, former Roos coach Dani Laidley attracted headlines for stalking on a suburban street.
Occasionally, my personal life was similarly subverted by losing my common sense, abandoning my intelligence in toxic relationships. While I ended them, moving on was emotionally more difficult, seemingly subscribing to a script of self-indulgent sadness for too long.
Biblical wisdom opines in Isaiah 43:18-19 to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past”, with players clearly heeding this theological advice as I also later acknowledged.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote sensibly “It is only through labour and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage that we move on to better things”, while the smart words of Job 17-9 suggest: “The righteous keep moving forward…”; a faith to foster a more enriching and positive future for us all.