What I learned in my journey to be a good football player in Madrid is that you start by being a good student. It might seem counter-intuitive to spend precious practice or game time sitting in a classroom. But it’s essential if you want to be a well-rounded player.
Make sure school is a high priority
It’s difficult to balance the competing priorities of football and study but I was inspired by my teachers to pursue both. Thus what I learned at the intersection of passion and purpose is the importance of education. And it goes without saying it is all down to the teachers who have inspired me along the way.
What I learned from my teachers
My ambition to pursue football meant that my education was interrupted. It spread across countries, cultures and curriculums. But I was lucky to go to five diverse institutions which shaped me as a student, a human being and a football player.
And at each school I met teachers who inspired and encouraged me to reach my potential by making sure I had the skills and mindset to get there. Given that I was run over by a car even before I started school, formal education never came naturally to me.
Therefore, from the bottom of my heart, in chronological order I thank you:
- Sydney Grammar Preparatory School St Ives. Transition to Year 6. I will never forget your patience and persistence Mrs. Jody Fraser. You encouraged my curiosity and gave me the skills I needed for success. Mr. Liddell and Mr. Lupton inspired me to excel in both football and school. As a result, I developed a love for sport, music and learning under your guidance.
- Knox Grammar School. Years 7 and Year 8. I thank you Mr. Fitisemanu and the “Men of Valor”. You taught me to “Discover Extraordinary” while giving many opportunities to excel and improve. And so, I watched with pride as the graduating class of 2020 achieved outstanding results.
- Mosman High School. Years 9, 10 and start of 11: This was the first experience at the local public high school. And my first experience of having girls in the classroom. Also there were unlimited opportunities for Drama and music performance. Being able to walk to school rather than driving 20 kilometers each way meant more time to focus on my studies (and equally importantly, the girls).
- Laude Palacio de Granda Oviedo. Bachillerato 1. You took me in as an Australian student with barely a word of Spanish and introduced me to the local La Liga stars, Real Oviedo SAD. This was my first experience in boarding school. In addition you opened my eyes to the historical and cultural delights of Italy (beyond football) on our school trip.
- Aquinas American School Madrid. Grade 11 & 12. The start of my American schooling and the end of my education. Despite the ongoing disruption of a city scarred by COVID-19, this has been an incredible experience in preparation for life during and beyond football.
The advantage of not specializing early
And one thing all of my schools offered was variety. So I learned that early specialization is not essential. While growing up I was able to embrace all sports. As a youngster I played cricket, basketball, Australian Rules Football (AFL), tennis and enjoyed swimming, surfing and athletics. And more.
Of course football was always my first love but the opportunity to play a variety of sports and explore different skills was essential to my football development too.
Each school also offered life skills beyond football. Along the way I’ve studied Italian, Japanese, French, German, Chinese and Spanish. While I am not fluent in all of these languages, who knows where football will take me next.
Also I developed a passion for music. Starting with a tiny violin I transitioned to drums and percussion. I can’t imagine my life without an appreciation for music.
As a result, what I learned is how to learn, how to be coachable and how to listen. These are valuable life skills on an off the field.
Being a good footballer beyond High School
I never expected to find the intersection of passion and purpose in Madrid, Spain. However it makes perfect sense as a footballer to live in this world-class destination. While Madrid offers the best of both worlds.
What I learned is to keep learning
Therefore I am more than excited to start at IE University, Madrid in the Fall Semester. Which means I can continue to focus on being a good footballer and pursuing my dreams off the field. I will be studying for the Bachelor of International Relations. And the next phase of my education begins.
Photo Credits: Shannon Sengupta (SGSIPS); Seth Fitisemanu (Knox ‘Men of Valor’)