Aside from relationships with family, friends, food, pets and culture, soccer is one component of my life that I have never, and will never lose love for.

Everything has a reason.

I will always believe that my path going forward will continue to make me grow as a person.I must accept what happens, as hard as it may be at times and move forward with a positive mindset as pain is temporary. This season has been one of the hardest experiences I’ve had in my life and playing career so far.

You go into a season with such high hopes, a good group of players and coaches and then as the season gets closer to its end, it feels like your fighting for your life every week.

As each week passes by it can consume you as the pressure slowly builds, people start talking negatively about what is happening, which makes trying to stand up tall with a positive mind frame as a leader all so much harder.

The battle of fighting relegation to survive was a whole new battle this year that myself and some teammates have never experienced.

It has been a season that I will never forget. Waking up every Saturday or Sunday morning thinking ‘today is the day, work hard and we will turn this season around with just one win’.

Then you get to the end of the day only to walk off the pitch after another loss, more bad luck and then you get home to your loving family who care so much, which is when it all sinks in about how big of a part soccer plays in your life.

It’s moments like these in sport where it can test your limits as a person and an athlete.

There’s the option to go into your shell and whinge about everything that’s happened or you can move straight on forward and be certain that you’ll come back better and stronger in all areas and not let yourself get in to certain scenarios again.

Soccer has taught me a lot and one of the biggest lessons is how important it is to be mindful and present in the moment.

As soon as you dwell on the past or a mistake you made, whether it be during a game or from the weekend prior, you can easily and quickly lose sight in the present moment, which is where things can get worse.

If you let emotions get to you or also think about the future too much you forget to do all the little things that helped you get to where you are. It stops you, freezes you, you get lost in the game and it can become a vicious cycle.

I notice a lot in soccer, and I’m sure all sports that your mind can start to wander. I’ve realised you have to be so mindful and in the moment with everything that is happening.

Training this skill is such a huge tool I’ve taken away from the sport to be able to live a much happier life.

Mindfulness is something I’ve known about but only this year taken to another level to train and be conscious about through variations of meditation and I’ve noticed huge changes throughout the year.

As hard as the season has been I believe this has been the biggest tool that I’ve used to deal with the situation and stay positive each week to continue to push through, (as well as loving and supporting friends and family around me, which I’m grateful for.)

It comes and goes but it is now much easier to no longer dwell on the little things; I can stay calm more often and feel happier and more positive all of the time.

Realising you must love yourself no matter what, changes everything.

Knowing that there will be road blocks or speed bumps along the way is all part of it, but tackling them knowing that there is a plan for you is huge. If you believe in this and continue to show love no matter what you realise that all of your problems disappear.
If you focus on ‘doing you’, you will find that you attract the right people you love to be around and want to see you grow as much as you love to see them grow.

Let yourself be an example for people to try and implement the things you do, but don’t do these things to ‘be better’ than others. We must all help each other and be at a high conscious level that it is no competition, love each other and guide each other on our own similar but different paths, as everyone is unique. We are all made from the same cloth and meant to play different parts to be one.

I personally find it so interesting that no matter how many times you’ve gone through heartbreak, whether it be relationships, family, friends, pets or sporting experiences alone or as a team it never gets easier.

You go through heartbreak and you later look back at it thinking, ‘I needed that. That made me who I am today.’ Until another tough time comes along and you think why is this happening to me again, instead of thinking, what haven’t I changed or I need this, I will come out of the other side better.

Take something new from the experience because we are never perfect.

As heartbreaking as this season has been and coming to grips with this way of looking at it has also been very hard, I look forward to see what the future holds.

I can’t wait to look back in a years time or 6 months time and think, that year is why I am where I am now, and I will be forever grateful for it.

I still loved this season, forming special bonds with special people working hard together.

Written by Oliver Zafiridis