In the lead up to the Madden Medal presentation next Thursday, the retiring class of 2019 have put together a letter to their younger selves detailing the lessons they learned during their careers. Over the next week, aflplayers.com.au will publish the letters of these players to help celebrate their achievements. Here is former Hawk Ryan Schoenmakers’ letter to his 18-year-old self.
You’ll arrive in Melbourne as a stubborn young kid keen to impress, but won’t really develop the mental wherewithal to understand what it takes to play in the AFL at a consistently high level until your final few seasons with the Hawks.
You’ll work with a sports psychologist in your last couple of years at the club and you’ll get a lot of it and gain some knowledge that will help put perspective behind your performances.
Those processes and the mentality you develop from those sessions would have been valuable to know as a skinny teenager trying to make his way in the League.
Understanding how your brain works in a performance situation, under the stresses of an AFL game, will prepare you for whatever comes and, once you really get a grasp of that, then you’ll be able to handle certain situations in the appropriate manner.
Early on you’ll come in as a young fella and the coaches will want you to have an impact and really take control, but if you’re struggling with the confidence side of things you’ll find it really hard to embed yourself in the team.
It will be a gut-wrenching blow to miss out on winning premierships with your great mates in 2013 and 2014, but you’ll also watch on with pride and lap up what they have achieved.
Still the disappointment will burn and in 2015, you will develop a desperation that you didn’t know you had and do everything possible to finally win the flag that has eluded you.
Luck will be involved. It always is in footy.
So after being left out of the side after round 21, 2015, you’ll eventually return in the semi-final and, after a few dicey moments (thanks will go to Jack Gunston for turning an ankle at the right time) you’ll hold your spot for the Grand Final.
Missing out in the two years prior will make the moment you stand on the premiership dais that little bit sweeter.
Despite the peaks and troughs you experience throughout your career, and the injuries that plague your final few years at Hawthorn, you will retire proud of what you have achieved in your 121 games in the brown and gold.
Achieving life membership at the Hawks and staying a one-club player will be another thing you are grateful for, plus the lifelong friendships and memories you have created and cherish.
Once footy winds up, you realise pretty quickly how much free time you have and the enjoyable lifestyle you have as a footballer.
In the moment, you probably don’t realise how good you have it. You get paid to train and play football and do something that you love with your mates.
You will gain a whole new appreciation for what you did have when you were playing.
Best of luck mate.