Laurie Axtens - Call of the Loon

When I was in jail, for sightseeing at the US military base at Pine Gap, I shared a cell with four Aboriginal men. I was one of two white men in the 90 inmate prison. Our cell was one of five weld mesh cages in a large galvanised iron shed. Outside each of the cages was a television that was permanently on during the evening. Sadly for me the TV was positioned out of our reach so it was impossible to change the channel or even, in my case, fix the vertical hold. So to block out the flickering and the static I used to lie on my bed with a pillow held firmly over my head and wait till I fell asleep. It was pretty stressful as I recall and recently got me pondering the relativity of stress.

As a sports person I didnt manage to make the leap from junior to senior, basically because I found the pressure of having big hairy blokes laughing at me too difficult to cope with. Pathetic really. I decided if I had just spent a little more time being imprisoned for my beliefs earlier in my life that my self belief would have been adequate to laugh off their jibes.

It takes extraordinary self belief to ignore a direct police order. After all, the blokes in blue carry nasty big guns and truncheons and as a general rule they are physically intimidating. When I first got into this confrontational situation I was terrified. I couldnt even talk. I knew that I wasnt into the anti-democratic influence of the CIA and the international eaves dropping that is carried out at Pine Gap but to actually dare to do something about it? Freaky.

Keith Miller, one of Australias most famous all-round cricketers and WWII fighter pilot, is famous for his reply when asked how he coped with the pressure of international cricket. The man flicked back his long dark fringe and said, What stress? There isnt any stress. Stress is having a Messserschmitt up your arse.

Many young players fail to make the leap into the senior grades and its usually because theyve relied upon coaches and parents to maintain their self belief. But to really believe in yourself its important to go outside your comfort zone and undertake something which completely terrifies you. Now Im not encouraging every under 12 junior soccer player to undertake a road trip to Pine Gap, Im simply saying go out and find something scary to test your mettle. And think outside the cage and beyond the flicking TV set. Explore whats available in your community Outward Bound programs, community theatre, salsa dancing, singing... anything that stresses the hell out of you without landing you in jail.


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