Mind Games - Alyce Parker

Mind Games - Alyce Parker

Video transcript

ALYCE PARKER: Remembering back to the moment where you're mentally hijacked, to the point where you can almost feel the tears coming. And I think when you don't overcome a mental challenge, it really hones in. By the end of high school, I'm in my draft year. I stopped the netball. I realized that I was heading the AFL way, and I'd met some incredible people in the AFLW system, so I wanted to make more. Footy was the one for me, and I guess I love the difference it had.

I guess traditionally, girls haven't really had the opportunity to play really physical and contact full sports. There was a huge opportunity for girls to now treat AFL like it's not a man's sport, it's for us as well. It's for anyone that wants to play it.

I had a very profound experience in my second year. The game had a bit of weight behind it in terms of our team's performance. We really wanted to perform well, and we're probably going in as the underdogs. So I was thinking more of the pressure we had as a team, not knowing was what was about to hit me.

I found this inability to get near the ball or to perform my role or to help my teammates. It was something that was really stopping me, stopping me mentally getting into the game. And I soon worked out there was this physical presence that was following consistently, and that was a tag.

And for people that don't know what tagging is, it's pretty much an opponent that's put on you for the entirety of the game to stop you having a good game. When someone has been asked to go out in that field, to not leave you alone and to not let you play your footy? That took me a while to understand that was going on, because I certainly didn't expect it.

But the opponent I was up against had an amazing physical presence, which mentally really challenged me. I was constantly just hampered by this idea that I'm out today, I can't play my footy. I was pretty much beat by the idea, not the actual actions that was going on. But the physical presence that follows you everywhere, whether the ball's in close proximity or not, they're always there.

They're constantly reminding you physically that the job's to make you have a bad day today. And I guess if you're built the right way you can parse that, but at my young age right then, I couldn't get around the idea. I felt like I'd been battling for hours. I needed a rotation. I just needed to get off the field and have a break.

The play had gone down the other end, a perfect opportunity for me to rotate and get to the bench. I just remember jogging to the bench, and out of nowhere this hit from behind literally knocked me over. Couldn't comprehend what had just happened, because the ball wasn't near me, so I couldn't understand why it had that, I guess, physical contact.

And it's pretty much just an opposition teammate running to the bench and thought she'd get me from behind and give me a cheap hit, which pretty much was-- not the end of me, but when in the first quarter I really struggled to see me playing out this game. So eventually got to the bench, by the time I crossed the line, the tears were flowing. I was mentally shot.

I sat on the bench, I couldn't hear a word anyone was saying around me. I just remember trying to get my drink bottle, but I just needed to sit and I guess calm down, which I couldn't. I honestly couldn't. I remember the general manager even came and tried to drag me away from the bench and just talk to me, and it was so hard to comprehend the words he was saying to me.

So he sat me down and tried to firstly calm me down, and then secondly prepare me for the next 3 quarters, and he did his absolute best and I took on what he said. But as soon as I went back out in the field and met with that presence again, the physicality, the bumping, I was just hampered. I was back into the routine that I'd started for the first 5, 10 minutes. And it did snowball. The more I was met with it, the more I didn't know how to, I guess, beat it or fight back. I guess you feel this sense of failure. You failed to perform today.

In a way, that person's really achieved their role, because I felt like I failed that day. The biggest learning from, I guess, being tagged and from that game was having the confidence to believe that it is a badge of honor. It's a compliment to say that you're a good player, you're a good enough player to have someone dedicated to you all game to not let you play well.

That itself is a sacrificial role for a tagger to play. So for them to have the job to not let you touch the ball, to not let you play your role and help out your teammates, whilst it's quite confronting and then not something you want to have out there, you just want to play footy. I think if you've learnt that you've worked pretty hard and you earned some respect from your teammates, but I think when you earn respect from your opponents and opposing teams, that's when you're really excited of what you've achieved. And then how am I going to build on this? What's the next step?

If I could talk back to my younger self coming into AFLW, I'd try and find a way to accept the journey ahead of me, that this is the path and this is what's going to happen. So being a good player, I knew there was going to be I guess a journey of pressure, a journey of expectation, both from myself and people around me. So I'd really try and force the message that footy is fun. You have this amazing opportunity to play sport for a living. Don't lose sight of that. I guess it's really easy to be lost in the moment and lost in the negatives, but I'd really break it down to the simple things, and that's enjoyment and then building confidence to overcome challenges which are involved in every aspect of life.

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