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Wade drills life skills

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Australian Soccer legend, Paul Wade, has been in Koondrook Barham this week delivering a life skills program to kids at the towns’ schools. Paul competed for Australia in the 1988 Olympic Games, captained the Socceroos from 1990-1996, representing the country in 118 international games including two World Cup campaigns and also had great success back home with two National Soccer League Championships and 1988 National Soccer League player of the year. 

Barham High School Careers Advisor Ailie Grainger said, “Today’s presentations don’t end here. Children as young as 3-4 years of age, up to 17-18 years will all benefit from Paul’s presentations. They will remember this experience and build upon the themes conveyed today for many years to come.”

Ailie first met Paul virtually in 2019/2020 at a careers advisor conference and described being absolutely glued to the screen in awe, watching and listening to his life story, triumphs and challenges.

“It’s been my dream for Paul Wade to visit our Barham-Koondrook communities for many years, and as a result of receiving the K-12 Rural and Remote Careers Education Initiative, it has finally become a reality!

“Paul’s humour, passion and motivation are inspiring and his sporting achievements are truly remarkable.

“My aim was that every child from Barham-Koondrook could gain the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Paul Wade and be inspired by his journey, so they can create and navigate their own future life stories.”

The Bridge sat down with Paul and found a funny, warm and emotionally intelligent man, who had a wide array of dad jokes. Paul’s journey into motivational speaking came about after he was looking to reinvent his career after a life of soccer and a media career. 

“Honestly, I use my football and health stories and I just tell them that it’s their life I’m describing. All the challenges that footballers have, my health with part of my brain removed, and how you can get through these things if you plan, you organise, self-management, taking ownership of something,” said Paul.

Paul uses his stories to captivate the children and then leaves them with one line to sum up. He gave the example “I didn’t aspire to be a leader, I aspired to make a difference!”

Paul spoke candidly about the strength of communication, asking for help and being vulnerable. Born with a scratch on his brain, Paul’s mum had noticed he would at times move his lips like he had an uncomfortable taste in his mouth. He would also phase out, which they put down to day dreaming. 

“I can’t remember when it was, but I thought, wow, this is a horrible feeling and it only lasted 30 seconds. I felt sick, hot, dizzy and lonely, that’s the only way I could describe it.”

Paul’s undiagnosed condition culminated before a game against Argentina.

“I collapsed in front of a physiotherapist, right before we played Argentina over there and they said as soon as we get back to Australia, you go and see a neurologist.”

The diagnoses revealed Paul had epilepsy.

“Back in the day, it was never let them know you’re hurt, you know, so I didn’t tell anyone. 

“My brain was short circuiting, so now I’m really embarrassed that I’ve got it, I was definitely not going to tell anyone.

“Then I got caught on Channel Seven interviewing the Socceroo captain, Paul Okon.

“I felt gutted for him because he didn’t know I was having a seizure and I didn’t know. I asked him three questions and the second question; you can hear my voice become distorted.

“I got caught in front of the whole country.”

Paul feared for his job hosting television shows. Little did he know, his director had his back, if only he had known.

“The director said, ‘You idiot, if you had told us, we could have turned your microphone off, gone to a shot of the crowd, gone to a commercial break, we could do all these things to help you out.’

“I was living in such fear and it just showed, and I said to the kids today, if you’ve got a problem, just go and tell someone. It’s amazing how much people are willing to understand.”

Paul faced many ups and downs and learned to be vulnerable and ask. 

“In two games against Canada in World Cup qualifiers, the coach said you’re not playing.

“So, I played all these games and then told ‘you’re not playing, because I’m going to play this player.’

“I had no idea why I had been dropped.

“I asked the assistant coach for help, vulnerability right there. Socceroo captain, and you’re the first captain ever to be dropped from the national team, asking for help.

“Being vulnerable is not a debilitating thing, I got the information from the assistant coach and I kept waiting for my chance.

“Two games he put me on in the last 20 minutes and in that 20 minutes, I touched every blade of grass on that ground and the passes that I made and the tackles that I won were perfect, even if it was just 20 minutes.”

In the end, the game was drawn and the team had a penalty shootout to play with no practice.

“The coach said ‘so, who’s taking the first one?’ and I went ‘me!’ Straight away, I thought, you idiot.

“That walk from the halfway line to the penalty spot was the longest ever!

“In my mind, I remember seeing this goalkeeper get bigger and bigger and bigger. Wow, there’s not much of a goal I can see there. And, I scored the first penalty!

“I turned around to the camera and after all that being told you’re not good enough, and then being vulnerable and then asking for help and getting that and working on it, that kick was the moment, not marking Maradona, it was that moment!”

Paul’s celebrating high also coincided with the moment he learnt his mum could lip read after using an expletive in celebration during the live broadcast. 

I asked Paul what advice he would like to give young people.

“The first thing I would say to them is think about the performance and not the outcome, because kids are so stressed today.

“If they don’t win or they don’t lose, or they don’t get that HSC mark, or they do get ‘it’, everything’s about outcomes.

“We’re judging everybody, everything they do.

“So, just concentrate on your performance and not the outcome.

“I like to reference, ‘today you were successful’. You’re not a success, because to say you’re a success puts a full stop at the end.

“You were successful today and the flip side of that is today, you failed. You didn’t get it right, you failed. You’re not a failure and that’s the biggest problem they get into their mind.

“I’m a failure. No, you failed. I failed all the time, but eventually, I got more right than I got wrong.

“It’s just being able to manage all those judgments.”

 Thanks to Paul for the ‘quick chat’ and his generosity of time. 

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 19 October 2023

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 19 October 2023.


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