Despite the uncertainty which surfaced throughout 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Australian football, newly appointed Adelaide United captain Stefan Mauk believes the forced interruption provided a rare opportunity for self-discovery.

In the latest episode of the PFA’s Podcast, Footballers’ Voicehost Adrian Houghton spoke with Mauk about football’s postponement and how the 25-year-old midfielder’s curiosity for self-improvement led to the development and launch of the Inner Game Journals

Without regular football, and while in the NSW-based hub during the A-League’s restart, Stefan found space to conceptualise and execute the new project, with his experiences through the PFA, his football career and work with sports psychologists influencing the project.

The journal has not only provided other footballers and athletes with a valuable resource to better define their goals, develop an optimal routine and improve their on-field performance, but has given Mauk a stronger sense of purpose and identity outside of football.

“I guess [2020] has been a rollercoaster of emotions. We went through the first bit when I think everyone was pretty scared and anxious not knowing what was going to happen with the season,” Mauk said on the latest episode of Footballers’ Voice.

“Then I went into the stage where I went back up to Queensland with my fiancée and I guess that’s probably where I went through a bit more of a self-discovery type of journey.

“I’ve always been really interested in making sure I set out a good routine for myself, because that was one thing I noticed when I had a good routine in the morning, I got a lot more done and I set myself a few goals for that time.”

Through his own football journey – which Mauk admits has produced significant challenges in Australia and abroad – he discovered he could produce better outcomes and results or better enjoy his football through tracking progress and journaling.

“In the last three or four years, I’d started to go into that self-development phase,” Mauk said. “I had a bit of a tough year in Holland when I went overseas and then my next year at Melbourne City, I struggled a fair bit with the mental side of things.

“And it was at that point I met a sports psych a few years later, who got me to reflect on my performances and I guess simplified things into what was my best game or what was my best performance? How did I feel? What did I actually need to do to play well? 

“And it was something that was so simple to start marking myself at the end of every session out of certain criteria skill-wise, but then [also] mental preparation and all those basic things that I think every athlete really should do.

“But I’d never been taught that before and [when] I started doing it… I actually felt really good after every training session. And then I understood what I needed to actually do well at during the session to feel good.”

While only 25, Mauk is already considered a leader in the A-League. As a PFA Delegate, he serves an important role in sharing information with his teammates, and now freshly minted as the youngest-ever captain at Adelaide United, he has been earmarked to guide the Reds into a new era. 

Given his understanding of the effectiveness of journaling, goal-setting and progress tracking, he is likely to continue to impart his new wisdom onto his teammates during the 2020/21 campaign.

“I wish I could go back to when I was 15, 16 years old and start to do this [journaling] because you go through ups and downs as a professional athlete or as an athlete coming through. 

“I guess you just want to find clues along the way as to why are you playing well sometimes and other times why you are not. It could be something basic; you’re on your phone too much, you’re not sleeping well or not eating the right foods or you’re focusing on all the negative comments or you’re focusing on everything outside of football.

“There’s so many little things but I think it’s such an important thing to just to journal [and] you kind of start to understand what works for you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to always play well, but you can actually get to the bottom of why you’ve played well or why you haven’t.”

To hear Mauk discuss the inspiration behind the Inner Game Journals, subscribe to Footballers’ Voice via Spotify and Apple. . The PFA is offering members a discount on the Inner Game Journals. Please contact to access the discount code.