The disappointment of a dramatic semi-final defeat in 2016 led Jamie Young on a life-changing journey. Rocked by defeat, Jamie uncovered an opportunity to help others. Now, the shot-stopper is aiming to share his experience and his deeper level of gratitude with Australia’s next generation.

On Sunday, 24 April 2016, one of the most memorable A-League encounters unfolded; a classic at Pirtek Stadium. In the aftermath of Dario Vidosic’s 102nd minute extra-time sealer, Western Sydney progressed through to the Grand Final – and Brisbane Roar were bundled out. The scoreboard read 5-4 to the hosts.  At the 23rd minute mark, it had read 0-3. 

Brisbane’s players were shell-shocked. In the first half they had looked destined to make the decider. At full time, their season was over. The man who had to pick the ball out of the net five times, Jamie Young, was broken. For days after the result, he ruminated about the defeat.

“At that time, I was bit messed up from that semi-final loss against the Wanderers and I just wasn’t happy.”

Unsure what to do to rebound, Jamie found inspiration to salvage the situation where he least expected it. What emerged two years later was a life-changing journey. One which would take him halfway across the world to experience a new culture – and put that semi-final loss very much into perspective.

“​After the loss, a friend of mine Rachel Sakurai was telling me her story of how she went to Nepal to visit the World Youth International school 17 years ago to help the students and people around the region.

“I had heard interesting things from that part of the world since Hugh van Cuylenburg (from the Resilience Project) presented at a PFA workshop a few years ago and told his story of how he visited India. I heard his story about the people who lived there and realised that people have it much worse than I did. He introduced concepts such as self-awareness, gratitude, and empathy that I’d never heard before.

“So, I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if I’ll get the chance to go visit a place like that; and have that experience?’ Twelve months later Rachel introduced me to World Youth International and they asked me to visit the school in Nepal. The rest is history.”

World Youth International have a school in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, which is designed to empower young kids in the region to undertake an education. Many require schooling to escape the poverty they are born into and to later provide for their families.

With his visit in May, Jamie approached the opportunity with an open mind, unaware of the impact the Nepalese people would have on him.

“I didn’t really know what to expect about the people in Nepal and the charity. Really my motivations were to understand a different culture and to make a positive impact. I just wanted to do something in my life and say I did something that helped others. If I got to learn something along the way as well, it was all worth it.”

As a professional athlete with a profile, World Youth International decided to create the ‘Jamie Young Cup’, utilising football as a vehicle to inspire children during his visit. But it wasn’t the opportunity to impart some of his football knowledge on the young participants that impacted Jamie the most.

“I think the experience just showed me first-hand what people can go through that aren’t in this sporting bubble and that having an incredibly difficult life is a reality for a lot of people out there. Things like bathing out of a bucket, living on the streets, not even being able to wash their hands. Just seeing how resilient and happy these people are is just amazing.”

Jamie said he was lucky to have been able to create something for the people to aspire to.

“Having the Jamie Young Cup gave the kids something to look forward to.  It helped them take their mind off their lives for a brief moment to just enjoy playing sport. Some of these kids don’t have parents, so life is very different to what I’m used to.  That a professional footballer from Australia came to visit them was a big deal for those people, but to be honest I think they were a big deal to me.

I felt like the people in Nepal are special. I felt that the people there were generous, genuine, and grateful for the things that they have. I mean they have nothing, but they give what they have, and they do it because helping others is important to them. That says a lot about them to me.

“I saw the very poorest of people be some of the most generous and I think that speaks volumes compared to materialism we often see in Australia. I think in Australia we are so lucky to have what we have, but often get bogged down in our own heads about trivial things. So really, I think these people helped me get the perspective of what’s important in life and that serving others and generally giving is a powerful and impactful process.”

Picture: Jamie with Suroj, Jamie is sponsoring to pay for his education, food, and accommodation. 

Through his experience, Jamie is not just internalising what he has discovered. Instead, he is aiming to use it to impact the careers of Australia’s future footballers.

“I think I can draw from these experiences as a leader and coach to deploy empathy and gratitude to others, but also reaffirm that the people here [in Australia] have so much opportunity, they just have to believe in themselves and not give up so easily.”

In the first week of July, Jamie presented to early career A-League and W-League players at the 2019 PFA Player Development Camp on the topic of ‘Athlete Motivation’.

“It was great to present to my peers and even though they are young, I hope they will draw from the concepts I presented at sometime in their lives. I think it’s important to learn about things you aren’t familiar with because that’s how people grow and gain perspective.

“It wasn’t until about 29 that I really started paying attention to the psychology side of sport versus the physiology. It’s the most powerful type of science in my opinion because it all starts in the mind. Once that is right, then real incredible things can happen for people.

“If these players are genuinely serious about extracting the most of their potential out of themselves, this is essential learning.  I just hope at some point they now or later consider the influences of how they think and feel and influence how they behave. If people can grasp that, then they can learn how to extract the most of their potential whether in football or other realms.”

For his work through the PFA and his ambassadorial role with World Youth International, Jamie was recognised at the Player Development Camp, receiving the Craig Foster Scholarship for serving the interests of the sport and the players with distinction. It was something Jamie wasn’t expecting, but he will utilise the funding to go back into his growth and development through his PhD studies.

“I was a bit shocked to be honest. To be given something as prestigious as that just bowled me over. I feel very much part of the Australian footballing community and I really hope one day I can give back to the game in Australia in an impactful way. Australian football has invested in me, for me I know I can do the same.

Football won’t be there forever and in life you have to gain knowledge to facilitate opportunities. Footballers are good at kicking balls but not professionals in dealing with stress, finances, or wealth creation. So just listening to the people who are experts in their fields just showed me how I need to learn in order to become successful.”

“I’m now grateful for the Wanderers moment because I wouldn’t have learned the lessons that I have now; that it’s better to learn from failure, than to wallow in it.”