From starring in youth leagues to being thrust into the extremely demanding world of professional football. Melbourne Heart defender Jason Hoffman reveals to the PFA what it is like to make the jump from youth player to senior professional.

“With about half-an-hour to go he said I would be coming on and I remember I couldn’t even warm-up properly because I was so nervous,” Jason Hoffman says of the moments before making his A-League debut. “I thought I had trained so hard with these senior professionals and to finally get my chance I really wanted to make it count.

“I will never forget it,” says the 24-year-old with a laugh.  “I split my head open after five minutes so for me it was a short debut.”

For Hoffman it was the dream – being a professional footballer for his home-town team the Newcastle Jets. Living the dream however, was not straightforward. Pushed into the spotlight of professional football from the more gentle surrounds of youth football the transition was not always an easy one.

There is little time to be eased into it. “I had never even played on TV and all of a sudden everyone is watching you and there is so much pressure to get the right result.” For Hoffman the pressure felt huge. He concedes it was mostly his own doing. He wanted to live up to the expectations he had set for himself. He wanted to achieve his goals and he did not want to let anyone down.

“Being a local boy and with everyone having seen you do so well at that local level the expectation is that you will just carry that into your senior career,” says the right back. “It can be very tough to make the adjustment to the physical side of the game and the speed of the game, and the expectation was that I would come in and do what I was doing in the state league and at youth level and realistically it would take me time to adjust.

“Being a local and trying to do so well for the Jets it often played on my mind that I was not living up to expectations and it was quite a tough transition for me moving into that local professional scene.”

Those feelings of failing to live-up to expectations drove Hoffman to read fans forums where “of course some people like you and some don’t.” Those who didn’t had an impact. “It affected me and this was not something that you should be thinking about. You need to surround yourself with positive people.”

It would take Hoffman time to realise that he needed to change his approach. “There is so much of the world you don’t know as a 17 or 18-year-old. I hadn’t travelled much and I was so naïve to not only the football world but to life in general.”

Seven years down the line it is obvious that Hoffman has managed to ease the pressure he puts on himself. Before sitting down to talk to the PFA Hoffman spoke passionately and confidently to Melbourne Heart’s National Youth League players about making the right choices. When asked what was the right choice to help him overcome the pressure he was placing on himself he answers swiftly.

“Now that I have played in the A-League for seven years and grown as a person it helps you adjust how you approach your work and how you approach your life,” the Novocastrian responds. “Now I try to maximise the enjoyment and enjoy every minute when you are at training, when you are playing, so the nerves aren’t really there for me anymore, which I’m grateful for.

“I managed to talk to people and have good people around me, who helped me to manage them and to shift my focus to really enjoy football. For me the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was the amount of pressure I put on myself before a game. I have had people help me with that and now and it has made me able to perform to a higher level.

“I used to really try and pump myself up before games and it didn’t work for me. I was very nervous and anxious especially for the first five or ten minutes of a game. Now I try to keep it relaxed right up until the game.”

With countless young players making the step up from youth football to professional football every season Hoffman said his advice to them was to use the resources that are at their disposal.

“The senior players can help you so much and they really helped me. The PFA is also a great resource that can help you deal with issues you face when you first come into professional football. Whether that be negotiating a new contract or deciding on getting an agent.

“It is not easy to make the transition so you need to get as much help as possible so you can keep moving forward. You don’t want to make a big step forward and then two steps back.”