Keeping ahead of the game
posted on 13/03/2018 11:00:00 AM
BY JASMINE ROLFE
For the school-age professional footballer who made his way to Canberra after securing a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport at the age of 16, Michael Turnbull has been committed to his training and nutrition and being in his best physical state ever since, so much so that he has combined his passion for both sport and fitness to create an exciting online business.
During the early stages of his life, leaving his family, friends, and social life behind to pursue a career in soccer (football) was extremely difficult, but Michael admits that every second he got to spend on the field following his passion was worth the sacrifice.
The Brisbane local hit the ground running (literally) in his early career, training two to three times a day, five days a week.
“It was extremely intense,” he says. “We’d be up at 5.30am in the gym, have a morning field and tactical training session, school — because we were all around 16 — and then come home and train again. We’d also play a game each weekend.”
High-intensity training and maintaining a healthy mindset were integral to Michael staying in his best physical and mental shape during his professional career.
“My position was goalkeeper, so my training was anaerobic-based with 10-second spurts of intense exercise, like a sprint, with short recovery times and repeat,” he says.
“Whereas the field players will do more cardio, so three minutes of endurance training, running and things like that.
“And if you can control your emotions and thoughts when the pressure is on, you are already ahead of most other athletes.”
Recovery after training is often not a priority in most people’s regimes; however, Michael explains that is was a vital component in his soccer career and one that wasn’t taken lightly by the clubs.
Stretching down after each session, focusing on core stability, using the hydrotherapy pools and remedial massage were all big parts of professional football, and the importance of rest was not lost on the young men.
“Any chance you had to sleep you took it,” Michael says. “On the bus, in class — I probably shouldn’t say that!
“But that’s why you train so hard and are so dedicated to your diet and rest — because you know you have to perform, and if you don’t, there are players in line waiting to take your spot. So you have to be on top of your game.”
Weigh-ins before each training session were also an essential part of his professional routine, and while Big Brother wasn’t looking over his shoulder examining each meal he consumed, if you weren’t hydrated or you had gained weight during the weigh-in, you would be kept accountable and would have a consultation with the club nutritionist and doctor and not be permitted to play until your levels were back where they needed to be.
International football, Michael explains, is simply on another level in comparison to Australia.
“They’re insane about their football,” he says. “The whole town shuts down for the game and you if you lose, you don’t leave your house for a week.
“It’s like State of Origin every single week in Europe for many leagues.
“And I think it all starts from the grassroots level. I think the European setup is far more professional here at home; they nurture their players from ages 13 all the way through to retirement, and the majority stay at the same club.”
Since retiring, the transition to a less-intense form of training and nutrition was a major adjustment for Michael as he found that he was eating the same amount of food, but the cardio aspect was no longer there.
“I wasn’t burning it off, so I put a bit of weight on,” he says. “So I had to tone down my diet and eat half of what I was previously while keeping up my training.
“Although I didn’t do a lot of cardio like I used to, I more-so did weight training in the gym and found that incorporating different styles of training helped me to maintain my physique.”
Health and fitness was something that Michael was always passionate about; however, suffering the loss of his best friend to cancer at the age of 21 brought to the front of his mind the importance of valuing your body and never taking it for granted.
“Every day is a chance to improve on the last,” he says.
“Now I feel like my body has gone from strength to strength and I enjoy pushing myself to my limits every session in the gym.
“My aim is to have an overall positive well-being. I’m never going to be a bodybuilder, but I just like to be generally healthy and fit.”
Taking his experience as a young professional football player and his love for health and fitness to new heights, Michael has just launched his website, MyAthleteProfile (www.myathleteprofile.com.au), a business venture that he describes as “one of the most exciting times” of his life.
“MyAthleteProfile is a website where people of any age, any sport, at any location can get on and effectively be discovered by recruitment agencies and clubs,” Michael says.
“It gives the athletes the potential to gain scholarships and sponsorship in areas where they may have previously not been recognised.
“It’s like a LinkedIn for athletes where you can connect with people, get seen, get recognised, and potentially go to the next step in your career.”
In that way, the site, which is free for people to join, has a two-way role in connecting people: it’s a chance for athletes or players moving to new areas to find clubs or coaches in the area and for those clubs or recruiters to find players.
With no formal university degree, he attributes the development and launch of the website to years of self-education on online platforms and the privilege of help and guidance from some “incredible, top-end developers”.
“I have failed many times over,” he says. “However, that is when I have learnt all of my lessons, not only in business, but also my character.
“My successes in business to-date have been a direct result of me failing so many times, but never giving up.”
Coaching in rural towns has revealed to the 36-year-old just how many talented athletes there are living in rural and remote areas that, due to a number of factors, will most likely never be discovered. Until now.
“I would witness these amazingly talented kids, but they were in rural areas, so no scouts would go and watch their games,” he says. “And these kids are superstars!”
Reflecting on his own career, Michael saw a gap in the development of professional athletes in all sporting fields and wishes he had a platform like MyAthleteProfile to help him accelerate his professional career.
Covering more than 60 sports from soccer to Ninja Warrior training to bodybuilding and body sculpting, the free online platform is open to all sports and caters to athletes of all ages and skill levels.
“I created the platform to help others to achieve their sporting goals faster and be discovered wherever they live — in the city or in remote locations,” he says.
“Now everyone is put in front of the right people, whether they’re in Kalgoorlie or in the Sydney CBD. My dream is to give everyone an equal chance of achieving their goals regardless of their location, financial capacity, or any other limitations.
As someone who had the opportunity to be discovered at a young age, Michael’s hope with MyAthleteProfile is that it will give others that chance to be discovered, advance their careers, and reach goals that they may have previously thought were impossible.
And a final word for those who do have to wait a little longer to achieve their success is a salient lesson Michael learnt from his career.
“I know some kids who were superstars at 12, 13, 14, and made all the rep teams and then they burnt out at 19 and you never heard of them again,” he says.
“It’s a matter of going at your own pace. Don’t be too hard on yourself; always have your goal in mind and your targets that you want to achieve along the way.
“If you don’t make every rep team or you don’t win Golden Boot every year, you know, it’s okay. You’re going to progress at your own level.
“Just be consistent with your training, stay positive and, most importantly, enjoy yourself. You’ve got to have fun doing what you do, because if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?”