Retired professional footballer Marcelo Carrusca and his new venture, "Positive Me" (Image: Marcelo Carrusca; Design: Will Cuckson)

Marcelo Carrusca enjoyed a successful playing career, but his post playing days has been dedicated to the development of junior footballers. He spoke to The Inner Sanctum about his latest venture, Positive Me.

He may be an A-League Champion and adored in South Australia with his own academy, along with a role as Viper FC technical director, but the journey has not always been a smooth one for Marcelo Carrusca.

As a 21-year-old, playing for Estudiantes in Argentina, Carrusca was put in a situation, that in hindsight, he knows he was not mentally prepared for. Away to a hostile Sao Paolo in front of a hostile 100 thousand fans in the Copa Libertadores Quarter Final (South America’s Champions League equivalent), Carrusca was asked to step up and take a do-or-die penalty.

Carrusca vividly described the situation his younger self was placed in. ‘Imagine 100 thousand people away from home and all the things they were telling me, booing me, whistling.’

‘For me, it was difficult to focus, I didn’t know how to be mindful and focus on what I was doing, I wasn’t prepared for that, I hadn’t done any visualisation about that moment and when I took that penalty I missed and we lost the Quarter Final.’

A young Marcelo Carrusca playing for Estudiantes in Argentina (Image: Club Estudiantes de La Plata)

Football is more akin to a religion rather than a sport in South America, and a young Carrusca, distraught, took the loss hard, moving to Turkish side Galatasaray soon after.

‘After that day I decided to move countries, I told my agent I wanted to move because people in my city were not happy and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t take a penalty for five years after that because I was scared of having the same issue, I didn’t know how to manage the pressure of the moment because I wasn’t ready mentally for that situation,’ admitted Carrusca.

The years that followed were characterised by setbacks for Carrusca, who finally managed to overcome them by seeking professional help and changing scenery by moving to Australia. He has made it his mission to ensure the next generation is adequately equipped for the adversity life posses on and off the football field.

After retiring from football, Carrusca decided to start his own academy to support the young footballers of his adopted home, Adelaide. Since its inception six years ago, Carrsuca Academy has focused on improving the players technically, Marcelo himself being a highly-technical player, but throughout the journey, the importance of a strong mindset became impossible to ignore.

Marcelo Carrusca during one of his academy sessions (Image: Carrusca Academy)

‘I was a technical player and I believe that the kids need to learn the proper technique from a young age so they can grow up and develop the skills in the right way. It wasn’t until after that we started thinking about how important the mindset of the players is.’

‘Me and one of my coaches came up with this idea to support kids by coaching their mind, the brain of the player. You see a lot of players be technically the best players on their team, but if their mindset isn’t right, if they’re not mentally fit, they can’t achieve anything!’

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The trio of Marcelo Carrusca, Chrissy Hernandez, and Freddy Santos identified the lack of mental training in junior football and brought their combined experiences from the football field, the classroom and from the field of psychology to create “Positive Me,” a book series that takes a holistic approach to grassroots football.

There are books available for players and coaches that provide a curriculum of activities that will train the minds of junior footballers through activities focusing on positive psychology, cognitive training, wellbeing, and neuroplasticity; building skills that are invaluable on the football field and even more useful in life.

Obviously passionate about the subject, Carrusca stated, ‘We believe in Australia there are around two million kids that play the sport, it is ridiculous that junior clubs only focus on the technical and tactical parts of the game!’

‘We need to teach those kids life skills, that is the main thing, because at the end of the day in a club of 500 kids maybe only one may make it (to professional football), so kids must learn more than the game, more than just kicking the ball.’

“Positive Me” takes a holistic approach to junior football development, addressing aspects often neglected by clubs (Image: “Positive Me”)

Creating a program accessible and useful for all junior footballers was incredibly important to Carrusca and his team. “Positive Me” is designed to engage all its young readers while also providing them with a solid foundation to succeed in football or wherever else life may take them.

The key is that the book engages and trains young footballers and their minds at an age where the brain is scientifically proven to be more adept to change. Footballers, just like all adults, make countless decisions every day and Carrusca knows that having the right mentality instilled from a young age means that you can make better decisions throughout life.

‘Every decision that we make comes from our mind, so we must have the right mentality, knowing how to be resilient and overcome setbacks, how to have appreciation and be grateful.’

Thinking back on his own career, Carrusca laments the fact that he did not have training like this at a young age, only discovering the benefits of mindfulness later in his career. He is determined to ensure that aspiring players are better equipped than he was to fight life’s mental battles.

‘I didn’t have this training when I was younger and I know that if I did my career would have gone to the next level because I wasn’t as positive as I should have been and I had a lot of setbacks that I didn’t know how to handle, I didn’t believe in myself,’ Carrusca reflected.

‘I had a lot of things that happened to me that if I had the right mentality my career would have gone to a different level, I don’t want that to happen to kids who dream about being soccer players while also developing skills for all players that they can use in their lives.’

To find out more about “Positive Me” or to enquire about the product, visit the website by clicking on this link.

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