Silly Season, from the Stressful Side

Matt Pyzdrowski, Helsingborgs IF goalkeeper

December 1, 2014. It was the end of the season and I was out of a contract for the first time in four seasons. I had an opportunity to re-sign with my club at the time but I chose to venture out into the world and try something new. This is the exact scenario hundreds, if not thousands, of players face every year and this time it was my turn.

I had been at the same club for four years and had a wonderful run. I experienced the thrill of a promotion battle, the comfort of a mid season finish, and the struggles that come with a fight to avoid relegation. I grew to become a leader in the squad and was even fortunate enough to captain the squad in my final season. I experienced quite a lot in a short amount of time and am better for it today.

However, there comes a time in every player’s career when you want to try something new and the reason is different for every player. Some players decide it’s time for more money, others decide it’s time to move close to home to finish out their career and for others it’s time to take a chance at the next level.

This past December, I was part of the latter. I was ready to test myself and my game at that next level. Where that would be, I didn’t have a clue. All I knew was that the time was right and the rewards outweighed the risks involved.

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Why would you leave the comforts of your current club (Experience, Leadership, Relationships, and Lifestyle) for the unknown?

When you become familiar with your surroundings and with the expectations set upon you, in a lot of ways it allows you to play freely...Knowing that you will play every week. What the coach/team expects of you. Having the trust of the organization... These are all things we desire and hold weight in your decision about your future.

Here's the big dilemma with sports, as in life. The grass is always greener. When you're stable in a team, you want a new challenge. When you're at a new team, you wish you were stable and secure. It's really hard not to play every week, or feel like your teammates and coach don't appreciate you. You take it for granted when you have it, and you miss it when it's gone. It's scary to leave those comforts and monster you know for the monster you don't.

As a professional athlete I believe you need to test yourself every day, you need to be pushed and you need to compete at the highest level in order to maximize your results. When you get to a point where you don’t feel these needs are being met anymore it is time for a new challenge. This is where I found myself in December.

Should I leave the comforts of a good place for more money?

I would be lying if I said money doesn’t matter. I’ve used that expression and I hate myself for it. Money absolutely does matter.

This past winter I actually had to turn down an offer because of money. I'm 28 and have a wife. I'm not at a place in my life where just scraping to get buy is enough anymore. I needed more security, not just for me but for my family.

Money also matters because it states your value and worth to the club. The club told me that I was going to be an important piece of their puzzle and the offer should have reflected this, but it didn't. I felt that I had earned and deserved more. At the end of the day sports are a business and this was a business decision, I had to pass.

How long should I wait for “the right offer” before I accept a safer option?

This is the most difficult question to answer because it’s different for everyone. I was willing to wait as long as it took because I knew in my heart that this was the right time to risk the uncertainty.

That being said, it wasn’t easy. This is why you have an agent. This is the time when he works his socks off to find you the best situation for you and your career. But when your future is seemingly out of your hands and you are left waiting it can be very strenuous and depressing. “Is the risk worth it? Why not just take the safe route, the guaranteed income and job?”

It’s certainly different when you are making millions per year, then you aren’t sweating the holdout. But for the rest of us every month without pay is a big deal. We rely on that paycheck to put a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs month after month. That’s why it’s vital to get a deal done as fast as possible. You have a goal or a desire of where you want to play but when it gets to the point where your daily needs are in danger of not being met anymore, that is when you must make a decision and sometimes compromise.

What role does the agent play? Is he really that important for the player?

As a player our job is to perform on the field. You don’t want to worry about all the other stuff along the way, you just want to play because that is what makes you happy. That’s why having a good agent is so important. His job is to open as many doors as possible for you, to maximize your value, advise you properly and most importantly be honest with you.

He’s the one connecting you with all the teams. It’s not your responsibility as a player to do this. You’ve done your work on the field, now you sit around and wait for the agent’s call. You are completely at the mercy of the agent.

There may be times when you don’t like what he has to tell you but you would rather have someone who gives it to you straight instead of someone who feeds you bullshit constantly. You must be ready for every situation and a good agent will hold you accountable and have you prepared for everything coming your way.

How do you handle your desire to leave with your current club? How much should you force the issue?

The worst thing you can do is alienate the current club you are a part of. You unfortunately see it all the time in sports. Players sometimes act out and become unprofessional in order to force a move. I hate this.

It is best to be professional and respectful to your employer. They gave you a chance and a platform to perform. As long as they are paying you to play...be thankful.

If you do desire to leave and try something new or maybe take the next step it is important to let the club/coach know. Keep an open dialogue, let them know your desires and never close any doors. If you have been professional a lot of the time they will even help you take that next step. You aren’t the only one who looks good when you move to a higher level, it also reflects well on the club.

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In late December I heard from a club that checked all the boxes, Helsingborgs IF in the Swedish Allsvenskan. This was a dream club for me at this stage in my career. It was a big club that presented new challenges and would test me like never before. Yes, it was going to be difficult but it was a place where I felt I could succeed. Helsingborg was where I could build a career. I signed on January 7, 2015.