Made in stone - A lesson in mental resilience.
Player Spotlight - Mason Stajduhar
In this post, I am going to share my experience working with the most mentally resilient athlete I have had the pleasure of coaching. Mason grew up representing Orlando City SC development academy at the U-16, U-18 and U-23 level. As one of the most promising young goalkeepers, Stajduhar was ranked #4 among the nation’s goalkeepers in 2016. Having signed a first team contract with Orlando City SC in 2015, Stajduhar went on to be listed in the top 50 MLS prospects in 2017.
Although Mason’s professional soccer career looked promising, he was dealt with some of the worst news one could imagine. The 19-year old homegrown talent was diagnosed with bone cancer in late 2017. Ewing sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that grows in bones, was the official diagnosis. Mason received the good news that he was still able to continue day-to-day activity and limited training whilst completing his chemotherapy treatment.
I had the opportunity to play a role in Mason’s physical development during my tenure with Orlando City SC from 2017-18. Once hearing the horrible news on Mason’s condition, I was more than distraught. However, after a week or two, Mason was ready to begin training again. He was quick to ask me when we could get back into the gym and continue his physical development program. In absolute awe, I could not comprehend how Mason had managed to digest his life-changing news so quickly. Upon meeting Mason for the first time since being told his diagnosis, I tried to avoid talking about his health status. However, to my surprise, Mason showed no concern about his current health condition. His only concern was having a potential roadblock that would affect his training.
Mason continued to train throughout his treatment. He was scheduled to have radiation twice per day in Gainesville, Florida (2 hours from Orlando’s training facility). His first round of radiation treatments would begin in the early hours of the day, followed by a second round later in the afternoon. Mason still found a way to arrive at the training facility in time for practice, only hours after receiving radiation. After practice, Mason would be the first person to enter the gym to continue his individual physical development program, before driving back to Gainesville for his second round of radiation for the day. During this time, Mason refused to complain about any hard work and never had an excuse to miss a training session. This astonishing mentality is not only admirable for a professional athlete, but anyone who is dealing with life-shattering news. Mason certainly put things into perspective for me, that things could be much worse. Working with Mason was not only an honour, but a humbling experience and really taught me what mental resilience truly looks like.
Mason has since completed treatments and maintains his astounding mentality. He continues to inspire everyone he surrounds himself with. Orlando City’s media department made a short film on Mason’s progress. It is a must watch!
On the physical preparation side, Mason continued to make exceptional gains in all strength and power aspects. During treatment, his 1-Rep-Max (1RM) increased in the front squat, power clean, back squat, deadlift, and bench press. In relation to power, Mason’s showed great increases in his reactive strength. Thus, overall increasing his jumping and diving abilities. In order to make such extravagant physical gains, Mason strictly followed a 20-week in-season program that I designed for him. To gain access to the exact strength/power program that Mason followed; click here!
Overall, I have learnt an abundance of life lessons from working with Mason. The mentally resilient specimen, Mason Stajduhar, taught me how to be more understanding as well as putting things into perspective. I am forever grateful and thankful to be exposed to this unbelievable man..
Mason’s testimonial can be found here.
“…This was my first year I was injury free and I attribute that all to Alex. Even through chemotherapy treatments, I was able to make performance gains under Alex’s watch…”