This is Me: Roland Mikler
Hard work always pays off - as the old saying goes. For Roland Mikler it's the same. However, it's supplemented by one of the most important secrets that goalkeepers carry in handball: trust. In the latest in our This is Me series, one of handball's biggest characters explains that without trust, we would not see the "animal" on the court.
This is Me: Roland Mikler
I think, everywhere is the same: the smallest or the clumsiest child goes between the posts.
It was different for me as my father used be a goalkeeper in football and I remember picking up the feeling to be in the goal since my childhood.
So I went to a football practice, but they were full with goalkeepers and I was not the best on the field. However, I was in the right place at the right time when my cousin told me about handball courses he attended and I joined him. But what if there is a spot on the roster in football?
I showed signs of being good enough on the goal line and wanted to learn and evolve all the time. Do not get me wrong, I was and still a workhorse in practice. I did not choose to be goalkeeper because I am lazy. I chose this position because my wires are connected differently: I am happy, when others are sad. I am sad, when others are happy.
This is the goalkeepers’ life, regarding the sport.
Everything is about to stop the opponent. This is why I work.
And I worked a lot, I have to and I want to.
Back then, when I was learning the basics, the coach of the goalkeepers did not let me to go to the extra practice specifically for us as I was not able to slide out. Although I still do not like this move, this is obligatory. For two weeks I only worked on that, and finally, I got through.
I just wanted to be better and did everything for it. It made me annoyed that I cannot attend the plus drills.
At that point, I realised how much of a workaholic I am and how I enjoy it.
On the other hand, how do you want to be at the top level without hard work?
Yet, it is only a little part of being a pro goalkeeper. Our job is like a roller coaster: even during your best game, you concede goals but you have to deal with those as well as with the huge shots in your face or other sensitive parts of the body.
And what is my first thought when I got hit? Did I save it? Is it a goal? Then comes the pain, but that is the life of a goalkeeper.
There are other “hits” during a match: the goals I cannot prevent and those drive me crazy. At least used to drive me crazy. With time and experience, I learnt to take care of my nerves. I am emotional and years before, goals blurred me, hurt me and I needed time, although there is one thing you do not have in handball nowadays: time.
Sometimes, only moments matter in a win or lose situation, so you have to act quickly.
Time heals, but the lack of it helped me to improve and stay focused. I still had to learn it on my own. You cannot practice it at home, only during a bout.
Thankfully, there are certain experts who can show you the path even if you have to walk through by yourself. I needed a “guide” after I lost in the final against Kielce in EHF FINAL4 in 2014/15 when I was named as the goalkeeper of the All-star Team.
As I am self-critical, I blamed myself for not to bring the trophy home. However, the expert made me aware that handball is a team sport, not an individual one.
The defence relies on me, while I rely on them. Work of nature, life of a goalkeeper.
This was the moment when I realised, the whole process is about trust.
The trust that brings the “animal” out of me, as Juan Carlos Pastor, our head coach, calls me. If my coach or teammates do not have faith in me, my self-confidence shrinks.
This has happened in my last years at Veszprém under Ljubomir Vranjes, so I went back to Szeged.
Quick rising from the bottom to the top regarding my feelings – not to mention that my twins were born – mixing with the knowledge I acquired, the goalkeeper you see in Szeged is the happy me both on and off the court.
I learnt how to talk about my feelings, I learnt how to put away the heavy thoughts, I learnt how to work hard, and I learnt how to enjoy the moments, all of these by handball.
Now, it is my turn to teach, first my children. It is funny, that I cannot really concentrate when I play in front of them.
Being able to talk about the mistakes you made or the things that bothers you is essential, at least for me. I do not spend days to consume myself, I need a night maybe, but I need to say those words out loud. My grandfather was the first person who helped me in this and my wife is also great in listening, helping. One more thing, not a person, music.
Music brings out the “animal” off the court.
Music relaxes me, yet in the same time pumps me up. Music makes me forget and move on.
Music is the faith in me.
I used to play the piano, but it is not the same than composing a whole song alone, particularly with the rhythm I like the most. I do not think I will ever be a DJ – my family will not approve it. I have my set at home to play with and when nobody is around, the party begins.
I learnt a lot, which means my career is closer to the end than to the beginning. I will definitely miss being an “animal” and to be honest, I do not know yet how I will replace those feelings without handball.
For now, I am only concentrating on one thing: to get crazy as much as possible, because that is my way of a goalkeeper’s life… to be an animal.