With 118 international appearances and three brain surgeries to his name, former Socceroos captain Paul Wade has endured far more than the average footballer.
He now spends his days empowering audiences through the successful Paul Wade Life Skills program.
There is more than meets the eye to the industrious midfielder who excelled in the NSL while representing Australia at the 1988 Olympic Games and throughout two World Cup qualification campaigns.
His lifelong battle with epilepsy – something he hid throughout his playing days – is what makes the inspirational leader’s story all the more remarkable.
Wade’s larger-than-life character shines as he extracts the profound lessons from his experiences to satisfy audiences of all shapes and sizes.
“I deliver programs to suit anyone,” the Socceroos legend explained.
“I devise talks that fit the criteria of careers advisors, year group coordinators, refugees, disengaged at-risk kids and the rehabilitation of torture and trauma survivors.”
While Wade tailors his approach towards each specific audience, his powerful story evokes some universal lessons.
“The first thing I talk about is success: what success is, and how we can all be successful,” he said.
“Then we talk about choices, because that’s an important factor in anybody’s life.
“We also talk about motivation which is the reason why we do things – I tell them what reasons I had for committing 13 years to being a semi-professional footballer.
“And then the last one is teamwork, which encompasses everything including my football stories.”
Wade’s program is defined by his ability to recount unique, personal stories in a relatable fashion.
He provides an enthralling insight into how his 1993 encounter with Diego Maradona was “not just a footballing lesson but a life lesson.”
“It was a case of capability versus expectation,” Wade said. “As soon as the gap between those two gets bigger and bigger and I can’t see myself achieving that expectation, that’s where anxiety comes in.
“It’s a state of mind where your emotional mind messes with you and says, ‘you can’t do that.’
“But it wasn’t just about the 90 minutes that everybody saw; I had three weeks to think about what I was going to do and I how might have failed.”
Despite the reservations of some, Wade is aware of the relevance his message holds throughout and beyond footballing circles.
“What really frustrates me is when people go, ‘but they don’t know who you are’,” he said.
“It really doesn’t matter who I am; it’s about the story behind it.
“If you can tell me who I’m talking to and the issues that they’re facing, I can guarantee that I will connect with them through sport and my health.”
Like many, Wade’s workload has reduced drastically with the current public health crisis.
While continuing to conduct some sessions online, he is eagerly anticipating an eventual return to normality.
“There’s nothing like face to face and eye contact to make a message sincere enough that people take it away and believe,” Wade said.
“It’s hit me just as much as it’s hit everyone else, but there’s always going to be schools, clubs, and kids who are struggling in life who might benefit from hearing my stories.”