Everyone needs help when it comes to mental toughness

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

There is a lot to be said about mental toughness and developing mental strength when it comes to all areas of life. 

In Samoa, we know this is an area where we sorely lag behind when it comes to sports development. And we’ve seen the results over the years. 

A case in point is our rugby fortunes as of today. We don’t need to tell you story. You and I know we’ve hit rock bottom. And we all have different solutions from changing the structures, administrators to blaming the coaches, managements and the players.

That’s fine. That is the human thing to do. It is only natural to react that way because no one wants to lose. Indeed no one likes to keep backing a team of losers. But what can we do to get better? How do we get out of this rut? That is the question we should all be asking.

For sure we know what the problems are. We also know how to point the finger. But that will not get us anywhere. It will only give us a moment’s satisfaction and when we wake up tomorrow, we still face the same problems.

We can analyze things and be critical until we are blue in the face but if we don’t fix the problem, we will not get anywhere. It’s a bit like changing the oil when car’s tyre bursts. It doesn’t matter how many times we change the oil, the car will not move. The same thing applies to life.

And we’re not just talking about rugby and sports in general. 

In all areas of life whether its education, business or families, we need to be mentally tough. We need an iron will to persevere and walk through some of the challenges we encounter everyday. People break down because they are tired. And that’s human. 

You see, we train ourselves for all things in life. We go to the gym, we walk and we educate ourselves about everything we need to know. And yet if mental toughness is such a critical aspect of development, the lack of attention given to the subject explains why we have so many problems. It also explains why the results are poor and will remain so until the issue is addressed.

Now lets get back to sports.

It’s obvious that our people are talented. Their potential is endless. Physicality-wise, we have some of the finest people on the planet. But all those fine bodies are controlled by those noodles in the mind which means if they are not strong enough to endure and persevere, it would be foolish for us to expect successful results.

In the edition of the Samoa Observer yesterday, one of my favourite stories was the one titled “Enoka: The man behind the All Blacks success.”

Samoa – especially our rugby teams - can definitely do with someone like him. In fact, all sports can use his expertise and advice. 

If a champion team like the All Blacks see the value in having someone like him, then we definitely need to look the same direction.

 Why? As we’ve said before, much like a conditioning coach focuses on muscles to perform, a mental skills coach looks at what can be done with the mind to aid performance. And this is where Enoka comes in. 

In yesterday’s story, he was asked: The All Blacks have an extraordinary team culture. What’s the secret?

“You can have all the strategies in the world, but in the end, what will enable you to overachieve – or underachieve – is your culture,” he said.

“We nourish the All Blacks culture every day by drawing from our rich Maori heritage. In our cornerstone philosophies, the team towers above the individual. You’ll never succeed on your own, but you will be successful as an individual if the team functions well.

“As the custodian of the culture, I make sure everyone has a sense of belonging. When you walk to the pitch, you should feel you belong to this place and that it’s fed and nourished by the people. 

“Too many organizations focus on the vision and values when they should feed a sense of belonging instead, especially if you’re working with a myriad of cultures.”

Now how awesome is that?

For many people who don’t know, Enoka is world famous for “strict ‘No D*ckheads’ policy within the All Blacks, where he has worked for the past 17 years.

Asked how others like ourselves can learn from it, he said: “A d*ckhead makes everything about them. Often teams put up with it because a player has so much talent. We look for early warning signs and wean the big egos out pretty quickly. Our motto is, if you can’t change the people, change the people.”

We definitely need this man to help our sports. But perhaps it’s not just sports, our politicians and many of our leaders could certainly learn from him.

What do you think? 

Have a fabulous Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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