Apelu Sports: Making Samoa 'A Elite' sporting nation

Apelu Sports is hoping to fill the gaps in the high-performance sporting landscape with its new A Elite programme.

The programme promises to offer those on the cusp of national team selection training and conditioning, nutritional advice, injury prevention, care and recovery tips, and mental tools for resilience and goal setting.

Apelu Sports founder, Gabrielle Apelu, has represented Samoa in rugby union, rugby league, tag and touch, and over the years has found limited resources available for sport here means those aspects get ignored.

“From our experience those have always been the things that have been missing from the preparations,” she said.

“I have seen so many national players in the gym getting wrecked because their overseers, whilst quite committed and supportive, unfortunately they lack some of the knowledge that comes with actually getting to train their athlete without injuring them.”

Just as important as performing the right training and conditioning exercises is nutrition, which Apelu said plays a big part in an elite athlete’s life.

“The biggest indicator that an elite athlete’s nutrition is poor is when they get injured and the recovery takes a long time, she said. 

“It’s like your foundation of your house is weak.”

“You’d rather build your house with bricks then with straw. It comes down to, some athletes because of the lack of knowledge there and support, they’re like ok, I’m injured so now I can eat.”

The A Elite programme would look to support players when they get injured, including mentally when they are on the road to recovery.

“So that you don’t fall off the wagon, you don’t give up,” Apelu said. 

“Because times are tough. Especially when you see everybody else progressing forward.

“A lot of management fall off on that, as soon as someone’s injured they never check back with that person.”

Mental resilience is something the programme prioritises for healthy athletes too.

“Let’s be honest, nobody wants to wake up every day and train, especially now in times where you’re doing it by yourself [due to COVID-19 state of emergency measures],” Apelu said. 

“Especially here, we are a communal people, we need that other person.”

With sport cancelled under the state of emergency and physical distancing being enforced around the country, she thinks it’s a good time to roll out the A Elite programme.

“It’s targeted to the athletes, but at the same time we need to support the national coaches, because I’m sure they’re struggling as to how to keep their squads together,” Apelu said.

She sent invites to Samoa’s national sporting federations, and is currently looking after about 10 athletes under the programme.

Apelu hopes those federations will be able to assist with funding the programme.

“S.A.S.N.O.C. (Samoa Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee) should really come on board with a lot of this stuff,” she said, “if they have not already."

“While we’re waiting for the High Performance Unit of Samoa to be built as the overall authority of upskilling coaching and management of all sporting bodies, this is probably a very good essential service that they could utilise.”

One thing Apelu wants to prevent is people turning up to national team trials unfit and out of form.

“This is where I ‘d like to offer support to many of our national federations, because I’m sure they’re scratching their heads; ‘how can we keep our elite athletes in top form’,” she said.

“As an elite athlete you need to realise that that is your responsibility, to turn up in form, and in top condition for your coaching staff.

“You need to do your homework… I think elite athletes underestimate much responsibility that is.”

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