Elevating Manu Samoa’s Mental Game: A Mental Performance Coaching Perspective
By Loveni Enari
The Manu Samoa rugby team might be playing on the fields of southern France but they are receiving specialised, scientific Samoan expertise all the way from Atlanta, Georgia in the US.
In a CoconetTV exclusive we can reveal that Manumalo Muasau, Mental Performance Coach to the NFL team, the Tennessee Titans, is working closely with top players in Manu Samoa to provide that extra edge, in the all important top two inches.
Manu Samoa's coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua and Muasau had followed each other on social media for quite a while and finally connected after the coach reached out a few weeks ago for assistance to our boys in royal-blue at the Rugby World Cup.
‘Coach Mapusua is a former elite athlete but as a coach he’s someone who’s brilliant in understanding wellbeing and performance holistically, not just physically but mentally as well,’ says Manumalo, which means ‘victory’ in English.
‘I basically integrate brain and body-based exercises to help top athletes relieve stress, tension and pressure in their bodies.’
Manumalo achieves this with group calls where they talk about performance and what some of their strengths and areas of improvement are, then provides consultation from a mental performance standpoint, helping to make meaning of what they see on the field.
There are also one on one sessions addressing the 'here and now' using techniques to help players release pressure and tension in their brains and bodies, allowing them to be more aware and present on the field with reduced mental clutter.
‘I help them train the part of the brain in neuroscience which we refer to as ‘flow state’, and that’s the optimal state of consciousness where you feel you perform best, when you’re in your zone, deep in the here and now,' says the talented Californian.
'Coach Seilala and I also have our regular check-ins where I get a chance to provide my insights while learning and embracing cultural humility in understanding his coaching philosophy.'
'It’s been a beautiful and spiritual process for me to be able to use my God given gifts to support my people.'
These gifts of his are the sort of thing that possibly allowed some great play by our boys in their World Cup opener versus Chile. For example, centre Ulupano Seuteni making that one-handed catch while straightening his run at full speed, which led to the first try against Chile, or the clarity in the brain of flanker Taleni Seu as he sprinted to the corner to defend Chile’s attack in their first try.
It could be the difference in the tightest of matches and means enabling and empowering players to go the extra mile despite the stress and difficulty.
If one’s ability to overcome hardship gives top athletes and coaches that edge over opposition, Muasau might just be the most highly qualified person in his position in the world.
You could say ‘adversity’ is his middle name as he was born into homelessness with his two siblings and parents and the first 13 years of his life were spent living out of a van, in homeless shelters, in parks and motels.
It’s a story to be told (watch this space) but it’s well in his past now and the Doctorate student at John F. Kennedy University is hard at work, on a mission to put those extreme life lessons, and years of academic study, to bringing the rugby world cup to what we know is its rightful home, the Pacific.
Loveni S. Enari is a Samoan journalist who’s spent most of his life in Spain as an English teacher, rugby coach, catering manager, journalist and father. He hails from the villages of Vaiala, Safune, Lepa, Nofoali’i and Wairoa.
Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air