By Michelle Curran
With a background in psychology and a heartfelt passion to see young people thrive, Gaylene Osborne brings invaluable skills and perspective to her work with Pacific Rugby Players (PRP).
The Fiji-based PRP player development manager uses her skillset to equip support, guide, assist, and empower rugby players in their personal and professional development, to ensure they fulfil their true potential.
Ultimately, what motivates Gaylene Osborne to do the work she does, is witnessing young people transform, fulfil their potential and seeing them thrive.
As the Fiji-based Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) player development manager, she sees this on a regular base, something she is eternally grateful for.
“To see the happy look in their eyes when they come and whisper to me, they got their driver’s licence or bought a house,” Gaylene says.
“Or when a young man moves from the Fiji Rugby Academy (FRA) to the Fiji Warriors team and gets his first cap, or when a player tells me he now has a part-time job in a coffee shop to help his family while playing rugby at the same time.”
Also motivating Gaylene, is not wanting to hear any more heart-breaking demoralising stories of Fijian players who play professionally overseas for many years and return to Fiji with nothing to show for it.
“No house, no investment, no prospects,” she says.
It is also hugely rewarding working with the people of Fiji, from her base in Suva, Fiji’s capital city where Gaylene was born and raised.
Gaylene moved around somewhat before returning to Suva, spending four years in Rarotonga, and attending Rosehill College in the South Auckland suburb of Papakura for her final two years of secondary school.
Following secondary school, Gaylene attended the University of Waikato in Hamilton, where she not only emerged with a Psychology degree but also established life-long friends.
On her return to Fiji, Gaylene started lecturing at the University of the South Pacific, where she taught for 18 years.
Alongside working as an academic, Gaylene volunteered her time and services as a mental skills coach to various sports in Fiji.
“In 2006, I was asked to do some work with the inaugural FRU High Performance Academy and that is how I became involved in rugby.”
A decade later, Gaylene accepted her current role with PRP, working closely with Fiji Rugby.
The opportunity to help young men and women navigate their pathways on and off the rugby field is one she says she could not refuse.
Gaylene’s primary role with PRP is to support, guide, assist, and empower players in their personal and professional development.
“This includes working with players to develop career prospects outside of rugby, gain educational qualifications, engage in personal planning, equip them with financial knowledge, and advance their ability on how they can manage their professional rugby career.
“I also work with Fiji-based emerging players in the FRU Academy (men and women), Fiji Under-20s, Fiji Warriors, Fijiana 15s, and elite players who make up the Fiji men and women’s sevens teams, Latui, and Fijian Drua.”
So much of Gaylene’s time is spent maintaining regular contact with players and Fiji-based and external providers through phone calls, email, visits, informal meetings, and appropriate presence in team environments.
The rest is spent developing and designing, implementing, and monitoring the Personal Development (PD) Programme in Fiji.
To top off a busy schedule, Gaylene assists with the ongoing development and support of the programme in the United Kingdom and France.
In a role she feels so passionately about, the job highlights are varied, and numerous.
One thing Gaylene has enjoyed seeing over the years, is the increased awareness about maintaining a balance between rugby and life.
“For example, seeing elite locally-based players managing their education commitments with rugby demands, or players making contact to get help with CV development because they are applying for a job, or players asking for help with career options.”
During the four years she has spent in the role, Gaylene has noticed a change in players’ attitudes towards working with their agents – players often seek independent advice now before they sign with an agency or a club contract.
Over the past year, she has begun working with female rugby players, who are now being included in the PD Programme.
Finally, watching overseas-based professional players successfully planning for life after rugby is hugely rewarding for Gaylene, who says so much of PRP’s work is dedicated to this outcome.
“Some players have bought houses, and land, while others have started their farming business.
“It is really pleasing to see them thinking about their future.”
With players and teams having to juggle their rugby and PD demands, Gaylene is always grateful when a head coach and team manager schedules time for players to focus on growth and expansion into the weekly programme.
“Competing for limited time is definitely my biggest challenge in the role,” she adds.
Knowing she is positively impacting the players far outweighs any potential challenges within the role, however.
“The education and assistance we provide the players empowers them to be able to make informed decisions about their professional rugby career.
“Our work and resources help to produce all-rounded players, by complementing their rugby development with PD, it helps build character, and it provides a holistic aspect to player development within Fiji Rugby.”
Going forward, Gaylene has plans to add more relevant content and topics to various pillars that make up the PD model, as well as enhancing existing resources with more video content players can engage with.
“If possible, I want to connect with our local rugby communities more to share the importance of balancing life with rugby, considerations when presented with an overseas contract, and planning for life after rugby.”
Contact Gaylene Osborne firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about PRP.