Personal Development Managers (PDMs) in rugby often have diverse backgrounds. Gaylene stands out among her peers with an academic background, having taught at the University of South Pacific for several years. Combining her educational experience with her psychology background, she offers unique insights and support to her players.

Gaylene’s current responsibilities include fostering personal growth in players hailing from Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. In addition, she works closely with the Fijian Drua Super Rugby team. According to her, “players’ needs often go beyond mere sports psychology. They also need to learn self-management and leadership skills to navigate the high-pressure environment of professional rugby effectively.”

While fresh players require guidance in their transition into professional rugby, the needs of the Drua team focus more on life after rugby. Most of these players are stepping into their first professional contract, hence financial preparedness becomes critical.

Gaylene believes in “preparing players for life’s future milestones, such as purchasing a house or land.”

The Pacific Rugby Players organization, like other player associations, encourages players to acquire additional skills during their playing days. Our players study diverse fields, from sports science to civil engineering. We believe in “preparing players for life beyond rugby, with self-leadership being a core focus imparted at every level of the game.”

While some players naturally possess leadership traits, others may need more assistance. However, we have noticed that players who’ve faced particular life experiences often display self-leadership and initiative without needing much guidance. Even for those who need more support, Gaylene emphasizes that, “handling minor yet vital tasks are stepping stones to achieving bigger wins in life.”

Mental health concerns have been an important part of our player development discourse. Within the professional environment, players face high stress and constant routines. Accordingly, our focus is on developing skills to help players manage and cope with these challenges. Encouraging open discussions about emotional struggles, particularly among male players, is a key part of this process.

Gaylene has noticed a gradual shift in mindset among players, viewing this as a positive culture change. She shares, “There’s a growing understanding that talking about your feelings or struggles is not a sign of weakness.”

Addressing the issue of retirement, Gaylene emphasizes the importance of preparing not only for a future career but also for changes in relationships, health, and finances.

The support at Pacific Rugby Players extends to retired players as well, who are urged to stay connected. Gaylene adds, “Maintaining connections with family, friends, faith, and the rugby community remains crucial even after retirement.”

We, at Pacific Rugby Players, recognize the growing demand for support from retired players, which is expected to increase as more players retire. This area will certainly receive increased focus in the coming times.

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Article written by:
Kace O’Neill & Vanessa Leota