KNOWN as the 'head coach' of the All Blacks, Gilbert Enoka knows the mindset of top athletes. Enoka sat down with Northern Advocate sports editor Cameron Leslie.

Leading sports psychologist and All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka believes the soon to established Northland Talent Hub is a positive move.

In partnership with Sport New Zealand and NorthTec, Sport Northland will soon be launching a talent hub which will identify top young Northland sportspeople and start developing them with a goal of seeing them go on to represent New Zealand at open level in their chosen sport.

Within the hub, Sport Northland will run Sport NZ's new 'Pathway to Podium' programme, which will be made up of top sportspeople from Northland who have been identified by the national bodies of each sport.


But, it's not only athletes who are set to benefit. Coaches will also be invited to be part of the programme, and be given training in the areas of strength and conditioning, nutrition, athlete life, performance psychology, drugs in sport, physiotherapy and recovery.

While only a handful of Northlanders are expected to be part of the Pathway to Podium programme, Enoka believes it is an important stepping stone for the region - and New Zealand.

"If you think of great achievement, whatever age it is, if you've got something to believe in and someone who believes in you then they can guide you through those pathways," Enoka commented on the bridging between a Northland academy and the national ones.

"If that happens at a younger age, and through the paths that you talked about, then I think that it'll be beneficial.

"I have met a lot of people that get into [high performance sport] but are not equipped for it. What is high performance sport is another definition really."

Enoka, who is the general manager of Harcourts International when he's not on tour with the All Blacks, added that it would be key, in his view, to make sure the right people are running the programme - along with understanding the youth involved.

"You can't take people from a too young age and put them in an adult system, and high performance model and mindset - it's got to be graduated with other areas of their development.

"I think it's a good move by the sound of those academies, the more you can reach back and reach talent and educate them, then you give people more options. But, you've got to make sure the people who are delivering it are of a good quality."


Sport Northland chief executive Brent Eastwood explained in his column The Whangarei Report this week that former high performance athlete in triathlon and marathon Ady McKenzie will coordinate the hub.

He said Sport Northland was keen to nurture talented youth.

"Given this, Sport Northland is very keen on developing the next best Northland sportspeople, so that in future more will be identified nationally for the Pathway to Podium programme," he said in his column.

"As such, up to another 15 sportspeople will be identified and offered spots in the Northland Talent Hub. These sportspeople will be offered a similar programme to the Pathway to Podium participants, without quite being as in-depth." The talent hub would be based at the ASB Leisure Centre, using North Tec's Sport and Recreation Programme facilities, Kensington Fitness and the ASB Northland Sports House.