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Enoka urges prioritising downtime

Wednesday May 02, 2018 Written by Published in Rugby Union
All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka urges people to take some time out of their busy lives. All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka urges people to take some time out of their busy lives.

The man charged with keeping the All Blacks emotionally fit is urging people to prioritise downtime.


Cook Islander and sports psychologist Gilbert Enoka is helping promote the latest campaign from mental health organisation All Right?, which gives away free dice featuring downtime activities on the sides such as enjoying music, getting outside, or catching up with a mate.

Enoka has helped transform the national rugby team – playing a pivotal part in taking them from the depths of despair after their 2007 World Cup quarter-final loss to the French through to their record-breaking Rugby World Cup triumph in 2015.

During his time in the Cook Islands, former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry picked Enoka as the backbone to the team’s success over the past 14 years.

He said downtime was an integral part of his coaching and helped athletes and businesspeople perform at their best.

Enoka coaches people to find small 10 to 15 minute activities, which can be as simple as reading a book, having a cuppa with a friend, or going for a walk, to schedule deliberately into their day.

He calls these “triple-A batteries”.

“They’re like pit stops in a race where you just go in to fill up energy,” Enoka said.

“They must be activities people can do wherever they are and not depend on anyone else.”

The “double-A batteries” are longer activities to be scheduled a couple of times each week, such as a movie, a catch-up with friends, or a gym session.

The “As” are the biggest batteries – think weekend away or family outing – to be scheduled a few times a year.

Taking downtime should not bring on feelings of guilt as it made people more energised and productive, Enoka said.

“The world teaches everybody how to grind and how to get exhausted, but no one is ever trained on how to pull themselves out of sixth gear.”

Scheduling was key to avoid wasting downtime feeling guilty, bored or restless, he said.

When Enoka, who lives in Christchurch, has a day off, he schedules in exercise and a 90-minute massage.

“Developing resilience is about exposing yourself to waves of stress and waves of recovery. Having downtime is good for your recovery.”

All Right? was established after the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes to support mental health and wellbeing.

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