One of the country's top strength and conditioning coaches, Sunesh Singh tells Christopher Reive how he draws on his own hardships to motivate New Zealand's elite athletes.
Sunesh Singh knows the value of hard work and mental strength, and he makes sure the athletes he works with know it too.
Since relocating from South Africa in 2001, Singh has made a name for himself as one of the top, if not the top, strength and conditioning coaches in the country. But it's not just the physical side of sport that Singh helps the athletes with, but the mental too. It's something he's learned the value of first hand.
"I'm a little bit tough; it's not an act, it's my upbringing from South Africa. I guess hard times and tough times develop character, so I try to use those same lessons I had and incorporate it into my training with these athletes," he tells the Herald.
"I didn't come from a very wealthy family. I didn't come from a wealthy neighbourhood. We were in a low socioeconomic group – you know, father working, just breaking even.
"You're fishing literally just for food in the house because you don't have food in the house; picking fruits off your neighbours trees and sitting on the side of the road trying to sell them. That sort of stuff where, at 11, 12 and 13, you're already thinking about how a we going to get money for the family, whereas most 11, 12 and 13 year olds are kicking a ball in the park.
"It's just that mental toughness, or mental fitness is what I call it, to get through."
Ever since he moved to New Zealand he's been taking his opportunities as they presented themselves. In 2013, he began working with Adesanya. It was his first job with an elite level athlete and from there his client list has snowballed.
After Adesanya, he began working with some NPC rugby players before the likes of Breakers star Tom Abercrombie and All Black Sonny Bill Williams sought his services. Now, he works with athletes and teams not just across the country, but worldwide too; with England representative footballer Jodie Taylor working with him before the Women's World Cup this year.
"You start with one, and then the word spreads. It comes down to word of mouth or they see the results.
"I count my blessings. If you get an opportunity, you go – then it's what you do with those moments. I don't sit back and wait for anything, I'm constantly thinking, constantly moving."
Affectionately known as 'Coach Sunz', Singh reinforces mental toughness with every athlete he trains. Discipline, motivation and consistency are keys for elite athletes, but when injuries or hardships hit, their mental faculties are tested.
"In sport, there's times where you either get injured or you didn't get picked by the coach or a fight didn't go your way or a game didn't go your way, it sometimes seems like the end for you. But being in a place where the light was fading, you learned through those tough times like no other. There is a way out of this, you just have to keep pushing forward – sometimes you just have to go to the left a little bit; you have to deviate, but your goals is still to get to the light. So building on tough times, being resilient, being patient, I try and instil that into the athletes when we train – just be patient and everything will come through.
"It's not like just anyone that's talented can do it. They are special because they are disciplined, consistent. So it's just to apply those principles and work on the physical and mental aspects of their game…I just add my little touch of Sunz."
Credit: NZ Herald