Te Taha Hinengaro: Using Talanoa to Facilitate an Interconnected Analysis of Psychosocial Development Shared by Māori and Pasifika Young Men in Rugby League
Psychosocial development is one aspect of talent development (TD) that has generated considerable attention; however, studies which use Indigenous frameworks are scant. For many teenage Māori and Pasifika athletes, the psychosocial aspect within the realms of sports in general, can be more arduous than the physical aspect (Napier, 2015). My PhD contextualises psychosocial development specifically within a High Performance (HP) Rugby League (RL) context in Aotearoa, New Zealand, using an Indigenous Māori and Pasifika framework. In 2017, 100% of the Junior Kiwis (Aotearoa’s top under-20s age group male RL team) were of Māori and/or Pasifika heritage. At present, there are a lack of tools, practices and processes that respond appropriately to the psychosocial needs of Māori and/or Pasifika athletes. Consequently, it seemed appropriate in my research to explore nine high performing Māori and/or Pasifika junior RL players’ perceptions to identify, define and understand the process of developing psychosocial determinants of success for them. Two focus groups were established, which included five under-20s (aged 18-20) and four under-18s (aged 16-18) junior RL players of Māori and/or Pasifika heritage who were embedded in a professional RL club’s TD programme. Five sessions per age group were conducted over nine months using a Pasifika method, Talanoa (Vaioleti, 2006). Data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Jarman & Osborn, 1999), as guided by the underpinning collective Māori and Pasifika framework.
The results of the research found that each participant had personal and collective experiences that shaped their perceptions regarding the identification and operationalisation of each determinant of success. Specifically, sacrifice, attitude, resilience, preparation/routine, selfless, and a network of good influences were identified as instrumental to the successful progression along the TD pathway. Given the cultural underpinnings of my study however, a significant finding was the importance and value of relationships with other persons (i.e. family, significant other, adult mentor). More specifically, reciprocal relationships were key to successfully navigating the complexities of the HP TD pathway for the participants. Findings suggested that an optimal relationship is one that is anchored by trust and emanates an unspoken/unseen energy conducive to enhancing individuals’ capacity to unpack, process and overcome the mentally and emotionally trying times that a high performing junior RL player encounters along the HP TD pathway. By utilising a methodological approach more reflective of the targeted demographic, my findings (re)defined psychosocial as the interconnectedness of relationships, trust and energy.
Essentially, the establishment of reciprocal relationships were foundational to psychosocial development and pre-requisite to the development of specific determinants of success. Therefore, to optimise the preparation and performance of Māori and Pasifika high performing junior RL players, there is a need to integrate practices throughout the TD process that facilitate opportunities to establish trusting relationships that stimulate and support an energy conducive to the reinforcement of psychosocial development.