Online learning resource sees sports stars share their journey to success

By James Perry

Former NZ Warriors star Sione Faumuina is developing an online platform where subscribers and schools will have the chance to hear from some of the country's top sports stars.

His company Athlete Empire will soon be launching the online learning tool in which athletes will give first-hand accounts of what they have learned throughout their journey as professional athletes. 

The athletes include Rugby World Cup-winners Nehe Milner-Skudder, Stacey Fluhler and Les Elder, as well as NRL stars Honey Hireme-Smiler, Adam Blair and Gerard Beale.

"Whether you want to be an athlete or whether you want to pursue another career path, these athletes have got all these great lessons that they want to share to help you achieve that goal," Faumuina told Te Ao.

The overarching theme of the platform is he says wellbeing and getting the right mindset. The inspiration comes from his own learned experience during a career that had as many peaks as it did it lows.

He says while many people will recognise the names of athletes and see what happens on the field, it is the work that occurs outside the white-lines that most athletes will not experience until they reach that level.

"What we're really trying to focus on is the stuff that you won't hear, like how do you deal with pressure? What do you do when you're not making the team? How do you become more resilient?

"These are messages that these athletes have lived and so being able to share that in a way that inspires and empowers our next generation and people is invaluable."

Faumuina says it is something he wished was around when he was younger and coming onto the sports scene 20 years ago.

The programme is aimed at aspiring athletes, coaches and fans, while also providing for 'visionaries' who could benefit from the stories of how athletes forged successful careers.

While it is a subscription-based platform, Faumuina says schools are encouraged to register their interest and he believes their students can benefit a lot.

Hastings based Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga is one such kura that has signed up for the programme.

Learning facilitator at the kura, Rongopai Kira says, "Hearing directly from their sporting idols, the students will be able think about what they can do to realise their own sporting dreams and what is involved in becoming successful."

A benefit of the online learning tool is it is essentially a ready-made resource for schools, particularly if they are required to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faumuina says more schools should consider the potential of programmes like his.

"I think you'll start to see a lot of schools will now start to maybe incorporate some more e-learning modules in case this happens or something like this happens again."

Kira says should that occur, the school could provide students with iPads and incorporate the Athlete Empire programme into the distance learning schedule for the students while at home.

So far over 50 schools have registered their interest in the programme, including two Kura Kaupapa Māori. 

Faumuina says the idea came about when he and Milner-Skudder were visiting a school in an isolated part of the country and someone asked when they would see them again. That was when Faumuina says he realised that many people who live outside the main centres rarely get to see their sporting idols in person. 

The online platform will allow these heroes to be zoomed into the classrooms and houses of anyone who has access to the internet.

"I guess that the biggest thing for us is being able to build this platform for athletes so that they can reach more people, but then start building that relationship with schools who may not get those same privileges as some of the major sporting schools in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch."

While all nine of the current athletes on the platform are from the two rugby codes, Faumuina says aspiring athletes from all codes can benefit from the lived experience. He also hopes to soon add netballers, basketballers and footballers to the roster of athletes.

Faumuina hopes the platform will be launched in early April.