CNMI players toughen up

Posted on Sep 22 2020


Merrick Toves, left, seen here playing in the 2019 NMIFA Youth Spring League, was among the CNMI players who attended a mental skill training session with Kanata Omori last month. (Saipan Tribune)

CNMI national players continue to make the most of their downtime from soccer games as they attended mental skills training classes with a consultant in sports and performance psychology.

Members of the CNMI boys U15 and U17 national team and the Women’s National Team had virtual sessions with Kanata Omori, who was born and raised on Saipan and is now in Colorado taking up a master’s degree in Sport and Performance Psychology at the University of Denver.

Omori, who also used to play soccer and suited up for TanHoldings Football Club’s youth team, declined to disclose details of his sessions with the team as he is bound by confidentiality, but said that their discussions focused on improving players’ mentality on and off the pitch, the squad’s short and long-term goals, and the importance of playing for the CNMI.

“Being a small island teams, we are usually working with fewer resources compared to the overseas competition. This is something out of the control of the athletes so we want to focus on making the most of what we have,” said Omori.

Rizza Relucio, a member of the CNMI national team, said the discussions they had with Omori will not only help them in their games, but in their daily lives as well, as they are trained how to approach situations on and off the field.

In this 2019 file photo, CNMI players warm up before playing against the Philippines in the Asian Football Confederation U16 Championship 2020 Qualifiers in Jakarta, Indonesia. The islands’ soccer players continue to train, on and off the pitch, amid the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for future competitions. (Contributed Photo)

Merrick Toves, another member of the national squad, knows Omori personally and how he is capable of helping a player, as the latter used to coach the former in basketball.

“He’s a great teacher/coach and I like how he taught us things/ideas that can help us play smarter and better,” the Kanoa Football Club mainstay said.

The sessions with Omori last month was timely, as the national teams, despite the suspension of majority of the local and international competitions the past months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to train and prepare for future tournaments.

“Working with the teams has been a great pleasure. The players were very engaging and ready to absorbs the inputs they were provided. I hope that our sessions will allow them to increase their level of play and appreciation of the sport,” said Omori.

Meanwhile, before pursuing his master’s degree, Omori first graduated from University of Virginia last year with a with bachelor’s degree in Youth and Social Innovation. He now works as a consultant under University of Denver’s Center for Performance Excellence, providing mental health services to Denver and surrounding communities, and he is honored to share his knowledge to athletes back home.

“This program has been a great learning experience in a variety of aspects. I can see more perspectives which is important when working with sports teams since individuals see things differently. I hope that the work that I do can help athletes achieve their personal and athletic success,” Omori said.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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