Rollers alumnus gets master’s degree

Posted on Aug 09 2021
Kanata Omori

Kanata Omori poses with his mother, Anna Rose, and brother, Manatsu, during his graduation at the University of Denver with a Masters of Arts in Sport and Performance Psychology. (Contributed photo)

Former Rollers Basketball Club player Kanata Omori recently completed his Masters of Arts in Sport and Performance Psychology from the University of Denver and is looking forward to a career as a sports psychologist.

“Growing up I never planned on completing a master’s degree, even halfway through my undergraduate degree I did not have it in mind. Now that I have one I think it means two things to me—a thank you to my family and support systems and proof to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to. As far as I know I am the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree,” he told Saipan Tribune.

Omori said his parents sacrificed time and money to raise him and his brother and that’s why he wanted to make sure that whatever he decided to do he would be able to make them proud.

“I like being comfortable, it’s fun easy and stress free. But most anything we really want in life is anything but comfortable. I moved out to a new state, where I knew absolutely nobody (nothing new for an islander going to the mainland) and tackled the uncomfortableness that came with graduate school. The cherry on top was finishing my master’s with a 4.0 GPA, my hard work felt validated.”

Omori said now that he has a master’s degree he’s looking to work with teams, individuals, or organizations as a mental performance consultant and/or coach.

“One way of thinking about my profession is as the strength and conditioning coach for your mind. I won’t be able to help you get stronger or move faster, but I can help figure out what steps we need to take to get you to the level you want to be consistently. I want to help people bring out their best performance whenever the time arises. In order to do this there is a lot of training that can be done. Some topics I have helped clients with are confidence, focus, communication, arousal and anxiety regulation, etc. I want to help athletes play at their best and feel at their best whenever they are competing,” he said.

Omori also thanked his friends and former teammates back home, especially his former team, the Rollers.

“In 2017 I took a gap year from my bachelors and flew back home to Saipan. While I was there I spent time as an intern at the Public School System (shout out to the Accountability, Research, and Evaluation team, especially to my bosses Lynette Villagomez and Mr. Tigilau) and as a coach for the Rollers Basketball Association (thank you to coach Joe Diaz and board members for allowing me to be part of the organization).”

And it was during that gap year dabbling in coaching basketball that he realized his calling.

“As a coach it was very apparent to me that my players had more skill than I ever did. I couldn’t add much to their technique, so I helped them by giving them options to think of or giving them a little more motivation. We had a tournament in Guam where one of our teams fell just short of making the championship game, in that moment I thought to myself ‘I wish there was more I could have done.’ I am also an avid gamer and follow a couple of e-sports. My favorite team is TSM and I remember watching one of their videos and saw that they were working with a sport psychologist. After doing my own research into the field I realized that that is what I wanted to do.”

Omori also reminisced about his time playing for the Rollers Basketball Association and how it molded him to what he is right now.

“I joined the Rollers relatively late; it was the summer before my senior year of high school. The first lesson I learned was humility. I thought I was a pretty good basketball player so when I went to my first practice I thought I would stand out, I did but not for good reasons. My conditioning was awful, my skills were lacking, and I seemed out of place.”

He said he understood right away that there was work he needed to put in, as he saw the discrepancy in skill and told himself “I can just not come to another practice, no one would mind anyway.” That’s when he learned the important lesson of community.

“We were in the last drill of practice. It had a mix of ball handling, shooting, and speed; again, I was bad at all of that. As I finished my set I remember a teammate, Justin Cayading, came up to me. He definitely saw me struggling and maybe he could tell that I wanted to quit because he said ‘Hey I know it’s hard but keep coming to practice and you will get better.’ At the time I only knew of Justin, he was a friend of a friend but he still went out of his way to talk to me even though he was miles ahead of me as a basketball player. Those two values—humility and community—are what I took away from my time with the Rollers. With humility I approach every conversation with curiosity, wanting to see what I can learn from other people. We are nothing without the people who support us; having genuine, loving relationships with those around us is so important to being happy,” he said.

Rollers coach Joe Diaz said he’s very proud of his former ward’s achievement.

“He was a power forward for our Rollers 18U and for like five months I started teaching him basic post-up move and he started picking it up real fast. He also played off-island with us in the Guam Hoopfest Basketball Tournament on November and also suited for our team in the Rotary Youth Basketball League where we finished second,” he said.

Omori’s mother, Anna Rose, said there are so many adjustments as your son matures into adulthood and leaves home. “I am very proud of my son.”

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at
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