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Toutai Kefu: Why Resilience Is Important To Team Building

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Toutai Kefu: Why Resilience Is Important To Team Building

One of the greatest number 8s Australian Rugby Union team has ever seen, Toutai Kefu, joined the Rebuild Health and Fitness Podcast to share his mindset, importance of resilience and illustrious journey as a player and coach. 

Speaking to show hosts James Batey and Sean Cornell, Kefu, who has won 60 caps for Australia during his career, is now the head coach of the Tongan national team and is actively involved in supporting the growth of the local rugby community. 


The journey from a player to coach 

Kefu stopped playing at 34 after having suffered various injuries during his last few years on the field. After switching from player to coach around 12-13 years ago, he finds the coaching process more rewarding than playing in some ways. Although it gets stressful, seeing the expression on a player’s face when the teaching processes work out is ‘‘very gratifying’’. 

‘‘I look back to when I first started, and I’m totally different now…the philosophy has changed, and the approach has changed too. But I love the transference when you coach or teach someone something, and it works out on the field. It’s really satisfying.’’ 

Being open-minded 

Whether you are a player or a coach, the importance of a growth mindset is crucial to trying new things, Kefu says. 

‘‘I’ve dealt with some interesting ..and selfish players over the years, and that’s been a big learning curve for me in trying to manage those players. But it’s a learning experience- everything I find difficult to manage now, I put on that learning cap and say, well, this is the best way to learn.

"Hopefully, down the track, you’ve learnt from that experience, and it will help you make difficult decisions in the future.’’

Striking a balance: old school mentality vs the sports science route

As a coach, Kefu stresses the importance of recognising the differences between the old school grit and the current school sports science as the first step to bridging the gap between these coaching styles. It also varies according to teams and what kind of support players may need from their coaches. 

‘‘I think what’s really important is that there are clear [parts of] communication to all your players and I think coaches have got to realise that players are different, players have feelings. As long as players know that you care and that you have that open channel of communication, I think that’s a really good starting point.’’  

Coaches aren’t just limited to one role, Kefu says- they must utilise their many skills to cater to their players' different needs, which will eventually help bring out the best in the team. He also believes there isn’t just one way to coach- it has to be a combination of tactics, good communication and making players feel like they belong and are included in what they do.


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