After years of being challenged on the netball court, Ameliaranne Ekenasio knows exactly what goes into building a successful sporting career and the developmental process. Through it all she’s discovered how the improvement of mindset betters her ability to play. With the focus in sport so heavily weighted on physical abilities, Ameliaranne wants to ensure the overall health and wellness of herself and teammates isn’t ignored.
Ameliaranne is known for her high arching shot and long-range talent making her one of the top netball shooters in the world. Recent triumphs with Wellington’s Central Pulse include the side winning the ANZ Premiership in 2019 and 2020. Later in 2019 she was selected to captain the Silver Ferns after helping lead the team to a Netball World Cup title in Liverpool where she landed 24 shots of 26 taken. She then led the squad to their first Constellation Cup against Australia since 2012.
After such an exciting past few seasons we wanted to chat with Ekenasio to get some quick-fire answers on how she goes about maintaining a sound mind in a sound body in spite of all that comes with being a high-performance athlete.
Morning, lunchtime, evening runner?
I would say lunchtime or evening. Something about running or training at night that I have always loved.
Favourite post-run snack / meal?
Big fan of smoothies after a run.
Outside of your shoes, what’s one running essential you can’t go without?
Best piece of running advice you’ve ever received?
Just start and keep chipping away!
Running Solo or Running in a group?
I’m a fan of solo runs but definitely need the encouragement to go that little bit extra with a friend.
Music, Podcast, or your own thoughts? What are they?
Music for sure but has to be something I’m vibing not too heavy so I burnout too fast but keeps me at a pace I can manage.
In 3 words how would you describe yourself as a runner?
Social off-season runner!
Favourite running route in NZ?
Anywhere by the water - keeps me distracted from how tired I can get.
I run because….
It often drops me out of my head and into my body.
Where does your mind tend to wander while running?
“I wonder if people can hear me breathing…”
What’s your #1 way of maintaining a sound mind?
Know what you need and don’t compare it to anyone else. Look after you, for you.
Favourite ASICS shoe?
Looking after mental health is a topic at the forefront of professional sports and Ameliaranne is one of the biggest advocates in the field. According to her, “As a professional athlete I have learnt over the course of my career that taking care of my mental health is something not just important but it is vital for my performance on and off the court.”
Ameliaranne’s Biggest Tools for looking after Mental Health:
- Journaling: This helps get thoughts clear in my head especially when it comes down to performance. Once my thoughts are clear it is easier to assess how to deal with something that may have come up like a bad game.
- Scheduling Downtime: Making sure I have dedicated time away where I don’t have to be “on’’ and can relax without feeling the need to do anything relating to netball. Committing to this is huge too as it’s easy to take on other things when you have time there.
- Meditating: This has become crucial for my mental health as I have an extremely critical thinking brain that over analyses a lot which is great to find and tick off 1%ers but is too much all the time. Meditating gives me space from my thoughts and allows me to catch them when they are on a negative run.
As captain of the Silver Ferns, she also focuses on building connections amongst her teammates ensuring the foundation is there for players to communicate during tough times. “I believe this is important because it allows everyone to feel more comfortable especially when it comes down to having hard conversations and talking about what’s really going on for them at the time.”
One of Ameliaranne’s biggest obstacles is tuning out her own negative self-doubt. She’s her own toughest critic and works to recognise when her self-talk is skewing away from the positive. “I’ve done a lot of work to accept that this happens for me so I can recognise it instead of pretending that it isn’t a thing. Since accepting it I now am able to work through practicing positive self-talk which helps to add to self-belief. Sometimes it seems over the top but I like to write down little mantras or phrases for games when feeling a little nervous leading up like: “I trust every decision I make with the ball in hand because I make good decisions for everyone around me, every ball I get in the circle I am confident to shoot, even if I miss I’ll just keep going to the post because this is my job and I am the best at my job.”
“You can take confidence and turn to what your strengths are when things get hard. Working on both your strengths and weaknesses are important to always strive to be the best you can be.”
On the topic of knowing herself, Ameliaranne Ekenasio explained, “It allows me to keep my mind clear under pressure because I’m more confident on what I can and can’t do and have trained myself to put myself in situations where I know my strengths will be at play. My biggest tip for anyone wanting to play at a high level is to really start to know yourself, who you are and what you stand for. An easy way to look at this from a physical perspective is to know your strengths and weaknesses.”
Read more from runners and athletes of the ASICS community in our Sound Mind Sound Body Series on the blog.
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