Taleni Tufuga, Vice Principal, Church College of Vaiola, Savaii.

25 Aug What’s the secret to Vaiola’s triple champion success?

24 August 2017. Samoa – With their triumph at the national inter-school athletics Champ of Champs, the Church College of Vaiola has scored an enviable ‘hat-trick’, a clean sweep of athletics, rugby and netball, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what school is Samoa’s 2017 sporting champion.

In April this year, Vaiola’s First XV won the national school rugby tournament. Two weeks before the final rugby match, Vaiola’s netball team won their second consecutive national school tournament.

In another golden achievement, 5 players of the Vaiola rugby team were members of the Samoan U18 team which won the Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games, held in the Bahamas last month. That’s nearly half of the 12-member Samoan U18 Sevens team that was captained by a Vaiola student.

Winning the Overall title at the 2017 Champ of Champs – and breaking 4 national records in one day – is the ‘icing on the cake’ and has many wondering, what’s the secret to Vaiola’s success?

In an exclusive interview with Samoa Planet, the Vice Principal of the college in charge of Sports and also one of the coaches, Taleni Tufuga gave his answer to that question.

“Hard work, commitment and dedication from both the teachers and the athletes.”

Tufuga paid tribute to all the Coaches and teachers who have worked tirelessly to prepare the athletes. He explained, “Behind the performance you saw today, everyone has been working so hard. We teach our students that if you have the right attitude, believe in yourself and put in the work, then anything is possible.”

“We truly believe that hard work beats talent every time. You can have the talent but if you don’t work hard and make the most of it, then you will never succeed.”

Tufuga spoke of the partnership that the school has forged with the parents of the students. “We could not do this without the support of the parents. It’s important that they know Vaiola has a dedicated staff who will take good care of their children and help them succeed. They trust us and we work hard to be worthy of that trust.”

Vaiola College is situated inland of Tapuele’ele Savaii. Owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), the sprawling campus is nestled at the base of a steep green hill that bears its name. It’s a somewhat isolated spot but rich with history and the school is well-resourced with a computer lab, staff housing, cafeteria and other amenities. It’s also one of a rare few schools remaining in Samoa that offers boarding facilities for its students, with a separate dormitory for girls and another for boys. Recently the school has welcomed students from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Further clues to Vaiola’s sporting success can be found by visiting the campus which seems to be an ideal training facility for young athletes. There’s no television in the dorm, no X-box –  just plenty of green grassy fields, basketball and netball courts, and wide open spaces for running and playing rugby, soccer and more.

Vaiola has an extensive plantation that helps feed the school. It’s also where the dorm students work in rostered duties on Saturdays – adding to the abundance of physical exercise and outdoor activity. The school cafeteria provides a menu that is ‘basic’ and focused on locally grown and sourced food items. There’s no junk/fast food here, no shops nearby to buy any either.

The LDS faith teaches that ‘the body is a temple’, with a Word of Wisdom that recommends no alcohol, coffee, tea, and no tobacco. Theoretically then, that means no Vaiola College athletes are getting drunk on weekends or compromising their fitness with smoking.

The 50+ member athletics squad camped at the school dormitory in the weeks leading up to the Champ of Champs, waking at 4am to train before classes began and then training again in the late afternoon.

Church College of Vaiola, Savaii, Samoa PC – Miriama Martin

Church College of Vaiola, Savaii, Samoa
PC – Miriama Martin

Tufuga explained though, that it’s training that is carefully balanced with academics and an emphasis on the “right attitude”.

“A good attitude towards training helps with also having a good attitude towards your schoolwork and to your life. Waking up at 4am to train is hard and when it gets tough, they have to understand the big picture of what they are working towards. There are many opportunities ahead if they work hard at their sport and at their schoolwork.”

For the Vaiola coaches, an emphasis  on self-discipline is key in their approach to the students. They have a strict policy towards athletes who break school rules. A few days before the Savaii zone competition, one of their fastest sprinters was reported for fighting at school and so he wasn’t allowed to compete.

“We have been working closely with him to improve his behaviour and control his temper. All the teachers said they have seen an improvement in his attitude since then. He has a lot of potential and can achieve a lot.”

“Discipline is so important. Students need to be able to control their actions and abide by the school rules, listen to the teachers. To be successful, an athlete needs self-discipline in their sport and also off the field. We work with them to see how they can own their problem, because they are the only one who can fix it and discipline themselves.”

Tufuga is proud of the students performance today, and rightfully so.

When we asked, what’s next for the team? A big celebration? 

He replied, “We took the team to the Aquatic Center after the Champ of Champs, for a fun activity and cool-down. After dinner we will have prayer and an early night because we have to catch the 8 o’clock boat to Savaii tomorrow morning. As soon as we get back to school, then all the students will go to class right away. We don’t want them to miss another day of school.”

And that right there, probably sums up the secret to Vaiola’s success.

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