The Guam national football programs have taken the necessary steps forward to ensure their athletes’ well-being – physically and mentally – is being cared for and monitored. To date, the national program has consistently included strength and conditioning coaches, physiotherapists, trainers and team doctors as part of its training repertoire. Keeping in line with the nationwide trend focused on helping elite athletes cope with the mental strain of performing at the highest levels and under the most grueling conditions, the team has added sports psychologist Marcel Noronha from Australia to its staff.
“Sports psychology focuses on how our mental state can impact athletic performance,” Noronha said. “Just like you would see a strength and conditioning coach to get stronger, fitter and faster, you go and see a sports psychologist to train your mind. After all, it is your mind that regulates the body. Top teams and athletes understand the importance of the mental game and the benefits of mental health and well-being in relation to their performance.”
Noronha joined the team at the request of Guam Men’s National Team head coach Karl Dodd, who is familiar with his work in Australia.
Noronha’s credentials are extensive, having spent nearly a decade working with the Australian swim team, Brisbane Broncos, Brisbane Roar, the Queensland Academy of Sport and with individual athletes. He already has worked with some players on the Matao squad for a few months ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1.
“Mental health is super important – not just for athletes – but for humans in general,” Noronha said.
Stressing that athletes who compete at an elite level face a different pressure, Noronha said he is there to assess and reduce the stress the island’s athletes undergo.
“Working with a sports psychologist can help reduce the amount of stress they experience and help to develop, enhance and maintain consistent peak performance,” he said.
For Guam striker Marcus Lopez, sessions with Noronha have helped him become a better athlete.
Lopez said he has always gravitated toward playing the striker position, embracing the scoring load that comes with it. However, that pressure to score compounds as he continues to play at the highest levels and a great deal of mental strength is required, which Noronha has helped Lopez with in this regard.
“Karl Dodd is a tactical genius and him bringing in a sports psychologist allowed us to lift our game to another level,” Lopez said. “Marcel is a top guy and I’ve been working with him for a few months now. He fits great with the team and we’re all benefiting from his inclusion in our national program.”
Lopez played a key role in helping Guam advance to the semifinal round of the EAFF East Asian Cup Championship in 2012, when he made his debut at the senior level, scoring a goal against Macau and assisting a goal by teammate Zachary Deville in Guam’s first against its East Asian neighbor. Since then, Lopez has been featured in key tournaments for Guam, including the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifiers, and has been called up to the Matao for the next cycle of FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualification.
Information was provided in a news release.