Life West Rugby’s growing reputation as a program that develops talent grew this week with the placement of 18 year-old Maanaima (Naima) Fualaau in USA 7’s full time residency program. Fualaau will be the youngest player at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center (EATC) and will integrate with the current US 7s residents there. The Hayward, CA resident has enjoyed a rapid rise over the past 12 months, playing U19 rugby for the Peninsula Green Beavers before taking a step up to join Life West’s Elite side in the inaugural California Cup this winter. The youngster has distinguished himself as a talented playmaker with good game sense.
Life West Head Coach and former NZ Under 20 Selector, Adriaan Ferris said, “Naima has attracted the attention of Mike (Friday) and Chris (Brown) – USA 7 Coaches, with his skill set and potential. He is a natural playmaker who creates space for others and is fast and evasive. I’m pleased to see USA Rugby investing in him to see his future potential realized.” The support from the Life West community has been instrumental in helping Naima reach his goal of one day playing for the US National team. As Ferris notes, “the philosophy we have at Life West is to provide what is best for a player’s development, and to create opportunities for our players to play at the highest level”.
“I am excited for the chance to train in a full time environment with Olympic athletes and the full-time US rugby players,” said Fualaau on the morning of his selection. “I think I have a great feel for the game and love playing 7s. I am thankful of what Coach Ferris has done to help me improve as a player and for the opportunities he has given me.”
Abroad, both the Bayonne and Pau Rugby Academies (France) have been in discussion for his services, but for now Fualaau is set to stay in the US and work towards representing the US at international level. Looking forward, his immediate goal for this season is to play in one of the World Series Tournaments, and in a few years his ultimate goal is to represent USA 7s at the Olympic Games.
Best wishes to Naima on his journey through the EATC and onwards.
Photo Credit: Alex Ho Photography