A winning partnership

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Chiefs Rugby and Waikato Uni have teamed up in a way that benefits students and players.

A relationship that began in 2013 has brought practical ‘real- world experience’ placements for students studying towards degrees in Sport and Leisure.

Not only does this allow students to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in lectures, it also gives them an insight into what it could be like to pursue a career working alongside high-performance athletes. And, it gives them something impressive to put on their CVs.

Sport & Leisure Studies senior lecturer Dr Brett Smith is co-ordinator of the Chiefs knowledge and innovation committee and as such, he and his students are heavily involved in many aspects of the Chiefs’ operations. To date this has included work in areas such as the lineout, decision-making, recovery, team culture, strength and conditioning, database development, GPS technology, and game analysis.

“Already we’ve had quite a few undergraduate students working proactively in various areas of the Waikato Chiefs high-performance programme. Each year its different because it’s based on the needs of the Chiefs coaching staff.

“We had two PhD students start projects with the team this year, and we regularly have opportunities for undergraduate students completing their three-year degrees. This is partly due to our practicum paper that requires them to complete at least 80 hours’ work in a sport and leisure company.

“This year, we’ve had four students, Terrina Chapman, Beccie Atkins, Kelsi Mackay and Ruby Perry involved in sports coding and video analysis. They worked under Chiefs’ head analyst, Regan Hall. Experience in this area has led to further opportunities for all of them. Three now work with the Waikato Rugby Union as part-time analysts and one now works in a similar role with one of our other partners, Cycling New Zealand,” says Dr Smith.

“Over summer, we had Joelene Howarth, a scholarship postgraduate psychology student, working in the Chiefs Sport Psychology area. The project examined the notion of ‘Chiefs Mana’. Conway Bradey, who graduated last month, gained some great experience working in the Chiefs gym running the GPS analysis (monitoring player workloads) over the past two pre-seasons alongside head strength & conditioning coach Phil Healey.”

What the students say about their Chiefs’ experience

Terrina Chapman
“The internship experience was amazing. It’s a rare opportunity to get a ‘sneak-peek’ into the reality of high performance sport. It’s incredible to see the amount of training and
dedication these athletes put in. My experience has shown me the importance of analysis in high-performance sport, and it’s given me the inspiration to strive for my goal to pursue postgraduate study.”

Beccie Atkins
“I loved the experience working with the Chiefs. I’ve been around rugby my whole life, with my dad involved in coaching and my brother as a player. One of the best things was going behind the scenes, the preparation and emotions surrounding ‘game day’ and the amount of fun they get to have during training. The experience has encouraged me to pursue my dream of working among elite athletes, potentially with statistics and GPS analysis.”

Kelsi Mackay
“The experience was unreal. Besides gaining great contacts and valuable skills, I was always happy and excited to turn up to work. To have this experience while still studying was something most students would only dream of. It really helped cement everything I had learned in class and I was able to create links that can only be made through experience. The fact I was able to do it with one of the best rugby sides in New Zealand was just a bonus! My dream is to pursue postgraduate study and work in high-performance sport as a Movement Analyst. This is definitely where I want to be.”

Joelene Howarth
“I was lucky enough to work alongside players and support staff to pursue my interest in sport psychology. Currently a registered clinical psychologist, I relished the chance to investigate Chiefs mana. I found the people I spoke to very down-to-earth and very inspiring. Overall the experience, on a personal level, was more than I expected and quite humbling. I love my work and my athlete client base is increasing – the dream would be to support New Zealand athletes to be the best they can be on the world stage because Kiwis rock!”

Conway Bradey
“It was a good learning experience. You see how much work goes on behind the scenes in preparing players. It’s inspired me to think about pursuing postgraduate study. I realised it would be pretty amazing to have a career working with high performance athletes. Everyone’s friendly and it was cool getting to know all the players and staff. As far as creating opportunities, these days everyone wants to know what experience you have so I think it has prepared me well for the future.”

Turn your passion for sport into a career in one of New Zealand’s fastest growing industries. Our three-year degree qualification gives you the tools to excel. Plus, you can gain practical placement opportunities with our partners – the Avantidrome Home of Cycling, Cycling New Zealand, Kia Magic, Chiefs Rugby and the Tauranga High Performance Sports Centre.

Visit: waikato.ac.nz/go/spls

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