Learner Community Projects
Would you like to have our Sport, Exercise and Health learners working with your team or in your organisation?
Is your business any of the following?
- Sports team
- Fitness centre
- Sports club
- Community health organisation
- A workplace encouraging employee wellness
Our learners are looking for sports industry experience. At the highest level our postgraduate learners can deliver added value for your team or organisation in any of the following fields:
- Performance analysis
- Strength & Conditioning
- Exercise & Health
And at undergraduate level our learners can help you to improve the health of your community, for example by developing and delivering unique health and fitness programmes.
As well as receiving the value of what they do, you will be contributing to their learning, helping to ensure that they gain the skills you need our graduates to have.
To discuss joining our strong network of sports industry partners, please contact us:
Examples of past learner projects
A combination of cutting-edge technology and can-do attitude has provided Dunedin twins Sam and Hudson James-Everton with box seats for one of the world’s most prestigious golf events.
Getting up at 4am for four consecutive days, the 22-year-old brothers headed to the Dunedin headquarters of Animation Research Ltd, where they got to work providing all-important graphics for the US PGA Players Championship in Florida. As graphics operators for Animation Research Ltd, Sam and Hudson work closely together.
They also study together – both are doing a Master of Applied Science at Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga. Oh, and they have also just shared a new scholarship, created specifically by Animation Research Ltd to help cover their Master’s studies.
It might be a world away from the millions of dollars of prizemoney pocketed by Players Championship winner Scottie Scheffler, yet the scholarship boost provided by ARL is warmly welcomed by the brothers, who also appreciate having the flexibility to juggle work and study. Self-confessed “sports geeks”, Sam and Hudson are in that “pinch yourself” zone, where they have managed to combine their academic interests and knowledge with elite real-world experiences.
Angus Reid, Senior Sports Producer at Animation Research Ltd, says:
“Sam and Hudson have been outstanding. They have gone from interns to very capable graphics operators in a short space of time. They will both continue to work for us as they complete their Master’s at Otago Polytechnic. Sam has already taken up some cricket work with us over the summer and Hudson went away in January to the United Arab Emirates, where he covered another golf event. They are very promising young men”.
Hayden Croft, Head of Otago Polytechnic’s Institute of Sports, Exercise and Health, says Sam and Hudson each completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Science (specialising in sports performance analysis) in 2022 and quickly immersed themselves in the opportunities the programme provides.
“They have spent time on the cameras at Highlanders and Southern Steel matches, analysing players’ performance, as well as working with their other classmates on projects,” Hayden says.
“They took a new internship opportunity created with Animation Research Ltd and made it their own. The relationship between ARL and Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga has flourished and grown this year, with the next cohort of students already engaging in the opportunity this year. Essentially, the opportunity is to be trained in aspects of the sport animation production, building graphics for courses, loading animations live during sports matches, setting up and using technology to make it all work.”
Sam says working at Animation Research Ltd has shown him another side of sport. "Things have moved at a rapid pace over the last several months and, at the moment, I am just taking every opportunity to soak it all in. It has been a balancing act juggling my study along with my role as an apprentice performance analyst within the Highlanders rugby team and my commitments to Animation Research Ltd.”
As a performance analyst, Sam understands the importance of momentum. “I’d like to build on the foundations and relationships that have got me to where I am now. Hopefully, this will lead me to further successes within the field of professional sport – whether that’s on the sidelines or producing world-leading graphics for a broadcast.”
Hudson, like Scottie Scheffler on the final back nine of the Players Championship, offers a relaxed stance: "Looking to the future, nothing is set in stone. I am just taking it day by day and trying to soak up as many opportunities within the environments in which I am lucky enough to have found myself."
Dunedin football and rugby referees should not have to put up with negative sideline behaviour.
Referees are volunteers, spending their time officiating so that the players have the opportunity to pursue their chosen sport. But their decisions are not always accepted, and criticism can escalate into abuse. Sometimes it's the players, sometimes it's the team's coach, sometimes it's parents or others watching on the sideline.
For his final year research project for a Bachelor of Applied Science, Nicolas Stephen set out to investigate the prevalence and effects of negative sideline behaviour and the coping strategies which match officials use. He designed a brief online survey which was distributed to match officials via Football South and the Otago Rugby Football Union. To a greater or lesser extent, all of the 27 referees who responded to the survey had experienced people trying to influence their decisions. Most had also had players or spectators delaying or disrupting games. About a quarter had felt unsafe or threatened. For almost all, the negative sideline behaviour affected their enjoyment of the game.
Nick is concerned there are implications for referees' willingness to continue volunteering, and for their mental health. Coping strategies they reported included ignoring or blocking out abuse, speaking with the offender, speaking with the captain or coach, and talking to family and friends. Nick recommends that coping with negative sideline behaviour should be included in referee training, and that strategies are needed to help sports clubs reduce sideline abuse.
The development of a new app will enable runners to match their running cadence to the beats-per-minute of popular music.
Runners try to keep in step with the beat of the music they are listening to. As a result there are negative physical effects of listening to asynchronous (off-beat) music when running. An increased risk of injury or exertion associated with frequent changes in running cadence due to being out of step with the music.
Learner Jordan Frost designed an online survey, which was distributed to Dunedin Parkrun participants and gained 80 responses. The most popular genre to listen to when running was pop. The majority (57%) of runners focused on the beat of the song when choosing what to listen to. These results suggest that there might be a need for a music and running app, which he is now in the process of developing.
“The objective for my project was to create a mock-up music and running app. This will be displayed through a video that communicates how to use the app when running. The mock-up will provide participants with a visual, interactive, and audio experience of the app. The feedback participants provide will then help me with the development process of my app. It’s a music and running app that enables users to be able to match the bpm (beats per minute) of the song with their running cadence. Users would find their beat, select their tempo, and off they go!"
Primary school children build skills and gain exposure to minor sports through a new sports programme.
Two rural schools in Otago requested assistance from our Institute of Sport Exercise and Health to implement a sports programme that would cater to the whole school, from new entrants to 13-year-olds. Rural schools face particular challenges, and external providers can bring new education perspectives to the development of children's physical activity and wellbeing.
Learner Claire McAslan designed, implemented and evaluated a Fundamental Movement Skills and minor sports programme. At each school Claire ran a 30 minute session with students aged 5 and 6, then a one hour session with students aged 7 to 13. The first half of each session was drills based on the chosen skill. The second half consisted of a short introduction to a minor sport that used that skill, then the pupils had the opportunity to participate in the minor sport. This programme ran weekly for two school terms (20 weeks).
Feedback from surveys showed that the programme was enjoyable for the participating pupils. Adding more drills would help keep them engaged. It would also have been useful for Claire to have more guidance on working with groups of children. Further research is needed to evaluate the benefits of such programmes for child development.
At a time of life transition many young people stop playing sport.
Many school leavers in rural Otago move to Dunedin for work or further study - and some of those that have been playing rugby in secondary schools stop playing at that stage of their lives. Conscious that staying involved in organised sport provides physical and social benefits for young people, the Otago Rugby Football Union (ORFU) sought to help them to make the transition to a new club in Dunedin.
Sport, Exercise and Health learner Matt Whaanga worked with the ORFU to help increase awareness and participation in Dunedin club rugby amongst young adults who were new to the city. Matt put together a programme which he took out to four regional schools, meeting with their Year 12 and 13 male and female rugby playing pupils. Those who did come to Dunedin were invited to a follow up meeting to help them settle in and find a club. These young players were supported with information about life balance, and heard directly from ORFU key staff and current players.
As well as preparing and piloting this programme for the ORFU, Matt undertook an evaluation, seeking feedback from participants about what went well and what could be improved if the ORFU repeats the programme. He was pleased to be able to report that 100% of those attending the follow up meeting signed up to play rugby for a Dunedin club.
A new programme will provide a taster of cricket for young people new to the game.
Participation in organised sports provides an opportunity for young people to increase their physical activity, improving fitness levels and developing motor and coordination skills for example. It is also an opportunity to develop psychological and social skills. Otago Cricket identified that young Pasifika, a growing ethnic group in New Zealand, are under-represented in cricket, so the organisation partnered with Sport, Exercise and Health learner Jaden Dowling to try and address this.
Jaden undertook background research which he then used to develop a six week programme to introduce young people to cricket. The first five sessions in the programme followed the same format but with different activities each week:
- A warm up game;
- Drills to practice batting, bowling and fielding; and
- Playing a short modified version of cricket.
The sixth session was a longer cricket game. Jaden trialled the programme in several Dunedin schools. The resource he developed is available to Otago Cricket and he recommends that it be offered with Pasifika community groups and churches.
Even health professionals need to increase their levels of physical activity.
Health professionals in New Zealand are able to provide patients with a "Green Prescription" advising them to be physically active, as part of the patient’s health management. Research shows that health practitioners who are themselves physically active are more likely to use a Green Prescription. Sport Otago was therefore curious to know how physically active Otago health professionals are.
After a preliminary study of Dunedin health professionals in 2019, Sport, Exercise and Health learner Lewis Kelly designed a questionnaire, a link to which was emailed to health professionals on the Sport Otago database. He analysed the results and reported his findings to the organisation.
Lewis found that all research participants had good knowledge about the benefits of physical activity, although he identified an opportunity for further education about the full range of medical conditions that might benefit from patients increasing their physical activity. All participants in his research were willing to provide Green Prescriptions. However despite their knowledge about the benefits of physical activity the majority of health professionals were not themselves meeting the Ministry of Health guidelines which recommend physical activity five times per week.
A learner study explores the benefits of massage for women in sport.
More and more girls and women are playing rugby and there is increasing recognition that their training and treatment regimes need to be different from those for male players. Hayley Bungard, one of our Sport, Exercise and Health learners, investigated whether massage helps with muscle recovery and injury prevention.
Hayley arranged for members of the Otago Spirit women's rugby team to receive a massage once a week during pre-season training and the playing season. She surveyed the women about their understanding of massage and perceptions of its benefits, and also collected data about how they felt immediately before and after each massage session.
The results revealed a high correlation between massage and recovery of players. The players felt that the massage helped their bodies recover after each game and therefore meant their next training session was more beneficial. The players learned more about the value of massage in the process.
Southern Steel has won back to back national netball championship titles in 2017 and 2018, and credits the analysis provided by our learners as a key component to their success.
2018’s learners were working towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Science, specialising in Performance Analysis. They carry out the work for the team under staff supervision as part of their programme of learning.
The analysis they provide comprises video analysis of the team as well as data and trend analysis. The learners are on the sideline during training, and also provide real time analysis to the bench during games.
Sport learners have been helping the Heart Foundation.
Several years ago the Heart Foundation contacted Otago Polytechnic seeking support to deliver their programme Jump Rope for Heart in early childhood centres. The goal was to teach the fundamental motor skills for children to learn how to skip. The benefits include improved balance and coordination as well as fitness.
A team of learners designed and developed a teaching resource which they then implemented in Dunedin kindergartens. In subsequent years, different groups of learners have been involved in further development and delivery of the programme. Demand has grown but delivery has been limited by the number of learners who want to pick up this project each year.
The Heart Foundation has decided now that it will no longer manage the programme, but has bequeathed the programme to our Institute of Sport and Adventure for another group of learners to consider redeveloping it and continuing to make it available to benefit Dunedin preschoolers.