Otago Polytechnic
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Visualising athletic success using video feedback

Simon Middlemas

What happens when you combine sports psychology and performance analysis?  Simon Middlemas, Principal Lecturer and Research Coordinator at Otago Polytechnic’s Institute of Sport and Adventure, decided to find out by studying the use of video feedback for developing elite youth footballers.

While video is increasingly recognised and used within elite sport for performance information, the effect of video feedback on the psychology of players and coaches has seen little research attention.

Previous sports psychology research has highlighted the usefulness of visualisation for building confidence, but has not concerned itself with pre- and post-game video analysis.

Simon’s research - conducted with Dr Chris Harwood at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom - had two main objectives: 1. Understand coach and player perspectives on video-based feedback and 2. Explore how the learning environment, style of video feedback delivery and individual differences affected key psychological outcomes.

Simon found that, traditionally, the coach holds the power.  They control what footage the athlete watches and often the focus is on replaying mistakes.  

“The emphasis of video feedback needs to be on the athlete rather than the coach,” says Simon.  “Players need to be engaged and feel ownership of the learning process.

Simon says athletes need to focus greater attention on the best model of themselves, with coaches encouraging the use of video feedback of players performing at their peak.

“Without understanding the psychology of motivation, performance analysis is irrelevant and hours of analysis are wasted. My research provides a way to link different professionals to work together with athletes and coaches to achieve the same goal.”


Middlemas, S.G. & Harwood, C. (2015) Perceptions of Video feedback amongst elite youth football coaches and Players. International Sports Science + Sports Medicine Conference 2015 Newcastle Upon Tyne 8–10th September 2015 Abstracts. British Journal of Sports Medicine, October 2015, Volume 49, Suppl 2. 

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High performance sports symposium

Hayden Croft & Matt Blair

"As part of giving back to our local community and informing our students we brought in national experts to speak about how they practice in the sports community and apply their knowledge,” says Head of School Megan Gibbons.

Otago Polytechnic held an Applied High Performance Physical Conditioning Symposium in Dunedin in May 2014 which attracted world-class sport specialists. Key members of the Otago sporting community gathered to hear from experts who work closely with some of the world’s most elite athletes.

The keynote speaker was Matiu Taingahue, a former strength and conditioning coach who has worked with professional football teams in Sweden and Norway. Mr. Taingahue addressed attendees about the importance of athletic preparation and his views on movement development in high performance sport.

Organisers, Matt Blair and Hayden Croft, described the event as a huge success, stating: “Students really benefited from the day as they started to think about application in sport. The symposium timing in May was ideal as this is when the students start leading sessions.”

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Coaching with cameras

Hayden Croft

The perspective of a sportsperson in action is quite different to that of a coach or spectator on the sidelines. Imagine how sports performance could be enhanced if coaches could see, in real time, almost exactly what their players see.

When All Blacks’ coach Wayne Smith wanted to make this notion a reality, he approached OISA Lecturer Hayden Croft, asking him to create something that the team could use to enhance decision making ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. 

Since then, Croft has pioneered the development and use of head-mounted cameras that transmit live, first-person perspectives of players’ responses during training.

“The use of player-mounted cameras in sport isn’t new, but most of these devices cannot transmit footage as it is captured,” he explains. “This results in a significant delay before the footage can be analysed, so they’re not commonly used in a practice setting.”

However, Croft’s light and unobtrusive head-mounted camera transmits footage to a viewing laptop for immediate review, capturing players’ responses to opportunities and threats in a unique way

Other elite sports teams are also implementing this video technology into their practice regimes. Croft currently applies this performance analysis technology with the Southern Steel netball team and the Otago ITM Cup rugby team. He is also undertaking further research to measure the impact it has on performance.

“Psychological priming literature states that, in theory, seeing a first-person view should prepare you better for an event,” he says, “and our preliminary results support this. We’re now undertaking a scientific study with several rugby teams to see if this is the case.”


Croft, H., Kardin Suwarganda, E. & Faris Syed Omar, S. (2013) Development and application of a live transmitting player-mounted head camera. Development and application of a live transmitting player-mounted head camera Journal of Sports Technology, Published online: 24 Jul 2013.

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Addressing pneumonia

Megan Gibbons

Many New Zealanders would be surprised to hear that our country has a hospitalisation rate typical of the developing world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) attributes 21 per cent of deaths in children less than five years of age to a primary diagnosis of pneumonia.

New Zealand’s high rate of child pneumonia has been the focus of Megan Gibbons, Programme Manager/Research Coordinator at the Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure. Currently completing a PhD in paediatric nutrition at the University of Auckland, she looked at the nutritional and environmental risk factors associated with the disease.

Gibbons presented the findings at the 2011 New Zealand Nutrition Society Conference in Queenstown. From here, the project’s recommendations could be integrated into government health policy, and the information is passed onto a bigger study called ‘Growing up in New Zealand’. “Children need to be breastfed, and they need to spend time outside getting vitamin D. Mould or mildew in children’s bedrooms was a high risk factor as well.”

As a lecturer, she points out that it’s helpful for students to have teachers who double as active academics. “It means that we’re using research to inform teaching, which provides meaty material for students. Our students get to be involved through the research programmes, and they find it quite exciting to experience the professional research environment.”

Gibbons M, Wall C, Grant C (2011) Nutritional and Environmental Risk Factors for Young Children in Auckland, New Zealand, Developing Community- Acquired Pneumonia. 2011 NZ Nutrition Society Conference, Queenstown, December.

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Referee checking

Matthew Blair

While athletes are racing around the field during a high level rugby match, spare a thought for the referees who have to keep up with them.

Match officials are often overlooked members of elite-level sport. Working with New Zealand rugby union referees, Matthew Blair – Programme Manager and Senior Lecturer at the Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure (OISA) – realised there was a paucity of research into what they go through on the field: “They need a bit of love, basically.”

Blair’s thesis (as part of his Master’s in Physical Education at the University of Otago) research involved  assessment of the physical demands upon referees using global positioning systems (GPS) –enabling collection of data such as distance travelled, speed and heart rate. 

Blair’s presented his findings at the quadrennial World Congress on Science and Football in Nagoya, Japan. His research has provided evidence for developing specific training programmes for referees, and has proved him as an asset at the industry’s highest international level, leading to a consultancy role as the physical conditioning advisor for International Rugby Board referees.

He’s also an advisor and a mentor for the Pacific Islands teams.

“Somehow, I’ve got to work at the highest level in the sport. It’s hard yakker, it’s really challenging, but it’s also very satisfying.”

Blair, M. (2011) The Physical Requirements of Elite-level Rugby Union Refereeing. 7th World Congress on Science and Football, Nagoya, Japan, 19 May.

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Health pilot celebrates many successes

Kirsty Currie and Hamish McDonnell

A student-devised pilot programme has attracted national attention for its innovative approach, after it markedly improved the health of workers at Otago Corrections Facility and the Otago Community Probation Service.

After participating in the Workplace Health and Activity Management (WHAM) programme, a team of eight people lost a total of 32 kilograms, and three members stopped smoking.

Kirsty Currie and Hamish McDonnell are the creators of the initiative; both are Bachelor of Applied Science students from the Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure. WHAM’s success has led Kirsty to be employed by the Department of Corrections one day a week to continue working with staff. And both students were selected for Live the Dream, a national social enterprise accelerator scheme. The pair spent ten weeks working with some of New Zealand’s leading entrepreneurs and business mentors to develop WHAM further.

“We’d like to turn this project into a viable business,” says Ms Currie. “This experience has reinforced how passionate we are about health and wellbeing, and we know this is exactly what we’re meant to be doing.” 

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Game on for virtual reality

Hayden Croft

If you think that virtual reality belongs to the realm of science fiction, or that its likeliest enthusiasts would be pasty teenagers and people eager to escape the doldrums of their everyday lives, then think again.

Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure lecturer Hayden Croft and Otago Polytechnic Education Development Centre, Educational Developer Peter Brook are at the forefront of this revolution. They have spent several years developing a range of video-based virtual reality tools, which are now being employed by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) for professional game scenario training.

“Basically, the players are in a room with a life-sized projection of a game scenario on the field, and they have to respond to what’s going on effectively. Our laser tracking technology then measures the effectiveness and accuracy of the throw. By analysing the biomechanics of the throw, we’re trying to figure out what good throwers do that bad throwers don’t.”

Croft recently presented the results of his on-going research at a three-day symposium in Malaysia, focused exclusively on his work, and his presentation attracted a great deal of international interest.

‘Virtual Reality Training Technologies – Applications of Video to Sport’, presented at the Technology and Biomechanics in Sports Seminar and Workshop 2010, Dewan Perdana Institut Sukan Negara (ISN), Bukit Jalil, Malaysia.