Otago Polytechnic
ISA profile MattMcKay 007
The only reason I could be a personal trainer is because of my degree. The final year is really about time management – it prepares you well for the real world

Matt McKay
Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness)

Matt McKay’s had about four hours sleep a night for the last month … there’s simply too much to do.  “When I started my personal training business, I knew it would be busy while I completed my degree - particularly over exam time.  But I found the more I learnt, the more confident I got, and the more the business grew.

It was all worth it for the brand new graduate, especially when he was announced the NZ Exercise Industry Awards 2016 Up and Coming Personal Trainer of the Year.  The award recognises Matt’s excellent teaching techniques, and the natural rapport he has in building skills and the trust of his clients.

Personal trainers can apply for the award within the first two years of their career.  Matt won it after only six months in the business.

Matt found his study at Otago Polytechnic instrumental to his business.  “The only reason I could be a personal trainer is because of my degree.  The final year is really about time management – it prepares you well for the real world.”

Matt runs his business through Dunedin company ABSolute Health and Fitness.  “It’s a great environment there that really breeds success” he says.

Matt’s personal training future is bright.  He’s developing an 8-week challenge, and wants to do more online coaching in order to help people all over New Zealand.

Then there’s always the next award to apply for. “I want to push myself even harder.  I’ll apply for the Personal Trainer of the Year within the next couple of years.  I’m really competitive.”

Read more about the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activitiy, Health and Wellness).

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HBM profile MeganBurke 001
My personal experience of massage therapy drove me to complete a qualification, and I could not be happier!

Megan Burke
Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage (Level 6)

Megan loves the sense of freedom running her own massage therapy business provides. She manages all aspects of her job – and chooses her own hours and location. “My business is strong and healthy because I’m passionate about it,” she explains. “The desire to help others drives me to continually further my studies, to make me even better at what I do.” 

Megan wanted to become a massage therapist when she left school around 20 years ago, but it wasn’t considered a valid career path at the time. After working at various jobs and starting a family, she enrolled to study at Otago Polytechnic in 2014. She completed a Certificate in Stress Management and Spa Therapies with Distinction in 2014, and then graduated with a Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage with Merit in 2015. 

“The fantastic tutors, amazing facilities and vibrant atmosphere were all highlights,” Megan says. She found the tutors very supportive and encouraging, and was impressed by the range and quality of facilities and services available – from the library to Student Health. 

The Diploma has allowed Megan to apply for positions that required recognised qualifications, and helped her in all aspects of her business. “I learned not only the hands-on massage skills, but also about communication, marketing, professionalism, managing a business and keeping within my scope of practice.” 

Megan recommends the Diploma to anyone considering a career in massage therapy. “Massage therapy has been going through considerable changes of the last 10 years and having a qualification is vital to making it in this industry.”

Read more about the Diploma in Advanced Therapeutic Massage (Level 6)

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ISA gen GradDipAppliedScience 063
I learnt so much over there, not just about strength and conditioning but also about myself, and how culture affects our interactions and understandings.

Nicole Herron
Graduate Diploma in Applied Science (Specialty)

When Nicole Herron arrived in Argentina to study strength and conditioning she had no idea what to expect. What she found, was a family of over two thousand who did all they could to welcome her in to the La Plata Rugby Club.

Nicole has just finished studying her Graduate Diploma in Applied Science (Physical Conditioning).  As part of her qualification, she chose to travel to Argentina for a six-week work placement.  “It was the opportunity of a lifetime for developing myself as a strength and conditioning professional and discovering where my future direction and passion lies”.

Some of Nicole’s class-mates went to Fiji, Samoa and the United States, but for her Argentina stands above the rest, “I learnt so much over there, not just about strength and conditioning but also about myself, and how culture affects our interactions and understandings."

Nicole received funding from the Otago Polytechnic Education Foundation to help her in her studies “It meant I could concentrate on learning; I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay for my travel” she says.

Read more about the Graduate Diploma in Applied Science (Specialty)

More Sport, Health and Wellness programmes > 

ISA profile TamaWalker 001
I like that there is solid research behind everything we are taught but that it is really practically-focused.

Tama Walker – Ngati Porou
Graduate Diploma in Applied Science (Specialty)

Adult learner Tama Walker was already working in a field he loved prior to studying at Otago Polytechnic. As the Dunedin Cricket Development Officer for Otago Cricket Association, Tama was invited to a seminar held at Otago Polytechnic’s Institute of Sport and Adventure. At the seminar, Tama heard a presentation from the New Zealand Rugby Union’s head analyst and that was where the idea of studying Performance Analysis was born.

“I already knew I wanted to be involved in high performance sport. I thought about coaching but the coaching pathway is quite saturated. Performance analysis is something that I knew could complement my existing skills and add to what I do in my job day-to-day.  The exciting thing is that these skills I am learning are transferable from youth through to high performance.

“I chose Otago Polytechnic for several reasons. I work right next door so it was definitely convenient, but it was also really flexible. I can do most of my programme work online which suited me since I work full-time.

“The thing I was most daunted about before starting was going back to study after a 15 year break. Handing in my first assignment felt like a big achievement and relief.

“I’m really enjoying learning more and challenging myself and I can already see the benefits and results in my work setting. My programme coordinators have been very supportive as well.

“In the future I see myself leading Performance Analysis within Otago Cricket Association. After that – who knows? I can think big from there.”

Bryn Morgans
I take my job very seriously but being a personal trainer is almost like working in a big play pen; I have so much fun.

Bryn Morgans
Diploma in Applied Sport and Exercise Leadership (Level 5)

Ever since he was five years old Hawkes Bay born Bryn Morgans played rugby and wanted to be a rugby coach. However only weeks before beginning his coaching training he broke six ribs playing rugby. Bryn recuperated by visiting friends in Otago, met an Otago Polytechnic Institute of Sports and Adventure student, and decided to become a personal trainer instead.

“The programme at Otago Polytechnic went way beyond my expectations. There was so much practical knowledge, understanding how the body moves, understanding the biomechanics, and all the lecturers helped you in every way. Otago Polytechnic is my first recommendation for anyone who wants to become a personal trainer. I wouldn’t be where I am today without doing the Diploma.”

Since graduating five years ago, Bryn has progressed from being a personal trainer through to his current position as Auckland Multi-Unit Manager for City Fitness.

“When I was at school I put on a lot weight, the majority being body fat, but once I left school and with the help of a personal trainer, I shed more than 20 kilos and man did I feel great! Having that experience inspired me to help others change. As a personal trainer, there are only so many people I can train 1:1 every day so the next step was to move into management. I now oversee the training and development of more than 60 trainers on a daily basis in the Auckland Region and act as a resource for the expanding team at City Fitness around the country.

Bryn says a personal trainer is much more than being a “gym guru”.

“You learn so many different life skills in dealing with clients. Seeing someone lose 50 kilos or even five kilos can have a huge impact on their life, and you become almost like part of their family. I get invited to weddings, children’s first birthday parties, it’s just amazing. I can’t think of a job that’s more rewarding than being a personal trainer.”

ISA profile ConnorOFee 001
Take all opportunities that you’re given, the only reason I am where I am now is because I took every opportunity offered at Otago Polytechnic.

Conor O'Fee
Diploma in Applied Sport and Exercise Leadership (Level 5)

Hard work and a clear focus rewarded Conor O’Fee with his first job as Operations Coordinator at Dunedin Venues, the company which runs the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

“During my time at Otago Polytechnic I purposefully dedicated my time and energy towards building up a creditable CV for prospective employers,” he says. 

The Sports Management graduate did this by volunteering for several sports organisations, including coordinating the netball for the New Zealand Masters Games, helping with match management for Otago Cricket and assisting with video analysis for the Highlanders. 

Conor now works for Basketball New Zealand in Wellington as Tournaments Co-Ordinator and coordinates more than twenty basketball tournaments around the country annually.

“Basketball is a big passion of mine, to wrap it up into a job, and to watch what will be our next generation of our Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks play make the long hours and long days all worth it.”

Conor credits his placements at Otago Polytechnic for giving him the experience in administration required for in his job at Basketball NZ.

“My placement at Otago Cricket really helped a lot. One cricket match is never the same as another, and every day there was something different to do.”

Photo credit: Maylene Godinet

ISA profile KatherineRadford 008
If you want to be a personal trainer it’s a great qualification. Give it your all and you will get out what you put in.

Kath Radford
Diploma in Applied Sport and Exercise Leadership (Level 5)

Kath Radford has always had a desire to help people and make a difference. When she first left school she wanted to become a nutritionist, however after taking some chemistry papers at university she discovered that typical theoretical study wasn’t for her. So instead she came to Otago Polytechnic to study sport, swapping book-based learning for a more practical hands-on approach.

In just over two years, Kath graduated with the Diploma in Applied Sport and Exercise Leadership (Level 5) with two specialties: Sports Management and Coaching and Personal Training and Exercise Prescription.

“My classes were quite small and personal. There was lots of quality time to ask questions and we got to have quite a good relationship with the lecturers.

“The qualification was really valuable in helping me learn how to build relationships with lots of people from diverse backgrounds and working together to achieve goals.”

After three years working as a Personal Trainer at a gym, Kath joined the Police and now puts her communication and people skills to the test every day.

“I really like working for the New Zealand Police. Every day is different, the work is challenging but I get to help people and do something good. There are so many different career options within the Police. I’m hoping to continue working within the Criminal Investigation Branch and work my way up to becoming Detective one day.”

ISA profile HollyRobinson 001
I want to be not quite a personal trainer, but more of a lifestyle coach, I guess.

Holly Robinson
Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness)

Holly Robinson was born with her left arm missing below the elbow but has always been “sporty”. Her earliest memory is playing rugby with her twin brother in Hokitika when she was three years old. At the age of 12, she “decided to start getting serious about something” and focused on javelin throwing. At the age of 16 Holly was offered a scholarship to train with a Paralympic coach in Dunedin and in 2012 Holly represented New Zealand at the London Paralympics. 

2012 was also Holly’s last year of school. “I had no clue what I wanted to do, so I looked at the Bachelor of Applied Science (Physical Activity, Health and Wellness) degree at Otago Polytechnic.  It was a practical and applied qualification, and I liked that. It’s sort of the way I learn.”

Holly continued her international sporting career at the same time as her studies, winning a silver medal at the World IPC champs (Para Track and Field Champs) in Lyon in 2013 and recently in Doha winning bronze, throwing a personal best of 38.18m and breaking the NZ record in the process. 

“The lecturers here have been really flexible in terms of assignments with me being away quite a bit. I always want to do my best and I get quite stressed when I don’t have a plan, but they set out a time-line of when everything worked best for me. I couldn’t rate them more highly.”

Holly came back from competing in Doha to find she had been named Bachelor of Applied Science Ambassador for her work with BASES in South Dunedin (community development programme) and her group had won the top research award at Otago Polytechnic.

“I did a placement at BASES, working with unemployed youth and youth at risk, trying to get them more physically active. It was real cool seeing all the benefits they got out of the sessions I led. That’s the area I want to work in, where people actually want to work hard to get to where they want to go."

In the meantime, Holly's sports career has gone from strength to strength. Now, ranked the World No 1 javelin thrower, she will once again be going for gold at the Rio Paralympics in September 2016.