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Getting to work with sport science experts

Jako Bekker

Jako Bekker, an academic staff member from Wintec’s Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance was a Wintec student before he got the opportunity to work in the industry he loves while continuing to study. In the challenging world of sport science, there is a constant demand to improve. Jako is inspired by the team of sports experts he gets to work with each day and he relishes the opportunity to explore ways to help a wide range of people perform better in their daily lives and aspirations.

What is your relationship with Wintec, and the Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance?

I have studied at Wintec for the past three years and since November I’ve been employed as a tutor in the Centre for Sport and Human Performance.

I’m also doing my honours degree in postgraduate biomechanics. I’m keen to lecture one day, but before that, I’d like to get more industry experience so I can pass that on to students.

I was the coordinator of the Human Performance Hub which is part of the Centre and would refer people to our physiologist, rehab specialists and nutritionists. I’ve just switched over and now I’m enjoying a teaching role. I’m also part of the video analyst team for Counties Manukau Steelers for their 2017 team. We review and preview their games, and we’ll package this for players and for teams to look at trends and patterns.

What do you love most about your job?

The connections we get with the community, and by that I mean all parts of the community from high-end athletes, older people who come in with chronic health issues, people seeking physiotherapy, and developing youth athletes. We assist them with developing their athletic ability and it’s not just the athletes, it’s youth with a range of abilities. At the moment, we’re focussed on youth athletic development. Our centre research is heavily based towards developing youth performance ability. I really like that students who are learning with our lecturers are working in the Human Performance Hub directly with our clients. I also get to work with experts, who are constantly driven to research and improve our knowledge and understanding of sport science.

Who are your clients?

We work with sports teams, older people, youth, middle-aged people, corporates and athletes who come from the greater Waikato area. For example we’re currently working with an Ironman athlete doing physiology testing to guide his training. He was referred by his coach for baseline testing.

We’re working on a Warrant of Wellbeing programme for corporate clients where we’ll do six month assessments. This programme can apply to individuals and teams - or a company can sign up to have staff assessments. It’s a well-rounded test that includes assessments for posture, flexibility, mental wellbeing and work capacity, geared to the individual. 

What are the challenges facing the industry?

The biggest challenge for us is to make sport science more accessible to the wider community so it’s not just isolated to top-end athletes. We want anyone and everyone to access the knowledge we have and the equipment. The more people we interact with, the more our students get to engage across the community.

What does the future hold?

The future for us to get more students involved and get real-world integration into what they’re studying. We also want them to start getting something back in terms of taking a passion and turning it into a career. Integrating work experience into study is really important.

I am excited about getting our Warrant of Wellness up and running and taking it out to our clients. This means training students and delivering it from Wintec but eventually, we want to provide a mobile service and get out into the community.