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Students benefit from holistic approach to sport

Wintec Masters student TJ Pieters works with St Pauls' 1st XV team

Wintec Masters student Theuns (TJ) Pieters takes St Paul’s 1st XV rugby players through a recovery stretch session post-game. 

St Paul’s Collegiate isn’t afraid to do things differently. Every single student at the private Hamilton school must play a summer and winter sport. And all St Paul’s students, regardless of their athletic ability, have access to its high performance sport programme.  

“We believe that a healthy body equates to a healthy mind and that participating in sport enhances academic results. At St Paul’s we are proud to provide a structure that focuses on the holistic development of our students, giving them skills to succeed in life,” says St Paul’s director of extra-curricular activities, Peter Gilbert. 

This holistic approach to sport and studying is giving the school some impressive results. 

In 2016 the school’s Hockey team won the National Rankin Cup and last year it had the top girls' rowing crew in the country and four of its rugby 1st XV played for New Zealand.  

Aiding its success is Wintec, who signed a memorandum of understanding with St Paul’s earlier this year. The agreement sees a number of undergraduate and postgraduate students from Wintec’s Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance placed at St Paul’s to assist with its sporting programme. 

Wintec undergraduate students work with St Paul’s junior classes during its physical education classes, primarily assisting with testing. They also help identify which students should progress to the high performance programme for year 11-13 students. 

Wintec’s postgraduate students are helping to foster a strength and conditioning programme and fundamental movement programme that focus on each athlete’s individual needs rather than being sports-specific. 

“We are really pleased to be able to support St Paul’s high performance sport programme,” says Wintec’s Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance director, Greg Smith. 

“We share a common vision around the development of athletic ability in everyone. It’s an excellent opportunity for Wintec students to apply their knowledge and skills and get some valuable hands-on experience.”  

St Paul’s is unique in the way it runs its high performance programme. Rather than having a high performance programme dedicated to its elite athletes and top sports teams, all year nine and ten students participate in the school’s high performance programme.  

“By offering our high performance sports programme to all students, it means we don’t let anyone slip through the cracks. As outstanding athletes emerge we can then progress them through targeted development and into first team programmes,” says Mr Gilbert. 

The school is already seeing benefits from its strength and conditioning programme which concentrates on improving the quality of exercises such as press-ups and squats rather than quantity.  

Learning how to move correctly is extremely important for any young athlete – something Wintec student Stacey Niao is focusing on with the students at St Paul’s Collegiate School. 

Stacey Niao is working towards a Masters in Exercise Physiology and Strength and Conditioning at Wintec. She is based at St Paul’s three to four times per week helping the students with strength and conditioning alongside St Paul’s high performance sport strength and conditioning coach, Michiel Badenhorst. 

Stacey’s primary focus is female athlete development, so she works with the senior St Paul’s girls in the school’s weights room. She has also spent some time with the junior boys working on functional movement. 

“My biggest goal is to teach them how to move. As we get older, our bodies lose mobility and flexibility, so if they can learn how to move correctly when they are younger this will help them in the future,” says Stacey.  

Originally from Kawarau, Stacey plays for the New Zealand volleyball team and brings with her a wealth of industry knowledge. 

She completed her undergraduate studies in exercise science at Illinois State University in the USA, which she attended under a volleyball scholarship. During her time in the States, she also trained elite athletes in strength and conditioning at a private facility. 

“At schools and universities in America, every sporting code has a strength and conditioning programme that complements it. I have not seen another high school in New Zealand promoting this kind of athlete development – it is a great opportunity for these students,” says Stacey. 

As the strength and conditioning trainer for the St Paul’s Collegiate School 1st XV rugby team, Theuns (TJ) Pieters is preparing these boys for sport beyond school life. 

Equipped with a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science from Wintec, TJ began working at St Paul’s in 2017, while completing his honours degree.  

Specialising in exercise physiology and strength and conditioning, TJ spent his practical time at St Paul’s observing and assisting with classes, learning more about youth athlete development. 

His love of rugby saw him spend most of his time working with the senior St Paul’s rugby boys and as a result, he was offered the role of strength and conditioning trainer this year. 

“I am responsible for training the boys, making sure they are fit and strong, but also teaching them valuable techniques that they can take with them when they move on from school rugby,” says TJ. 

Now studying towards his Masters, TJ is also undertaking an internship with Waikato Rugby, where he is upskilling his strength and conditioning knowledge through monitoring and analysing players' GPS data.  

GPS player tracking is predominantly used at the professional rugby level. However as his research evolves, it is something TJ will be using with the St Paul’s players. “It is a great way to see how much they are working on the field and to base their training programmes off that.”  

“If they can take what they’ve learnt here at school and be able to do it on their own when they move on – then I’ll feel like I’ve added to their development.” 

Find out more about Wintec’s Postgraduate Diploma in Sport and Exercise Science

Find out more about St Paul’s sporting programme

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