Massey graduates shaping the NZ sporting industry for 30 years

Monday 22 March 2021
The Sport Practicum at Massey is celebrating 30 years of helping Sport and Exercise graduates into successful roles in the global sporting industry.
Massey graduates shaping the NZ sporting industry for 30 years - image1

Graduates of the Sport Practicum have been a part of global events such as the Olympics and Rugby World Cups.

Last updated: Tuesday 29 March 2022

The Sport Practicum at Massey is celebrating 30 years of helping Sport and Exercise graduates into successful roles in the global sporting industry.

Graduates such as Brendan Bourke and Liesl Dawson are now highly successful sports professionals, contributing to major world events such as the Olympics and Rugby World Cups all thanks to completing the practicum.

Work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities, such as the sport practicum, require students to link theory to reflective practice in a range of sport industry roles, for example, sport event and facility management, sport programming and coordination, sport marketing and promotion, sport performance and coaching. 

The significant impact of this practicum is something that provides a graduate with a point of difference that employer’s value, says coordinator of the Sport Practicum Professor Andy Martin.

Brendan Bourke says the practicum kick started his 20-year career in the sports and event industry, “and provided a valuable base to build my knowledge and understanding of what lay ahead.”

Mr Bourke has been involved in global major event and tournament delivery, commercial operations, venue and competitions management and logistics. He was the tournament director for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2018 and was involved in the delivery of the Rugby World Cup 2007 in France and 2011 in New Zealand, FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2008 in New Zealand and FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 in Turkey and 2015 in New Zealand.

“The practicum gives students the opportunity to create their own destiny, with decision making and people management being key skills learned, which at a young age are no easy feat to manage,” Mr Bourke says.

Over the past couple of years, he has been working on the America’s Cup for the Challenger of Record 36 – the operational arm of Luna Rossa.

Mr Bourke says what has given him enjoyment throughout his career is watching graduates come out of Massey and into the sport or event fields with the eagerness and determination to better themselves with every event they deliver.

“Being able to come back to Massey on occasions and speak to my old class and give them insights into my career is something I hope can inspire future generations in to our special industry.”

It is leading this legacy that Dr Martin says has been a core part of the practicum over the years.

“Our graduates have added value to the sport industry. It’s a much more competitive landscape now as you’ve got other universities and their sport graduates, but sport organisations around the country definitely still want Massey graduates.”

He says if he went to many national and regional sport organisations within New Zealand there would be at least one Massey graduate employed. “Students know the standard and the bar we have, which has arguably been set by the students who have gone before. It’s not C’s that get degrees here, because you can’t afford to get a C in a practicum, there’s an A grade standard, which is certainly a graduate point of difference that employers value.”

He says the practicum is also a catalyst for significant student personal growth and professional development, something Massey alumni Liesl Dawson could agree with.

Ms Dawson, who is now the Event Operations Manager at Auckland Unlimited did her practicum with the Junior World Squash Championships in Palmerston North in 2006.

“Without the support and guidance of Andy Martin and my fellow students, I’m not sure I would have gone for this path, but I am so glad I did. Having the background and experience of event operations and the learned knowledge of keeping a city operating while having major events on at the same time, is great fun,” she says.

Since graduating she has gone on to work on sporting events both in New Zealand and internationally such as the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which she describes as “a huge personal achievement that gave me some phenomenal insights into major events and helped create contacts that became lifelong friends.”

Ms Dawson also worked at the Olympic Stadium for the 2012 London Olympics, and then in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Rio 2016 Olympics.

She says being able to put all the theory from the practicum into practice was exciting and being challenged by some really creative events was quite thrilling.

Her current role ensures major events coming into Tāmaki Makaurau bring the most excitement for Aucklanders whilst causing the least disruption. She is involved with delivering upcoming major events including the 2022 ICC Women's Cricket World Cup, 2022 Rugby World Cup and the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, which she is very excited about.

“I thoroughly enjoy my job and the opportunities to work on really exciting sporting events coming to our region; World Masters Games, the DHL Lions Series and most recently the 36th America’s Cup. This role didn’t come as a natural fit initially, but given the background I had in event operations, namely in sport events, the transferable skills were invaluable.”

Part of the students’ experience has also come from volunteer roles at sport events such as the ITri’d The Tri Series in Palmerston North that attracts around 750 children each week for these summer triathlons. It is a seriesDr Martin has managed for the past 18 years and one he says that reinforce the importance of developing sustainable community organisation partnerships for such initiatives to be successful.

“Massey University’s ‘Sport Development major’ within the Bachelor of Sport and Exercise prepares students for work in the varied and growing area of sport development by providing knowledge in topics such as sport organisational structure and function, event and facility management and sport coaching, along with sociological, performance and business issues linked to sport.”