Ma’ara Ave – life as an aspiring athlete and academic

Pictured: Ma'ara promoting the International Horticulture Immersion Program at the 2019 Massey Open Day.

An academic record as glorious as his cover drive, Ma’ara Ave is not your average Massey University student. Recently selected as part of the pilot International Horticulture Immersion Program (IHIP), it is obvious that his talents extend further than just the cricket field.

Currently in his penultimate year of his Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering degree, Ave has just returned from an IHIP excursion to the Netherlands, Belgium and South Korea visiting companies, universities and institutions to observe how the horticulture industry operates overseas. Looking at innovative technology and market gaps to see how improvements can be made in New Zealand, Ave considers himself privileged to be given such an extensive insight into international horticulture.  

One of only two Massey engineering students shoulder-tapped for the experience, Ave has returned with a wealth of knowledge he could not find in the classroom.

“You hear about it in lectures and hear people talking about it but actually seeing the scale of it and everything that’s happening is pretty eye opening.”

Ave said the key thing he noticed overseas was the extent of their collaborative mindset towards innovation, and how they were constantly researching new ways to do things. Visiting greenhouse facilities that covered 300 hectares with fully automated systems, Ave believes there are plenty of adjustments that can be made here.

“It’s just about how you integrate that kind of technology into New Zealand systems. We are a little bit more old fashioned here; farms/growers will have commercial crops growing and we will add technology into it, as opposed to what we saw overseas where the capital is invested upfront and they trust the technology from the start.”

Not only is he excited about how he can help contribute to a more collaborative approach to national process engineering, he is also excited about his potential for an exciting cricket career as a wicket-keeper/batsman.

Having debuted for the Central Districts Stags at 20 in October last year, Ave has eight domestic caps to his name and is paving an impressive path for himself on the national stage. Growing up in Marlborough, Ave always dreamed of becoming a Black Cap but was well aware that while pursuing his passion of cricket he also had to be prepared for life afterwards.

Always having a passion for math and science, Ave considered studying medicine but was drawn to Massey by a fully fees funded ‘Encouraging Kiwis into Engineering’ scholarship, as well as the opportunity to stay within the CD cricketing environment.

Pictured: Ave showing his batting form for the Central Stags against Canterbury. 

Moving to Palmerston North in 2017, he joined the United Cricket Club, was making the CD A side and became a member of the Massey Academy of Sport. This meant balancing a hectic training regime with trying to stay at the top of his game academically. Aided by Massey University Sport Advancement Manager and former Black Cap Jacob Oram, Ave found training partners and coaching with the Massey Cricket Academy where student athletes meet twice a week to train together.

“Everyone is at different stages in their study but it’s cool to have a time where everyone can come together and train – the environment isn’t compulsory or tedious but it provides an awesome opportunity when we are available to take it.”

Balancing cricket and study is no easy feat, but Ave is no stranger to hard work. A natural leader, Ave captained both his schools 1st XI, and 1st XV, all whilst being Head Boy and taking six subjects. Now, he wants to see what leadership can look like in different forms, specifically when it comes to business management and problem solving.

“I’m passionate about problem solving and that’s why I like Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering - it’s just about using problem solving skills and applying it to different applications and processes. I’m not sure exactly where I’ll end up but the trip showed me that I’ve definitely got an interest in the business side as well. I might look to do a PHD or Masters in Engineering Management.”

While Ave hustles towards two exciting careers, he stresses the importance of balancing strenuous times in the books and the pressure that comes with the fickleness of cricket, with some time to relax and socialise. Although he can’t always join in, Ave tries to find an outlet to his day to day routine through social basketball, football, golf and the occasional haircut for his flatmates.

“In full swing, each day I’d generally have a strength or conditioning session as well as a skills session, and then uni is more of a 9am to 4pm schedule, whether that’s in classes, labs, or at the library. It takes a lot of time so I’m lucky I’ve got heaps of cool people around me that understand what I’m trying to do. I think it’s still important to have some fun with them and find a break every now and then.”

All this extra work comes down to Ave’s awareness that a career as an athlete is fragile. Also a rugby prospect, Ave was selected for the Crusaders Knights Development Camp in 2016 before he was struck with a neck injury which left him in a neck to belly-button brace for three months. From there, he was strongly advised to hang up his rugby boots.

 “It obviously woke me up to how quickly things can change. You never think something like that will happen to you. Injury is such a massive part of professional sport and sport in general. You never know how long you really have to pursue your dreams and that’s one of the reasons I’ll look to pursue cricket while I’m still young and healthy. The whole experience proved you always need something else behind you.”

We are excited to follow Ma’ara with both his academic and sporting journey in the future.