Anuj Patel

Anuj Patel

Blacksticks Analyst, Hockey New Zealand
Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Coaching

He loved being able to work and travel with the Blacksticks as part of the workplace experience component in his degree, says Anuj Patel who came to AUT to study a Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Coaching.

“I made the first move by contacting Hockey New Zealand’s Sam Mulholland, an AUT sport and recreation alumnus, to let him know about my interests and passion. After a series of interviews, just a week later, it became official! It was such an honour to be an official intern for the New Zealand Blacksticks team. Working under Sam’s leadership has been an inspiring and transformative experience, and I’m truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from him.

“During my time at Hockey New Zealand, I had the opportunity to travel internationally, including to the Junior World Cup in Malaysia and qualifiers in Canberra, Australia. These experiences served as a significant milestone, showcasing the diverse opportunities available within Hockey New Zealand and exposing me to the real-world dynamics of an analyst.”

After graduating from AUT at the end of 2023, Anuj continues to work with Hockey New Zealand and is now contracted to the Blacksticks as a performance analyst.

“My role involves working alongside very high-profile players such as head coach Phil Burrows and assistant coach Shea McAleese who have over 500 caps playing for New Zealand. The entire Blacksticks coaching staff have so much experience and stories on their journey.

“Reflecting on my journey, it amazes me to see the strides I’ve made in two years, from being an intern analyst to playing a crucial role with a high-performance New Zealand sports team at the age of 23. A pinnacle experience for me was being part of the Blacksticks staff during the Olympic qualifiers. Fresh off the plane from the Junior World Cup in Malaysia, I found myself gearing up to travel to India with the Women’s Blacksticks team; some of the most intense tournaments of the year. The qualifiers are an experience that I’ll hold dear.”

Highlights of AUT
For Anuj, this practical experience with the Blacksticks as part of his studies was just one of many highlights throughout his time at AUT.

“What I enjoyed the most at AUT was how the programmes were selectively chosen to fit skills that developed capabilities to apply in any sports organisation. AUT was shown to be a great, friendly environment for anyone to learn and improve on their natural skillsets. The mates I met in my first year at uni have become people I connect with frequently. The ability to combine theoretical and practical learning throughout the three years of my degree was of course also a high selling point for me.”

There was one moment in Anuj’s studies that had a particular impact on him.

“The standout was the performance analyst course led by Associate Professor Kirsten Spencer. This course grew a new passion and was the perfect starting point for preparing myself for my workplace experience project. During this course I first read about Sam from Hockey New Zealand and his journey to where he is now. Not knowing what the future had in store for me, this course gave me a true inspiration to where this degree could lead me in the outside world.”

Advice for other students
Anuj has some great advice for other students who are passionate about sport and recreation.

“Continue to challenge yourself and embrace stepping out of your comfort zone. Discover that true passion and strive for excellence. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in the industry. The sports industry is immensely driven by relationship connections, so network actively, communicate your goals clearly and be assertive.”

Above all, don’t be afraid to have mentors who throw you into the deep end, he adds.

“Build that trust and build that relationship. Surround yourself with individuals who grow your skillset and inspire you to elevate your passion.”