Casey Watkins

Casey Watkins

Lecturer/NCAA Strength and Conditioning Coach, Seattle University, Seattle, USA
Doctor of Philosophy

Choosing AUT as the university to complete her doctoral degree was easy, says Dr Casey Watkins who came to AUT as an international student from the USA and has just completed a PhD in sport and exercise science.

“AUT is an internationally recognised university located in New Zealand. When I first came to visit, I noticed the great postgraduate culture and really liked the postgraduate office, where students each had their own space. It felt as if I’d be part of a team and could create a home away from home.”

It’s decision she hasn’t regretted.

“I loved the diversity of the PhD programme and enjoyed living in New Zealand. I also appreciated that AUT is great at finding opportunities for you to work with specific sport teams or other universities. At AUT, I worked in the human performance clinic, as a teaching associate lecturing and marking papers, as a research assistant and much more. However, I also got hands-on experience working with two sport teams.

“I feel that I’ve learnt so much in my 3.5 years here and the way I think has evolved as well. I also enjoyed all the people I came into contact with, be that other students helping you on data collection, or staff members providing support. The monthly student-staff lunches are really nice, along with other social events the AUT Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand puts on to support the students.”

Research that makes a difference
For her PhD research, Casey investigated how to train athletes to be faster.

“I started playing rugby back in California and fell in love with it. Coming from playing lacrosse, where the men’s and women’s rules were so different, I appreciated that rugby encouraged women to be strong, powerful and aggressive. These qualities have historically been left to male sport.

“Being fast myself, and understanding the importance of speed on the field, this led me to question how we could better train athletes to be faster. One of the difficulties that arises in team sports is lack of time and resources. So, my research focused on using plyometrics, a method of jump training that can be performed in the gym, to help improve sprinting profiles.”

Casey’s doctoral research was supervised by Dr Adam Storey, Professor Mike McGuigan, and Associate Professor Nic Gill.

The next step
She first started considering doctoral study when she was graduating with a master’s degree, says Casey.

“As a woman working in the strength and conditioning realm, I felt I had to be overqualified. I’m naturally curious and independent, so I gravitated towards research-only programmes where I had the freedom to explore specific literary gaps I was interested in. All of the conversations with your supervisors or colleagues, or comments on your research make you go away and think.”

With graduation behind her, Casey is now looking forward to sharing her knowledge with others through her role as a lecturer and NCAA strength and conditioning coach at Seattle University back in the USA.

“In this role, I’m teaching one to two classes per term for undergraduate and postgraduate students, while working with approximately 140 athletes. It’s really exciting to help the next generation of students grow, while also having a role as a practitioner. The two roles help inform each other, and it really is the best of both worlds.”

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