Hayden Croft

Hayden Croft

Doctor of Philosophy candidate

As the performance analyst for the Silver Ferns, Hayden Croft has a good idea what it takes to win a World Cup. For his PhD research, he is now investigating how to make performance analysis even more useful for netball teams.

“Performance analysis is an area that is growing but it’s also becoming more difficult in modern sport. For my doctoral research I’m investigating how we can make big data sets for performance analysis usable and useful for netball coaches and players.

“I’m expecting to submit my PhD in July and am looking forward to using what I’ve learnt to continue working with the Silver Ferns and develop the next generation of performance analysts to help the team win another World Cup.”

Hayden’s PhD research is supervised by Associate Professor Kirsten Spencer from AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation.

A supportive research environment
He has been impressed by both the calibre and the support of AUT’s academic staff, says Hayden who is balancing doctoral study with his roles as the Silver Ferns’ performance analyst and the head of sport, exercise and health at Otago Polytechnic.

“AUT has been really supportive and flexible throughout my study, enabling me to take time off study to travel and support the Silver Ferns netball team at the World Cup as a performance analyst. This has really given me insights into how we should apply our research to have an impact on sport.”

A particular highlight for him was being able to present his research at the World Congress for Performance Analysts in Croatia.

“There was a lot of encouragement for the use of content analysis, a qualitative research method, to direct the type of information that should be extracted from large quantitative data sets. That was the first time I realised that these two methodological approaches are more powerful when combined.”

Advice for other students
Expecting to complete his PhD later this year, Hayden has some great advice for other students considering taking on doctoral study.

“My advice for future students is to keep working hard, without too many distractions.”

Whenever possible try to get alongside sports teams and coaches, he adds.

“Working closely with sports team and coaches is a great way to learn all the soft skills aspects of sport. Anyone can learn to work a spreadsheet, however being able to sit down and have a relevant conversation with a coach about how they would or wouldn’t use a specific approach is the most important skill you can learn.”

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