Jess Chittenden

Jess Chittenden

Master of Sport, Exercise and Health student
Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Sport and Exercise Science

It was quite a daunting task selecting what career path to take, says Jess Chittenden who came to AUT to study a Bachelor of Sport and Recreation, and is now enrolled in a Master of Sport, Exercise and Health.

“Leaving high school, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going or what I wanted to do. There were a lot of different options on the table but at the end of the day I knew sport was my passion. Sport had already done so much good for me, so I wanted to provide those similar experiences to others. I’ve found it particularly rewarding being involved with high performance sports teams – knowing that my work is making a positive difference in multiple athletes’ lives is what drives me to be the best sports practitioner I can be.”

After deciding that sport was what she wanted to study, Jess then started to explore her university options. She soon realised that AUT was a good fit for her.

“The big selling points for me were the placement opportunities and real-life experiences during the degree. AUT has amazing connections with organisations all over the country, and the personal and professional development I gained from participating in the workplace experience was gold standard and gave me the confidence I needed moving forward into the workforce. If it wasn’t for the workplace experience opportunities at AUT I wouldn’t be in the job position I am today.

“I also loved how personable AUT makes your university experience. It’s not an intimidating environment and the learning spaces each lecturer creates are welcoming and relatable. As well as this, AUT’s modern, creative approach to learning is world class. They’re forward thinkers and want the best for their students.”

Taking her knowledge further
Having thoroughly enjoyed her Bachelor of Sport and Recreation, Jess decided she wanted to continue to grow her knowledge and decided to return to AUT for postgraduate study.

“Studying the Master of Sport, Exercise and Health has been an awesome experience, and I got to challenge myself to study courses outside the sport and exercise science domain. I’ve specifically used this postgrad opportunity to enhance my understanding around sport pedagogy, skill acquisition and quantitative research to add to my current skillset.”

For her master’s degree research, she decided to focus on non-locomotive workload, supervised by Associate Professor Kirsten Spencer from AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation.

“Non-locomotive workload is an important component of the total workload in rugby union, but measurement difficulties mean it’s typically not included in rugby workload assessments. It’s for this reason my research focuses on quantifying and analysing contact workload in professional rugby union.

“It’s particularly special for me as it challenges the breadths of how far notational analysis can be used. Commonly, notational analysis is used as a mechanism to analyse tactical movements and opposition set plays. Yet for my research, notational analysis has been identified as a useful mechanism to measure workload of individual players. I hope the implementation of my research will assist in understanding greater aspects of the game.”

Behind the scenes at the Rugby World Cup
Expecting to complete her master’s degree later this year, Jess currently enjoys putting her skills into practice in her role as an assistant performance analysist for the Black Ferns in the Rugby World Cup.

“Back in 2020, I volunteered on the ‘possible vs probable’ Black Ferns campaign. I made new connections and got to know the Black Ferns head analyst. Since then, I’ve been heavily involved with the Blues 2021 and 2022 Super Rugby campaigns. Earlier this year, out of the blue, the Black Ferns reached out to me and offered me this job opportunity for the Rugby World Cup. If it wasn’t for AUT and the connections I’ve maintained over time, this opportunity wouldn’t have come about.”

She is enjoying working on one of the most prestigious sporting campaigns in the world, right here in New Zealand.

“The role of a performance analyst works closely with the head coaches. I never thought, at the age of 23, I’d be working alongside the likes of Wayne Smith, Sir Graham Henry and Mike Cron! The entire Black Ferns coaching staff for this World Cup have so much experience and so many stories, and I can’t wait to make the most of it and learn as much as I can throughout the campaign.

“I get a real kick out of being a part of an athlete’s journey towards becoming the best athlete they can be, or the best team they can be. Knowing that the work we do as analysts behind the scenes and at training and games is helping influence that overall goal positively is a huge win for me any day.”

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