Applied means to guide

00:39, Aug 20 2012
nmit tutors
THE SWEAT SQUAD: Fitness tutors, from left, Mandy Stephens, Claire Dallison, Pogo Paterson and fitness course student Tracey Perry.

NMIT aim to set the industry standard in fitness training and the role of the educator has changed to achieve this. Jonathan McKeown spoke to the tutors to see how their experiences in high performance sport will benefit the students and encourage community partnerships:

George Bernard Shaw came up with: "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches."

It's been much repeated and Woody Allen tweaked it into "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym" - a jibe that doesn't fit the sports and fitness tutors at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT).

They not only walk the talk, they run, cycle, swim and kayak it.

Sport psychologist Pogo Paterson has won 25 international rugby caps and is now a sprint triathlete, nutrition expert Mandy Stephens just finished eighth in the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, programme leader Claire Dallison is the manager of the New Zealand Tall Blacks basketball team, recently travelling to the Olympic qualifying tournaments in the northern hemisphere.

Applied fitness tutor and competitive weightlifter Brad Josse only half jokes when he says his gym (Results Gym) has a big record board where his name features more than a few times.


Adventure Tourism leader and mad keen kayaker Todd Jago is a national waka ama champion.

The experience and leadership of these sports buffs brings multi-layered benefits to NMIT, not least to the students. Unique relationships are formed and sometimes spill over the edges of education into high-performance sport.

Applied fitness student Tracy Perry is competing alongside Paterson in the triathlon world champs in October, but will race in the Olympic distance.

Mark Bruce-Miller, programme area leader for hospitality and wellbeing, which encompasses applied fitness, said that bringing this group of individuals together had been a deliberate recruitment strategy, one implemented by crack administrator Dallison.

"Education needs to be in the here and now," Bruce-Miller said.

"There is no place to hide when ‘the expert' opinion is so easily sourced on the web in a few seconds.

"The role of the tutor is no longer one of pouring knowledge into the student but is much more around inspiration and facilitation - being involved in the industry is key to guiding the learning in the right direction.

"Claire Dallison has built this team over the years to truly represent the ‘applied' in the applied fitness title."

Bruce-Miller said the applied fitness tutors all juggled very heavy teaching, sport, business and family interests.

He said the energy required to maintain this busy lifestyle drove the culture of the team, working together in an efficient, pro-active and practical manner to act as role models for students on the course.

"The example they set is as much around their ability to successfully manage their time and their busy lives as it is around the subject specific knowledge they teach.

"The tutors on the applied fitness programmes are first and foremost an amazing team of professionals. They take the passion they have for sport, coaching and fitness and focus this on creating an engaging, applied learning environment for their students."

Bruce-Miller said NMIT's aim was to be at the forefront of fitness training in New Zealand.

"My hope for the future is that the Nelson region will be globally recognised as a centre for high-performance training.

"With some collective effort, community collaboration we could be the place to travel to for elite team training, elite individual training or active team-building activities. That would really be something to be proud of."

NMIT certainly has the team to help facilitate the achievement of that goal, and crucially they all buy in to the same vision.

Their commitment to achieving is not only evident in the things they say, it is epitomised by their actions, and noted by their charges.

"I was in Spain for two weeks and set them [her students] work," Stephens said.

"Claire and Pogo told them of my results and in my first class with the first years upon my return I got a standing ovation, which was extremely embarrassing, but very positive and affirming."

Stephens is referring to the long distance triathlon world championship in Vitoria-Gastiez, at the end of last month.

The event is well named, a 4-kilometre ocean swim is followed by 120km bike ride and then a 30km run, which in itself is not far off marathon distance.

Stephens completed this impressive feat in 7hr 53min, finishing the first of the Kiwis and eighth overall in a field of 35.

Stephens said teaching nutrition at all levels, role modelling, understanding the training demands of the students along with recent and relevant experiences in the sporting domain, are all vital attributes of an applied fitness tutor. She said perhaps one of the most important was: "Practising what you preach. You are out there setting and achieving your goals, just like they are doing."

Paterson agreed entirely. She said being an athlete herself helped her keep up with cutting-edge developments in sport.

"I think it can also give added credibility to the material I am delivering. I also enjoy being able to share personal memories of my experience of international competition."

After being introduced to women's rugby at university, Patterson got "totally hooked" and went on to make all the top teams playing in two Rugby World Cups, earning 25 caps for England. She was also in a winning Six Nations side and played for the British Lions.

After deciding to retire from women's rugby, triathlon became the new attraction and after winning national age group titles in Britain in 2001 and 2002, Paterson brought that passion with her to New Zealand.

She will compete at the World Championships in Auckland in October for the New Zealand age group triathlon team.

Along with having successful athletes as tutors, the 90 students taking NMIT's three sports and fitness programmes also benefit from the strong community partnerships the education institute has built.

They enable students to apply their knowledge and gain practical experience as part of their studies.

Students go out on placements within the community and one of the businesses taking on the next generation of sport industry leaders is Nelson's Results Gym, which was opened last year by NMIT applied fitness tutor Brad Josse.

The placement allows students to work alongside professionals, including the Tasman Makos and Nelson Giants, who train at Results.

Josse said he wanted to see NMIT's Applied Fitness Department "set the industry standard" for personal training.

To help achieve this he said he tended to focus more on the applied aspect of the course, saying most just wanted to be out practising their passion in the working world.

"That means that I can help prepare students for what they will encounter after they leave the classroom.

"Rather than just having them perform a task because it's important, I can explain that if they become good at the task now, it will save them a lot of anxiety and fumbling when they have to do it for the first time in a working environment."

Although he is not in the applied fitness area - or even in the same programme, Jago still exemplifies the same values in the Adventure Tourism Diploma. The national long-distance single outrigger champion completed a double crossing of Cook Strait in May.

After recently competing in Hawaii in waka ama, rafting around the Grand Canyon and kayaking in the Himalayas, Jago will put his knowledge to good use at the 2013 World Rafting Championships, where he will mentor some of the Adventure Tourism students who will compete at the event.

Jago said though the Adventure Tourism department was quite small there was a team of industry-based tutors who came in on contract when required.

"This is great for our connection with industry as we have company owners working for us as well as managers.

"One thing I enjoy is when I take my new students into the Abel Tasman National Park and they see a lot of our ex-students there working as guides, which is great for our new students to see a pathway for their future."

One common thread in talking to the team at NMIT is the admiration and respect they have for the applied fitness programme leader Claire Dallison. Jago isn't even in the same department, but he still cited her "support", while words like "positive" and "encouraging" were used by all the tutors. Josse probably summed up the feeling best.

"Our staff is extremely supportive of each other, which starts at the top with Claire Dallison.

"She makes our professional lives very simple, which means we have the luxury of focusing on teaching and supporting our students rather than trying to tie up bureaucratic loopholes."

Dallison, who has been involved in tertiary education for 16 years and wrote the current NMIT programme, said she was just happy to be working in a "fantastic" and safe environment.

"Having just come back for a tour where we were guarded by men in bullet-proof vests and loaded AK47s, we have things pretty easy here."

Dallison is of course talking about her "pretty astounding" experiences under constant guard in Venezuela with the Tall Blacks.

She said her management role with the country's top basketball side was extremely rewarding.

"It's fun being a woman in a men's sporting environment, especially in some cultures where women are not usually the ones bossing everyone around."

Balancing family life, running the education institute's programme and being with the Tall Blacks was a difficult balancing act, but Dallison said she did it because she was passionate about educating people to work well in the fitness industry.

So when asked if it was a constant struggle she said:

"Everything I do, I do because I choose to and love it, so I don't often whinge about it!"