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Student story

Ollie O'Connell

20 July 2023

"Every professional sports team in the world needs an analyst..."


Bachelor of Sport Coaching with an endorsement in Performance Analysis

As a "massive sports fan", studying a Sport Coaching degree has been a great way to combine Ollie's passions with university study, towards a dream career in the global sporting industry.

"I watch a lot of rugby, but when that is your degree while other students are doing complicated calculus problems, it isn't that bad," he jokes. "It involves practical, real-world work that I'll likely do in a professional capacity. Every professional sports team in the world needs an analyst, hence the job opportunities are both global and (hopefully) plentiful."

Taking on the Performance Analysis endorsement in his degree meant studying courses around statistics, video analysis and utilising software to measure performance.

"Performance analysis was completely new to me when I was first exposed to it in my first year. But some really good lecturers in Joe Hall and now Piet van Hasselt did a great job in teaching the subject and the processes required around analysis."

Ollie says he finds it useful to analyse his own sports performance as practice, and especially to better understand other sports he is not as familiar with. His spare time is spent with swimming, kayaking, cycling, and rowing with the UC Rowing Club.

"For someone who always wanted to row in high school but couldn't afford it, the club at University was awesome in not only its price, but also its social nature. You make some good mates, and though the trainings are early and initially frustrating, the eventual pay-off is definitely worth it. You go to regattas to row against the other Universities and party afterwards."

The best opportunity he has to test his newfound analysis skills, however, is an internship with the Crusaders, doing a number of performance analysis tasks to help up their game.

"I spend little time on campus which I would suggest is a compliment to the opportunities UC has provided me," he says. "I bike to Rugby Park to help out with filming and coding Crusaders training. If they have a day-off I'll do miscellaneous work, such as database past trainings, help scout future opposition, or code club rugby for Canterbury selectors. I get to attend meetings, roam the facility, and learn from two quality full-time analysts.

"On Crusaders game days, I'll assist in the filming of the game, specifically capturing an alternative view of scrums for the forwards coach. With my access I can see how the coaches operate behind the scenes, and most importantly the process the head analyst goes through to capture and analyse the game."

Through another practicum course, Ollie also heads analysis for the Christchurch Rugby Club's division 1 team.

"With access to all the resources at the Crusaders, I can mimic as much as I can the professional process on an amateur level," he says.

His favourite experience from UC, however, was an exchange during his second year to Purdue University in Indiana, USA, with the help of a UC International Mobility Outbound Exchange Award.

"It was the best four months of my life. Being a massive college sports fan being able to attend football and basketball games, some attended by as much as 112,000 people, was absolutely surreal. I fell in love with the American college lifestyle, as well as the people I went with and met. The food, the campus, the culture – it was all so incredible and a major catalyst for why I hope to return.

"I have no idea why – other than cost –students don't take up the opportunity to travel while studying. Europe, Canada, Asia, and the United States are all potential locales. I would recommend any student to go if they can financially afford it (scholarship help should be sought after)," he says.

The exchange has fuelled his career ambitions once finishing with UC.

"The dream is to become a video coordinator/analyst for a college American football or basketball team in the United States. The tradition, pageantry and money is so awesome in scale over there. I'm a massive fan of the American sporting culture in it's absurd nature relative to the modest New Zealand environment."

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