Sport and Exercise Research Lab (SERL)

The Sport and Exercise Research Lab (SERL) is the result of an expansion of the previous Movement Pedagogy Research Hub to include strengths in research on sport and exercise science. SERL is a multi-disciplinary lab that focuses on research and development in and around sport and exercise with strong international leadership from co-directors, Professor Richard Light and Professor Nick Draper who have extensive international experience. 


Our work on sport includes coaching and physical education pedagogy, sport sociology and anthropology. Within this area of research Professor Light is a leading international researcher working on athlete-centred and inquiry-based approaches to sport coaching with PhDs and other staff also working in this area. SERL aims to produce relevant, high quality, high impact output that has an influence upon research, thinking and practice in studies on sport and exercise at a national and international level. The lab’s research activity includes cutting edge research conducted on athlete-centred and holistic approaches to sport coaching pedagogy that is used in a research-led approach teaching in the sports coaching program. This work is conducted across a diverse range of sports and levels from children’s sport in schools and clubs to the highest levels of elite level international sport and on physical education teaching. The hub produces high quality articles and books that are used in our research led teaching courses in the sport coaching and physical education programs.

The primary focus of sport and exercise science focus for SERL is on research in the areas of health and sports performance.  It looks at sport, coaching and physical education that promotes improved and sustains health in general and special populations and interventions that support improved sporting performance from junior to Olympic levels across a range of sports including cricket, rugby, judo, croquet and rock climbing. Research in the sport performance arena revolves around the development of valid and reliable sport-specific measures and the development of and/or measurement and evaluation of interventions.  Research in this field includes projects on rock climbing focused on uncovering the role of psycho-physiological differences that enable elite performers to lock-down the anxiety associated with the inherent possibility of falling and the development of sport-specific performance measures.  This work is very closely associated with the International Rock Climbing Research Association, which was established by the University of Canterbury in 2011.  Co-director, Professor Nick Draper is currently Chair of the Association and is leading the international multi-centre trial being undertaken by it between 2014 and 2018. The increasing significance of this research is being reflected in the increasing volume of research and the inclusion of sport climbing in the schedule for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

 While many studies are conducted in New Zealand and are focused on issues of importance for New Zealand the lab has a global outlook and profile with a numbers of staff enjoying strong international recognition and experience. It also includes researchers based outside New Zealand who collaborate with campus-based members.


The Sport and Exercise Lab hosts high profile international researchers for short visits and longer stays under the Canterbury Fellowship and Erskine Fellowship schemes or as visiting scholars. Visiting researchers typically conduct research seminars and collaborate in relevant research with members of the lab. We presently have strong and productive relationships with researchers and institutions in Japan, the USA, The UK, Australia and Chile and welcome international researchers.

In 2018 we have our third consecutive visiting scholar here for a full year. Professor Jong Eun Lim from the Chinju national University of Education, Korea follows our two previous visiting scholars from Japan and will be conducting research over 2018. Last year Professor David Lavallee visited us as a Canterbury Fellow. Professor Lavallee is a sport psychologist and a world-leading figure in research on athlete transition who worked with our sport psychology staff and with local sport organizations such as the Canterbury Crusaders as well as delivering our 2017 UC Sport Seminar presentation. He has since been appointed as a UC Adjunct Professor.

The lab is working to raise the international profile of its research and to enrich its research culture through links with established researchers from overseas. This varies from a single research seminar to hosting conferences such as the 2015 Game Sense for Coaching and Teaching International Conference (November 17th-18th) from which we published a peer reviewed conference proceedings that is available at:  

In 2016 and 2017 we produced two high quality research books, which were: Light, R. L. (2016) Children, young people and sport: Studies in experience and meaning. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press and Light, R. L. (2017) Positive Pedagogy for sport coaching: Athlete-centred coaching for individual sports. London & New York: Routledge. (November, 2016).

This year will see the launch of Stories of indigenous success in Australian sport: Journeys to the AFL and NRL at NRL headquarters in Australia and was written by Professor Richard Light and Professor John Evans (UTS).

Professor Nick Draper edited a new research book with a colleague that released in 2017. It is Draper, N. & Statton, G. (Eds) (2018) Physical Activity. Routledge, London: UK 

For advice

Nick Draper

Physiology Lab G140 Kirkwood
Internal Phone: 93878

Find research groups

Search our Research repository

News, events and seminars