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Dylan Merritt says his job satisfaction comes from seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they improve their personal fitness and their lifestyles. Dylan leads bootcamps and personal training sessions at Whangarei’s award winning fitness studio, Activ8.
Dylan - “We make the studio feel like a family-friendly environment with an emphasis on fun, and the trainers here are really positive towards every client. The fitness programmes are always different for the clients every time they come in for their session. Activ8 has won several New Zealand fitness awards, including being the best fitness studio nationwide two times in a row, and the best group training nationwide too. It’s a rewarding place to work.”
Dylan has been one of the programme leaders at Activ8 since finishing his Diploma in Sport and Recreation at NorthTec in 2012. “I looked around gyms in Whangarei and this place was looking for trainers for their bootcamps. We often run the bootcamps in parks, sometimes with no gear, and they are for anyone who wants to get fit. Fitter people can work side by side with those who are not as fit, and personal training sessions are designed around the client’s goals. Other fitness providers may choose to only use weights and machines, but here at Activ8 we create fun and dynamic exercises using bodyweight or added weights to best suit the client’s goals and needs. Some work one-on-one, some work two-on-one in couples, and some in small groups. It’s awesome seeing the lifestyle changes that come from people’s hard work. These are changes that often then affect a whole family.”
Dylan found that his NorthTec training gave him confidence to step into his fitness leadership role. “Most of the stuff we learnt at NorthTec is very applicable to my work now. As students in personal training, we worked with NorthTec tutors to learn the art of having natural conversation while keeping to a scheduled programme. We also did a lot of anatomy so we can create exercises around a client’s injury limitations.”
At just 21 years old, Dylan has no fixed path planned for his career journey but is keen to see what might unfold. “I like the idea of one day having my own fitness studio, but for now I’m getting great experience in a great place - and putting smiles on people’s faces.”
Find out more about NorthTec's sport and recreation programmes.
“The staff support here is amazing, both at class level and from the international support team.”
“I played cricket for a club in India and worked in fitness testing, training and as a personal trainer and I was keen to study more. After researching online I chose to study in New Zealand because it’s a good environment, and Whangarei and NorthTec because they are a good size with not too many people.”
“Working at community events run by Sports Northland gives us practical experience out in the field and has increased my confidence. I volunteered as a guide at two Beast cross-country running events - with one for kids and one for adults - and really enjoyed being out amongst it. I also personally love that we get actual cricket training at the hockey grounds as part the course.”
“The staff support here is amazing, both at class level and from the international support team. I struggled at first with the language because I wasn’t used to the pronunciation and accent here, and the specialist sports vocabulary was new to me, but the great on-campus support got me through.”
“I know that this training will impact my future as a personal trainer, as an athlete and as a professional cricketer and my next step is to finish this diploma, then maybe go on to the next level. My dream has always been to become a professional cricketer but I’m also interested in diet and nutrition for high performance in different sports and for different outcomes.”
“Getting a good understanding of the basics is essential to improve so that I can later have enough knowledge and...
“My mate did the Sport and Rec programme in Whangarei and suggested I do the level 3 and 4 Career Preparation Certificates because I was into health and fitness. I had dropped out of school and was depressed from doing nothing, so this has woken up my motivation again.”
“I’m enjoying the anatomy and nutrition subjects the most which really surprises me, but I struggle a bit with some of the academic study so am getting support for that. I’m also doing a personal training certificate online, plus I have a couple of trial boxing clients in Kaikohe so keeping things balanced is a big of a juggle.”
“Being with the other students is pretty cool and I’m getting more confident now to stand up and make presentations. I’m the only one in this level 4 course wanting to get into NorthTec’s Sport and Rec programme, but this option means I can then apply for AUT’s Bachelor of Sport and Recreation or physiotherapy training.”
“Getting a good understanding of the basics is essential to improve so that I can later have enough knowledge and experience to do my dream job of coaching athletes.”
"I love the small classes and how hands-on our learning is"
“Although my Mum was a physiotherapist, and keeping active was a normal part of life for our family, it wasn’t until I went to St Peter’s College in Cambridge that my spark for this as a career really got lit. I was exposed to a broader range of sports and spent more time in a gym environment I then studied Sport and Recreation (Personal Training) to level 5 at Otago Polytech but returned to Northland and was reassessing my direction.”
“In the meantime, I was doing some part time work running fitness classes and doing some voluntary work when my employer encouraged me to upskill to level 7 to become more employable. So I signed on here and I love the small classes and how hands-on our learning is. We have practical workshops with guest speakers, we do personal training, we learn about sports performance, strength and conditioning, sports science, coaching, and nutrition. We also had the opportunity to have workshops with Turbo Touch, Northland Cricket, Far North CrossFit, Manaia Fitness, and we have work placements.”
“Part of our curriculum involves volunteering at community events and we recently helped out with the Lions Tour and ran a Turbo Touch tournament in schools. We’re also in partnership with Sports Northland programmes so we can help with things like the Weetbix Triathlon and the Run/Walk series. These activities all give us experience and build confidence in our ability to apply what we learn.”
“The learning process is a challenge for me because I’ve got dysgraphia which means I have poor comprehension and have trouble getting my ideas across in a systematic order, so the tutors and NorthTec’s Student Success have really supported me with this.”
“As students we’re constantly working in small groups doing presentations, projects, or group fitness so the interpersonal level is high and we have a synergy like a family. I’m surprised at how much growth, knowledge and life experience I’ve gained through the course, and at how broad the course is. I’ve also learned to be adaptable to new ideas because initially I thought I only wanted to do group fitness and personal training but I’m finding I enjoy working with children and youth. I like keeping them engaged and enjoying physical and mental activities.”
“I already volunteer as a youth coach for football and tennis teams, and when I finish the course I’ll either do more work with youth, go into the Police Force, be an outdoor contractor working somewhere like Outward Bound, or do some post-graduate study in sport or teaching.”
“My overarching interest though is in helping people keep physically active from a young age so they can keep mentally healthy. Youth drop-off levels in sport are relatively high now, especially with the use of technology and parents struggling to run children around, and it’s concerning because physical activity is a fundamental part of keeping healthy on every level.”
I looked at other universities but this is the same degree with the same result and it’s right here at home.
“I was already doing weights and fight-sports and am really into physical exercise so I knew this was what I wanted to do. I looked at other universities but this is the same degree with the same result and it’s right here at home.”
“I’m enjoying everything about the course - especially learning the science behind things. The students all come here with different sports backgrounds but everything we learn applies to any physical background.”
“I’ve been surprised at how much everyone challenges each other. It’s great because it helps me to push myself. Completing the degree gives me a kick start into the profession I want to do. I’m keen to encourage other people and I already do a bit of personal training and take Tae Kwon Do classes.”
“When I finish I want to expand my qualification further into maybe strength conditioning, coaching or doing a Masters. My real dream is to have my own gym specializing in martial arts, weights and boot camps training anyone willing to put in 100%.”
I want to specialise in working with high-level athletes like Olympians so the credentials of the tutors here, as top...
A few years ago Vinkal started reading up on physiology and bio-mechanics to complement his own performance in running, body building and swimming, but that fascination has now led to a career change. “I have a Master’s degree in commerce and was an accountant in India, but when I started coaching other runners there as a side-line in 2010, I realised coaching was more natural for me. The students I was coaching had good successes at state and national levels so I looked at how and where to study sport and recreation.”
“A degree in Sport and Recreation specifically studies sports science – compared to a general science degree – and that’s the field I’m interested in. I’m an international student and looked at training in Germany but it was in German, and the UK was expensive. My search led me to AUT and then to NorthTec which has the advantage for me of being in a small city. I want to specialise in working with high-level athletes like Olympians so the credentials of the tutors here, as top-level performers themselves, was also a drawcard.”
“I like that the degree is broad and leaves you to choose your own pathway if and when you’re ready, and I’m loving the small class sizes. Everyone is welcoming and warm and I really enjoy being part of the NorthTec community. I’m also working in the greater community as a trainer at the Aquatic Centre. Within that study/work combination, I’m developing an unexpected interest in rehab. Social and mental health are so integrated with physical health and it’s humbling for me to be involved in these services.”
“When I finish the degree I plan to go on and study biomechanics and physiology of human performance at a PhD level. And ultimately I want to spend some time in Africa because that is where the top runners are coming from. Top performance sport now is dealing in incremental measurements like micro-seconds and at that level, sports science is essential. It’s a field that didn’t really exist professionally until a few years ago.”
I really appreciate the smaller class size here, getting to know our class mix of domestic and international students...
“I’ve always loved sport, and now I have a real passion for competitive rugby and rowing, and social squash and basketball. I lived my first 10 years here in Whangarei then lived in Wellington for intermediate school and Auckland for high school. I’ve returned here straight from school because I want to study sport and rec and I want to play rugby here.”
“I have a lot of mates studying at other unis in big classes so I really appreciate the smaller class size here, getting to know our class mix of domestic and international students, and the one-on-one access with the tutors. I also love the free gym membership. Sport and rec study is a great opportunity to come straight out of school with a fees-free first year.”
“Long term I want to become a strength and conditioning coach for a team and get the opportunity to travel with them. To do that I’ll go on and do my degree year from here through AUT. The degree will give me the universality of an internationally recognised qualification.”
“My next step is to start as a personal trainer to build connections and gradually branch into where I want to go.”
The training here is so hands-on and I’m loving the community involvement. Some of the papers are designed around...
“I just finished my first year studying Sport and Recreation at Waikato uni when my circumstances changed. I wanted to move back up here so I took a semester off then had to start again.”
“The training here is so hands-on and I’m loving the community involvement. Some of the papers are designed around Sports Northland events and we get to volunteer at things like turbo-touch in schools.”
“We’ve also developed our own community amongst the students. Being part of a small, caring class is such a contrast to being in a uni lecture with 200 people with no interaction. Here we all support each other, we Facebook chat, and are involved in each other’s lives.”
“What we learn impacts our own personal development and our lives in ways I wasn’t expecting but really like. The tutors are also there for us in a really dedicated way giving extra time and support or just checking that we’re OK.”
“I’m upskilling here in a way that will open so many more career opportunities for me. When I started my study I wanted to be a personal trainer but now I’m leaning more towards health and wellbeing out in the community or in the forces. There are so many options there and I’m still exploring the possibilities.”
“It’s so valuable doing work placement while I’m studying because I get that extra experience. So I am able to go out in the community and apply what I am learning, and to be able to meet people while I’m studying. I get that first-hand experience and gain more knowledge myself. I really think it’s going to help me get a job after my studies.”
“I love that we have a lot of practicum in this programme and we get the opportunity to actually do what we learn out...
“I came to New Zealand four years ago from China to study the Bachelor of Sport and Recreation through a sister-city link between the university in China and NorthTec. I was a golf club manager and a track and field athlete in China so I was keen to become more professional in my career, and to broaden my knowledge. The first year was hard because of the different culture and the specialist sport and recreation language, but I have learnt and adapted now. ”
“I love that we have a lot of practicum in this programme and we get the opportunity to actually do what we learn out there in the community. It’s good for us as students and good for the community so it’s a win-win. For my co-ordination paper I’m working at NorthTec International Department to encourage Chinese students to be more active.”
“I’ve learned that I’m more adaptable than I expected. In New Zealand a lot of Chinese stay within their own group but I’m keen to find kiwi friends and tutors, and that has really helped my English and given me more choices both for my career and personally.”
“There is a lot more community work in New Zealand than in China and I like that, so when I finish my degree I’ll choose an area to start my career. At the moment I’m keen to become a co-ordinator with Sports Northland, or in a gym, or in the police.”
A lot of the skills I’ve learnt through study and work are transferable to home and family. Things like time...
“Sport Northland is a great organisation to work for.”
“I started working at Kensington Fitness in a customer services role whilst completing last year of my degree. In the final weeks of that year, an opportunity arose to step into a job as a Green Prescription support person. I was in that position for three years before moving in to Healthy Lifestyle Lead in 2017, and on to my current position as He Oranga Poutama Lead.
“Learning the content, skills, and attitudes from our Sport and Rec course, as well as my upbringing was a real match for my work here. The work experience that I got from our practical study time supported me to apply what we were learning. I continue to be challenged, learn and grow in my role here. Challenges are a big part of development and growth.”
“A lot of the skills I’ve learnt through study and work are transferable to home and family. Things like time management, interpersonal communication, understanding people better and knowing how to adapt, all apply to our lives. My mahi and the opportunities it offers every day, are fulfilling.”
“I like everything about the programme. The tutors are passionate, they have real industry experience and they know...
Jessica runs her personal training business, Results Rule, from a remodelled shed on a rural property near Kerikeri.
“We’re meeting a gap in the fitness market and we get results, so the business just continues to grow.” Jessica Rule runs her personal training business, Results Rule, from a remodelled shed on a rural property near Kerikeri. “Both the business and the premises have evolved but what we do is working.” To validate that, Jessica was awarded Up and Coming Personal Trainer of the Year in the New Zealand Fitness Awards for 2013.
Jessica finished her degree in Sports and Recreation at the end of 2012, and wasn’t landing the jobs she wanted. “I was working part time when a good friend and mentor suggested I create my own business. That seemed too much of a commitment for a 20 year old, so to ease into the idea, I borrowed gear from her for a few months and started as a mobile personal trainer.”
“Because that worked so well, I looked at premises in Kerikeri but the rents were out of reach for a start-up business. Instead I set up a studio in a converted family farm shed, worked part time doing admin for the farm, and now run a thriving personal training business from there.”
“As well as having new gear and premises, we offer a fresh natural environment that people are drawn to and we do some of our training outdoors. We focus on one-on-one personal training specific to people’s goals, getting them from where they are to where they want to be. They come 1-4 times a week so are totally accountable and they get results quickly. We attract a lot of farmers and rural people who think they are fit but find out that they’re not.”
“We are also child friendly and run a mums’ boot-camp in the domain in town.”
Jessica found great support from her lecturers in her time at NorthTec. “They gave me confidence and believed in what I was doing and we had one-to–one attention in small classes. Being able to stay close to home in Northland was also great. It meant I could come home and earn money in the weekends.”
Jessica already has her eye on further business growth. “We’ve just started doing personal training in small classes to give a more affordable option, and in commercial places including to staff at a local school. Next year I might also look at doing some post-grad study in business.”
Kerrin now works full time in what for her is a dream job. “I’m a Green Prescription Co-ordinator for Sport Northland...
“I spent most of my adult life unhealthy and overweight. I then got fit and healthy.
I was so inspired by that change that I wanted to help other people make a similar transformation.”
“I looked for training options as my kids got older, and Sport and Recreation was the most relevant. I was keen to include anatomy and physiology and I preferred to stay near Whangarei because I have 7 kids and my family is here.”
“The tutors were absolutely fantastic. They are inspiring and encouraging and are really good examples of people living a healthy lifestyle. They also know their stuff.”
“I liked the practical in the course more than I expected. I was the oldest in my class but I was determined to have a go at everything. Touch rugby was a challenge and so was kayaking in the surf but the other students were a great support.”
“I feel a lot more confident now in my knowledge and in my ability to share it with other people and I can relate in broader ways.”
Kerrin now works full time in what for her is a dream job. “I’m a Green Prescription Co-ordinator for Sport Northland. We support people with conditions like obesity, diabetes, depression, and heart disease to do physical activity and improve their nutrition.”
“I wanted to help ordinary people of all ages get fitter and healthier and this job is exactly that. The Green Prescription Programme has grown hugely and there are some great success stories.”
“I’m now finishing the degree part time through AUT.”
“Deciding to do some study in an area of interest is a great decision. Look what can happen!”
During my cooperative placement for the Bachelor in Sport and Recreation programme, I managed to attain part-time...
“During my cooperative placement for the Bachelor in Sport and Recreation programme, I managed to attain part-time employment before I graduated from my degree. I was stuck on ideas for my co-operative which, like work experience, prepares you for what to expect in a work situation and how you can best apply your knowledge.”
“When I started my co-operative placement with Sport Northland I had never heard of Green Prescription. I had to increase my knowledge and understanding on the programme as well as the organization as a whole.”
“I’ve always been a very shy person and coming here was initially overwhelming and intimidating for me. Studying gave me the confidence to apply the skills and information I had acquired into the workplace environment.”
“The best part about studying for me was the flexibility. It allowed me to have a year off when I had my boy. Then once I was ready, I was able to continue my degree through part-time study, which better suited my circumstances.”
“In August 2016 and only halfway through my studies, a part-time job came up in Green Prescription which I was fortunate to have secured. Within a month this had progressed into a full-time role!”
“After a year in Green Prescription I then moved onto my current role as an Energizer in 2017. Energize is an initiative working primarily with decile 1-4 primary and intermediate schools to improve children’s physical activity and nutrition, and ultimately to improve their overall health, while helping schools achieve their education outcomes.”
“My decision to switch to a department that better reflected my passion and why in life has a lot to do with my upbringing. Growing up around multiple adverse influences was very challenging in my youth. What really empowered me through this time were the positive values displayed by role models that crossed my path during my schooling days. They really impacted on my decisions and where I wanted to take myself later in life and I honestly believe that I wouldn’t have taken this path to where I am now if it wasn’t for these people. I also want to be this role model and example to any youth out there in hopes that I may also help them with their paths for future!”