Future professionals keep improving

02 March 2021 | Research News

With former scholars such as Black Cap Kyle Jamieson securing multi-million dollar sports contracts, researchers at Lincoln have been trying to figure out why some athletes go pro and others do not.

A new study* looks at the Lincoln University rugby sports scholars over three years, in a programme which has produced a myriad of Super Rugby and All Black talent.

It found that rugby players who went onto professional careers were those who improved their performance while at the scholarship programme at Lincoln, while their amateur counterparts did not.

However, co-author Professor Mike Hamlin, said being in contention for contracts could influence this.

“Although speculative, it is our belief, in our players at least, that players in contention for professional team selection tend to train harder and with more intent than players that are not.

 “In addition, players making selection teams have increased access to technical and tactical coaching as well as training more and playing more games over the season compared to those not in selection contention,” Professor Hamlin said.

The results showed the characteristics that predicted future pros before they started on the programme were being older, heavier, taller and stronger.

 It looked at 83 male rugby players during their time at university between 2015 and 2019, with 24 (10 forwards, 14 backs) going on to gain contracts with professional rugby teams in New Zealand and overseas.

Those who stayed in the amateur ranks tended to put on weight (i.e. body fat) and their performances even decreased in some areas.   

Players (both forwards and backs) that go on to secure professional contracts tended to improve strength and power performance over time, while maintaining body fat levels.

Players involved in the sport scholarship programme received nutritional, psychological, and medical advice along with individualised strength and conditioning training and skill development.

 Image: Kyle Jamieson as a Lincoln University Sports Scholar in 2015.

*Short and long-term differences in anthropometric characteristics and physical performance between male rugby players that became professional or remained amateur.