Players’ perspectives: How do New Zealand professional rugby players view personal development?

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Brading, Fiona
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Master of Professional Practice
Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga
Ker, Glenys
McKenzie, Alex
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
professional rugby players
personal development
athlete transition from sport
holistic support for athletes
athlete career development
New Zealand
Brading, F. (2023). Players’ perspectives: How do New Zealand professional rugby players view personal development? (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Professional Practice). Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga, New Zealand.
The New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA) offers a Personal Development Programme (PDP) which equips, empowers, and supports rugby players by providing them with opportunities to explore, learn and develop off-field skills and knowledge. This research project was born from curiosity, and a desire to hear how New Zealand professional rugby players view personal development (PD), specifically their thoughts on the importance of PD, their involvement in PD, their motivation for PD, their perceptions of the benefits of PD, their preferences for PD, and their beliefs about the effect of PD on their rugby performance. The focus of this project also grew from a desire to inform and improve PD and career development practices, as well as invigorate and challenge the design and delivery of the current NZRPA PDP as it is evaluated against research findings. Two hundred and thirty-nine professional rugby players (70 New-Zealand-based players (NZBPs) and 169 overseas-based players (OBPs)) completed a questionnaire. Quantitative analysis produced key descriptive statistics, while qualitative analysis provided key themes. The results showed that most players were involved in PD and agreed it was important. There was widespread belief that PD helped players during their rugby careers, and even more so after their rugby careers. Players indicated that involvement in PD had many benefits, including helping them feel more confident about life out of rugby, giving them a mental break from thinking about rugby, and providing them with enjoyable new learning experiences. Five key themes relating to involvement in PD and motivation for PD were identified. These were: direction (players knowing their PD interests); navigation (players understanding how they can ‘plot their own PD course’); interests and enjoyment (players having the autonomy to do what they find interesting and enjoyable); accessibility (PD options, resources, and accessible support); and time and planning (players having allocated PD time, and players being planned and organised for PD). Regarding the impact of PD on sporting performance, most players believed PD had a positive effect, or no detrimental effect, on their performance. Furthermore, the findings revealed that the NZRPA PDP should continue the work and sharpen the focus on providing PD support in the areas of finance and money, business, career development and education, and more generally in creating meaningful new learning opportunities. Thus, the results inform priorities for improvement, resource development and strategic partnerships. This project contributes to the body of research relating to both player engagement with PD, and career development.
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