From hockey field to graduation stage

17 April 2018

Natasha playing for the Black Sticks at the 2017 Trans-Tasman Trophy. Photo: Planet Hockey

When hockey champion Natasha Fitzsimons graduates at Claudelands next week, she can proudly reflect on her long list of achievements over the past three years: making the Black Sticks squad, placing second in the 2017 Hockey World League and captaining the Malaysian series, all while balancing her Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance at the University of Waikato.

Originally from West Auckland, Natasha moved to Hamilton in 2014, drawn to the University of Waikato’s practical degree and strong reputation. She had been dropped from the Black Sticks squad the previous year, and was determined to turn her hockey career around. Natasha committed herself to training and was re-selected in the Black Sticks in her second year at the University.

A hands-on learner, Natasha enjoyed applying her studies to real life, and says her degree helped her to improve her hockey and teamwork skills.

“Studying high performance sport changed my approach to training, both physically and mentally. I became more self-aware and learnt the best way to interact with other team members, which is so important in hockey.”

Natasha received Waikato’s Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship in recognition of her sporting achievement, academic abilities, and leadership skills. Covering all her fees, the scholarship allowed Natasha to focus on her two passions: hockey and study.

“The Hillary scholarship took the financial burden out of the equation, allowing me to focus on improving my performance on the field and in the classroom.”

Throughout her three years at University, Natasha travelled the world with the Black Sticks, while playing locally with the Midlands women’s team. She captained the New Zealand team in the Malaysian series and received the University of Waikato Sportswoman of the Year Blues Award last year.

Currently coaching the Waikato Diocesan Team, Natasha is back at the University, studying a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary). She is looking forward to passing her knowledge on to developing athletes as a teacher and hopes to return to the University to complete her Masters one day.