Volleyball, strategic management and digital business. Not your everyday combination, but it’s proved a winning one for University of Waikato student Caitlin Langlands.
The third-year management student is the recipient of the 2019 Peter Ayson Undergraduate Award in Sport and Community, worth $3500.
Caitlin, from Matamata, was a New Zealand Under 23 volleyball rep and in the senior women’s national squad when she secured a sports scholarship to Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, USA. Her game improved, but she wasn’t being challenged academically and so after a year decided to return to New Zealand for university study and enrolled at Waikato.
“Then in 2017, a year after coming back, I broke a bone in the ball of my foot. It still hasn’t healed and I haven’t been able to play volleyball since,” she says.
Caitlin took up coaching, first at St Peter’s School in Cambridge where her brother went and which didn’t have a strong volleyball programme. The boys’ enthusiasm outweighed their skill levels, but within two years they made the finals of their inter-school competition.
She also coached the Waikato U17 boys, and the Waikato U15s, taking them to nationals where for the first time they made the semi-finals and went on to win the competition.
“Some of the boys I coached had never played volleyball in their lives; they had a lot to learn. It was an opportunity to put some of the management skills I’d been learning at uni into practice. Things like getting the best out of people, working as a team, discovering individual skills and giving them confidence.”
When she was in her second year, Caitlin’s lecturer Dr Steve Bowden noticed her talent and application and singled her out to start preparing for business case competitions, usually the domain of third-year Waikato Management School students.
Caitlin found herself honing her skills and in February went to Oslo in Norway as one of the four-strong New Zealand team to compete against university teams from all over the world in the BI International Case Competition. She appears in the competition’s Facebook wrap. https://www.facebook.com/biicc.no/videos/602491536885499/
“We didn’t win overall, but we did win the Spirit Cup, which we were still happy with, awarded to the team that best enters into the spirit of the competition.”
Caitlin came to university planning to major in accounting, but then found strategic management suited her better. “And then it made sense to add digital business as a second major,” she says. There’ll be more case competitions for her this year, and hopefully more travel.
The Peter Ayson award gives Caitlin a welcome financial boost. Peter is a Waikato graduate and former New Zealand Junior 400 metre record- and title-holder. Last year he presented the undergraduate scholarship for the first time. He says Caitlin was a worthy recipient of this year’s award, displaying qualities of strong commitment to her chosen sport and to the community.
"In spite of a set-back through injury, Caitlin has risen above this and put a great deal of time and effort into assisting others to promote volleyball within the community, especially younger players. She is an excellent example of someone giving back to her sport and also making the most of the opportunities on offer at university."