Helping create a WOW experience
Being a key player on the team commissioned to turn a rugby game into an entertainment extravaganza, was the task of Sports Management student Haylee Mutch.
- Haylee Mutch and Cooperative Education with the Manawatu Rugby Union
- Benefits of Cooperative Education to Haylee
Young males getting into the spirit of the Turbos game
Haylee Mutch a graduated from her Sports Management studies, undertaken at Massey University in 2006. Being a bright and capable student she won the overall Top Sports Management student in her graduating year. As part of her post graduate diploma in Sport Management she worked with Manawatu Rugby as Assistant Event Manager for Manawatu Rugby Turbos Games. She went on to work at Feilding Promotion and currently works as Sponsorship & Marketing Manager Awapuni Racing Centre
2006 was the first season in which the Manawatu Rugby was invited back to play in the first division, called Premier division, of the NPC. In 2005 the New Zealand Rugby Union changed the format of the NPC. With the Air New Zealand Cup up for grabs, 14 teams were invited to participate, this included four new teams, of which Manawatu was one. It had been 18 years since Manawatu had played in the top division of provincial New Zealand rugby. Therefore it was very important to create as sustainable business that would allow Manawatu to remain in the first division. This not only included great sportsmanship, but also things like stadium facilities, resource, governance and administration. One of the key issues is financially viability, enough ticket sales must be made on a regular basis to cover costs and justify the expenses of running a first division rugby team.
A band playing at a entry gate, thus adding to the enjoyablity of the entertainment
For ticket sales to be high, a whole experience needs to be created. It is not just about watching a rugby game, it is about providing a complete entertainment package for all who attend, from young children through to university students and older adults. To help with this task the Manawatu Turbos turned to Massey University Sports Management staff and students. The Sports Management department had a rich and productive history of working with Manawatu Rugby.
So Haylee was part of a team of four that organized the pre-match, half time, and post-match entertainment. The aim was to “make a big wow” - to make going to a Turbos game an exciting package for the whole family, elevating it from a rugby game to a night's entertainment. Clearly this was very important being the first year that the Turbos were in the first division, each event needed a create a positive reputation as an an awesome entertainment option.
The Manawatu Ruby looked after the game itself, leaving all other entertainment to the team Haylee was part of. The team was composed of another Sports Management student. Both of these students were directly supervised, mentored and encouraged by Chris Ricketts who was the Community Rugby Manager. Lastly the team had access to Stu Baker, who was passionate about event management and had a wealth of experience in this field.
Younger youth getting ready for half time activities on the Turbos grounds
The oranisational team planned a varied program of entertainment, this included an enormous variety of options. For example for one game money was taped to the underside of seats, another had comedians with megaphones at the entrance gates, some games had buskers, others relay races at half time. Another game had blokes dressed up in ballerina costumes. Every time points were scored they had to do press ups to the score total, and with score being over 40, this resulted in a lot of press ups! There was a mixture of childrens and adults entertainment so that it was a complete entertainment package for the whole family, covering many demographic groups.
Halyee’s work in all of this involved talking and liaising with the many and varied groups of people involved. This included businesses, local schools, the media and of course the public. Including but not limited to phone calls, meetings, emails, letters all the things that go with liaising and organizing for significant events.
"Cheerleaders" brave men dressed up to do pushups and other "cheerleader" activities during the match
When asked about the benefits of this work integrated learning Haylee becomes enthusiastic and communicates the immense value to herself, both at a personal and career level. Just from the tone of the voice you know that she found this work tremendously valuable, and highly recommends it as a way of learning. No wonder she states that she “learnt so many things now looking back”
Reflecting back on her experiences with work based learning, or cooperative education, she opened by immediately stating “It had a huge personal benefit” and that she “was as quiet as a mouse when she started, and gained huge confidence in dealing with people.” Being part of a supportive team environment, with a great leader, made a big difference, and enabled Haylee to gain confidence. Confidence was gained across a wide area, from contacting people she didn’t know, to approaching schools and businesses, and most importantly she gained confidence in dealing with people. She also learned those important intangible skills such as learning to be professional both in person and in her written work. These factors combined for her to state that “Coming out of the placement she felt she could do anything, and talk to anybody.”
From a learning point of view, she had access to an amazing mentor in Stu Baker, who had vast experience in event management. He was great with direction, and helping with ideas, and most important Halyee could feel his passion for great event management. She learned “so much as an event manger”, and got to work with a wide cross section of organizations, that had different structures and responsibilities.
There was significant benefit in “picking up how things are done in reality” and this flowed back into her academic studies. She states that cooperate education is when you “get the opportunity to put two and two together” That is you get a chance to put theory into practice, thus you get to see how what you are being taught in the class room fits into how things work being employed in that role. This contrasted with theory-only papers it was “like you were only getting one side, not the complete picture.” This clearly helps immensely with learning, especially in the long term. Haylee stated that now nearly two years after graduating that some papers she “couldn’t remember anything from”, but in contrast the sports papers, which tied into her workplace experience she “remembers significant amounts of”
The Turbos mascot encouraging the team as they run onto the field
Haylees' success contiunes to leave a legacy for which Manawatu rugby still benefits today. In terms of position the Turbos did not finish high in the table in 2006. However the Manawatu Turbos have successfully retained a spot in the Air New Zealand Cup, this in part is due to the financial success of the club, which is in part due to successful ticket sales. Haylee was involved in starting a trend that others have continued, that of running a successful rugby business based on offering a complete entertainment package.
Turbos team lined up, and photographed by Haylee