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Raphael Sa'u

Exercise and Sport Science Graduate

A photograph of UCOL Graduate Raphael Sa'u.

“I found opportunity at UCOL.”

Studying Exercise and Sport Science at UCOL gave Raphael Sa'u the opportunity to learn by working with real clients, and develop as a sportsman.

A keen rugby player, Raphael wanted to study a subject that would complement his love for sports. UCOL’s hands-on learning style was perfect for him. 

Raphael enjoyed doing a placement at his old school, Palmerston North Boys’ High School. There he worked with the Sports Development Programme, designing and coordinating training sessions for the top Year 9 and 10 athletes.

“We focused on the athletes’ growth; making sure their muscles were working efficiently, they were moving well, and preventing injuries. It was cool because I want to work with athletes as a career.” 


Another highlight was Raphael and his classmates running exercise sessions for the residents at Metlifecare Retirement Village.

"We had to come from training athletes really hard, to bring it right down to simple exercises. I loved it because the residents were really passionate about it." 

Raphael also had the opportunity to observe an All Blacks' gym session, after reaching out to their Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Dr Nic Gill.

Raphael was introduced to weightlifting by UCOL Lecturer Hayden Prichard. As a member of the weightlifting club, Raphael competed and coached in a number of competitions.

"I fell in love with it because of how technical it was, and it was new and challenging."

Raphael says studying Exercise and Sports Science has helped him a lot with his own sports.

"It has given me knowledge on when to train, and what kind of training I should be doing in certain parts of the year. The main thing I've learnt is how the body works; the science behind it is quite amazing."

Raphael is now juggling multiple jobs. He is a lecturer for UCOL‘s New Zealand Certificate in Exercise programme, the head of strength and conditioning for the Palmerston North Boys’ High School First XV, and a strength/conditioning and boxing coach at Zenith Fitness and Snap Back Boxing.

In the future, Raphael wants to study postgraduate strength and conditioning, and teaching. A big goal for Raphael is to become a strength and conditioning coach for Palmerston North Boys' High School First XV, and help them win their first national rugby championship.

As a proud Samoan, Raphael hopes that he can inspire more young Pacific Islanders to take up tertiary education  

"Hopefully if they see Pacific Islanders like me making it and graduating, they can think they can do it as well."


Check out UCOL's Exercise and Sport Science programmes, including the Bachelor of Applied Science, which has majors in Physical Health and Wellness, Strength and Conditioning, and Sport and Recreation Management.

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