Working together for the good of KwaZulu-Natal athletes (from left) Mr Brendon Goodenough, Ms Masisy Mbanjwe, Ms Sindy Shabalala, Dr Takshita Sookan, Dr Rowena Naidoo and Ms Bronwyn Sheppard.

Two UKZN Masters students, Ms Masisy Mbanjwe and Ms Sindy Shabalala, are conducting research on elite athletes in KwaZulu-Natal.

The research has been made possible by a collaboration between UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, the Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (BELS) Discipline, the Prime Human Performance Institute and the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation.

Top athletes from different sporting codes in KwaZulu-Natal are identified and recruited into the Elite Athlete Development Programme (EADP) in which Mbanjwe and Shabalala track performance indicators, including the functional movement screening patterns of the sportsmen and women.

The programme, developed by the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation, is managed at the Prime Human Performance Institute by a team of professionals, including Sports Scientist, Ms Bronwyn Sheppard.

‘We provide the athletes access to training facilities, medical practitioners, biokineticists, physiotherapists, sports psychologists and dieticians,’ said Sheppard. ‘Some of our athletes have already competed internationally – for example at the   Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil – and through the EADP we hope to elevate more athletes to this level.’

‘The aim of the EADP is to enhance the level of performance of athletes. Through research, the Masters students hope to assist with identifying key areas that can contribute to this outcome,’ said Sheppard.

Mbanjwa and Shabalala, who are still in the early phases of their research, meet with gatekeepers and gain exposure and insight into the programme from the Prime Human Performance Institute team. ‘We are happy to be a part of this programme and we believe our study is novel as it is the first of its kind in South Africa,’ said Shabalala.

‘We hope it will help more athletes to compete internationally,’ added Mbanjwe.

The students are supervised by BELS Academic Leader Dr Rowena Naidoo and Lecturer and Research Co-ordinator, Dr Takshita Sookan. ‘Collaboration like this promotes growth for our Discipline and provides opportunities for both staff and students in the areas of research and experiential learning,’ said Naidoo.

Sookan believes the research is crucial for students to gain empirical knowledge and provide evidence-based support. ‘Allowing our students to engage with the Prime team and get exposure to this type of programme can show first-hand how research can translate into practice.’

‘We are excited to be collaborating on this project which sees the Provinces sports stakeholders working together to support athlete development.   Integrating Sports Science research into high performance sports programmes will help our athletes to reach their full potential on the local and international stage,’ said Prime Human Performance Institutes Managing Director, Brendon Goodenough.

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