The 21-year-old from Taradale is to be capped with his Bachelor of Recreation and Sport at the Eastern Institute of Technology’s graduation ceremony on 23 March.
And as significant feathers to add that cap, Shal starts study this year for his Master’s degree while continuing to work for the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union as strength and conditioning trainer for the Hawke’s Bay Academy’s up-and-coming young players.
Eventually he would like to go on to complete a PhD focused on strength and conditioning and to apply that knowledge to working with a high performance sports team. He also sees lecturing as part of the work mix.
Despite his academic ambitions, Shal didn’t enjoy school much although he liked his friends there, the sport and some aspects of science.
After leaving, he gained a Certificate in Carpentry at EIT and had secured an apprenticeship before discovering he was allergic to some building products. He was about to move trans-Tasman when an aunt he hoped to stay with in Australia told him he would need a useful qualification to find a job.
Working at a bike shop and keen on BMX cycling and skating when he was young, he thought recreation and sport studies would be fun. He completed his diploma at EIT and then cross-credited five papers to the degree programme.
Shal started his part-time position with the Hawke’s Bay Academy in mid-January, juggling the early morning and late evening hours with working as a bank teller and Saturday mornings as a trainer at the Pettigrew Green Arena gym.
“It all fits in at the moment,” he says of his busy schedule, “but I will probably need to study during the day.”
Working with the promising young Academy players, Shal develops programmes to enhance their strength and power. He will be doing more work with them, he says, closer to the start of the rugby season.
Meanwhile, he works on his own fitness by lifting weights, concentrating on clean and jerk and snatch with training partner Richard Watson, who is also about to graduate from EIT with a Bachelor of Recreation and Sport and is similarly enrolled in a Master’s degree programme.
After he gained his diploma, a fellow worker and later manager at the gym urged Shal to study for the degree, telling him he would only be 20 when he finished.
“I knew I had to do something but I was unsure where to head myself. The advice confirmed what I was already thinking.”
What Shal has learned as a result of his EIT studies is that he enjoys reading research articles and pulling information together – important skills in pursuing academic goals.
“I really enjoy learning, although there were moments of doubt. Starting the degree, three further years of study seemed quite daunting. But when I look back on it,” he says, “the time seems to have gone quite fast.”