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Why does sport need science?

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Author list: McGawley, Kerry

Publication year: 2017


Abstract

Sport science is a relatively new academic field and has grown enormously in recent decades, particularly in terms of University programs offered, scientific publications and career opportunities. This presentation aims to clarify what sport science is, why it may be useful, how it can be implemented in practice and who are the people responsible for driving it forward. In traditional terms, sport science involves topics such as physiology, biomechanics and psychology. A more comprehensive description may also include strength and conditioning, nutrition, performance analysis, lifestyle management, etc. Nations investing more heavily in sport science at an elite level in terms of infrastructure and expertise (such as Great Britain and Australia, for example) have received significant international sporting success.

While these sport-science institute models are certainly not perfect, they signal a strong relationship between financial investment in elite sport and ranking at an international level. A typical method for implementing sport science is via a sport scientist or practitioner, an individual (or ideally a team of individuals) who is able to understand and interpret often complex science-based principles and communicate them clearly and effectively to coaches and athletes.

Our aim is to improve sports performance by informing practice using the most up-to-date evidence available. This relationship between science and applied sport is key, but is challenging for all parties (i.e., the researchers, practitioners, coaches and athletes). Like all relationships, it requires commitment and effort from all involved and in particular, understanding regarding each other’s different needs, priorities, strengths and limitations.


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