I see more gobbledygook and sciency stuff called “sports science” going on today that ever in my years as athlete and coach. Has anyone taken a step back and honestly assessed where we are going with all this? Everybody and anybody who administers a wellness survey or monitors some physiological function now calls themselves a sports scientist. Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to work with some the greatest exercise physiologists, biomechanists, sports psychologists and motor learning/skill acquisition experts ever. I have seen how these professionals work as part of a performance team, backstage, not onstage claiming super bowl wins, world cup wins or Olympic goal medals. We were all part of a performance team with a clear goal working in one direction to make the athlete or team better. The great performance teams that I have worked in and seen work are coach driven. This demands that the sport coach be educated to ask the right questions and know how to direct the efforts.
What I see today with the use of this generic term “sports science” being thrown around alarms me. I see so called “sports scientists” directing programs, making crucial decisions on athletes trainability based on algorithm derived numbers telling coaches that athletes can not practice because they are too tired or too sore. Many so-called sports scientists have little or no practical experience outside of academia or some sterile training center environment where they have no real athletes to work so they can sit around theorize all day.
Sports science must be clearly defined, the so-called sports scientist needs to understand that they do not drive the bus. They must be at training sessions and actively involved with the coaches. They need to understand the culture of the sport and get to know the sport they are working with. They must help the coach to use the data they derive (Assuming it is valid data) by giving the data context. Applied sports science can be a valuable resource, lets get back to where it needs to be – a resource that is on tap not on top.