Rush to Sport Science

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Just saw where another NFL team named a Director of Sport Science. I have been looking at this whole area while preparing for my presentation this Friday to EXB 179 Frontiers in Exercise Biology class at University California Davis as part of a series on The Role of Science in Sports sponsored by Dept of Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior. I will be speaking on “The past & future of science in training athletes” (It is free & open to public – join us.) Certainly throughout my career I have used science to the fullest extent I have been capable given the resources available, time and budget. I find it interesting that all of sudden over the past few years I keep seeing the term “sport science” tossed around like it is some mysterious cure all and a magic pill to improve sport performance.

I think all this attention warrants some very basic questions. I ask these questions not to be sarcastic but out of genuine curiosity to see what this is all about. What really is sport science? Do these teams and organizations really know what they are getting when they hire a sports science person? Is it just monkey see, monkey do – just hiring one because everyone else has one? What exactly will they do? Will they just be window dressing? How will they interface with the sport coaches, S&C coaches and the medical staff? Who really knows how to use and apply sport science? Is this really all that innovative?

I know over twenty years ago with the Chicago White Sox we did biomechanics analysis of our minor league pitchers, we had an extensive sport psych program. We did research on running and movement mechanics. I thought it was just part of what needed to be done to develop the athlete. Did it make a difference? Unequivocally yes. Why – because it was a coordinated program that was integrated into the fiber of the player development program. I saw the same thing the last few years under the direction of Dean Benton with the Brumbies in Super Rugby. An unbelievably integrated program with everyone onboard and it showed up in results on the field. Was it sport science? Yes the sport sciences were part of it, but it was a unified effort of the whole performance team. Time will tell where all this will go.

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