Sports science is about methods, and not applications of technology

>> May 17, 2018

When a person collects data such as weighing body mass daily before training, recording training videos, fitness tests, etc. you cannot automatically say "this is all about sports science." 

All of these practices are not automatically deemed as sports science, if they don't meet certain (below) fundamental aspects of science.

Worse, there are so many tools (technology) that are used by people in training nowadays for no sound reasons; and, using technology in training may help, but this practice does not necessarily means sports science applications (see below).

One main issue is that you say "this is sports science" when you are merely using another technology. Merely tracking or recording what you are doing is not sports science, unfortunately. Merely testing your speed or physical strength is not sports science either.

Having a lot of “good” data doesn’t equate to a good sports science application. In fact, using advanced tools or technology does not make you a scientist. Anyone can operate a sophisticated machine or tool, when he/she is given proper training.

Giving a diet to an athlete is what a dietitian or nutritionist does, while programming and coaching strength training is what the strength and conditioning specialists do for you, most of the times; note that if sports science methods are not part of the process by them (dietitians, physical trainers etc.), considered as not scientific or not sports science.

Certainly, sports science application would require the knowledge related to physiology, psychology, biomechanics, nutrition, training, among others; because these disciplines are prerequisite factors in sports performance.

What is sports science?

Sports science is about the methods and its associated process, emphasizing the following, to assist you/us with appropriate direction and/or decision making (e.g., in training and coaching). 
  • scientific principles 
  • scientific theories 
Everything must start from this point: Question. 

Naturally, the question, will be followed by the answer.

But questions and answers must be connected by a solid bridge, or proper process, that includes understanding of the subject/topic (literature review), data collection (validity and reliability involved), analysis, interpretation, conclusions, among others. This way you will get an answer in the form of a convincing conclusion.

It is therefore important that your data collection (approach) must be influenced by the questions per se; so the process of data collection may not necessarily require sophisticated tools.

Nevertheless, using the right tools for data collection is important. Nowadays, wearable technologies are often used in team sports settings, endurance and/or other athletes to measure heart rate, distance covered, among others (constantly utilized by sports scientists).

Also, sports scientists assess athletes (fitness test) by using specific tests (with or without any technology involved) in order to answer a specific question; or observe changes in specific variables (eg, strength, power, body composition, resilient) because of a particular intervention.

The same assessments would be conducted by sports scientists to determine the links between specific fitness qualities and performance, so as to emphasize training intervention accordingly; by addressing performance gaps.

Therefore, before thinking about which technology to use, you need to set a question (and consider the scientific process above). What is the performance issue you would like to sort out? does it require technology or not (at all).

The collected data must be interpreted accordingly. Relate them with other information about athletes (e.g., health, wellness, injury, training load, other test data).

All in all, the "answer" is expected to support the training process (assist coaching staff).

Sports scientists can offer training solutions, using scientific methods. But there are no genuine scientists who could provide all and immediate answers for all training/athlete issues or questions. Everything needs to be planned, and there is the process to consider.

Additionally, a sports scientist may offer a certain level of professional opinion based on experience or knowledge (scientifically based), which reflects his/her occupation (e.g., as a trainer, nutritionist, psychologist); or else, whatever you see is not a real sports science.

Who can be a sports scientist? individuals who consistently apply appropriate scientific methods to enhance athletic and/or sports performance including a professor, lecturer, CEO, director, manager, technical director, training expert, medical doctor, physiotherapist, physiologist, nutritionist, dietitian, psychologist, technical coach, fitness coach, chemist, or even a student; anyone.

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