Certified Performance And Sport Scientist (CPSS) Scope of Practice

The Certified Performance and Sport Scientist™ (CPSS™) is a practitioner with training and applied experiences across the scientific disciplines applicable to sport science and athletic performance (i.e., generalist) or predominantly within a select few (i.e., specialist). These scientific disciplines, as related to sports performance, include, but are not limited to: biomechanics, data science, nutrition, physiology, psychology, research methods, and strength and conditioning. A CPSS demonstrates competency in the application of scientific disciplines, assessment, training theory and process, needs analysis, monitoring, communication, and education with the primary goal of safely and effectively improving athletic performance.

How the Scope of Practice was Developed

In March 2018, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) initiated a role delineation and job task analysis study for the sport scientist profession. The primary activity in this process was a multi-day focus group with 18 subject matter experts (SMEs) selected by the NSCA to represent stakeholder groups within the emerging sport science profession. An independent third-party (non-NSCA) moderator led the SME panel in discussions of the definitions of a sport scientist, the eligibility expectations for this role, and the job tasks typically completed by these professionals. The findings were documented, summarized, and shared for additional review and input from internal and external stakeholders. 

Foundational Knowledge and Skills that a Sport Scientist Applies

Scientific Disciplines Assessment of Technology Scientific Research Process

Understand each of the major scientific disciplines related to athletic performance, and be able to apply this knowledge base to their work:

  • Biomechanics
  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Strength and Conditioning 

Understand technology available to evaluate and monitor performance, applying to:

  • Evaluate available technologies
  • Select technologies to gather data for key performance indicators
  • Monitor the use and assess the benefits of technology to meet evaluation goals

Understand the scientific method for conducting research and apply it to:

  • Understanding research methods and statistics
  • Design and conduct research studies
  • Conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis of performance data
  • Follow evidence-based practices
  • Critically evaluate research studies and findings

How Can the CPSS Certification Help Me Advance Professionally?

The Certified Performance and Sport Scientist (CPSS) credential demonstrates an advanced level of competency in the areas of athletic performance, injury prevention, and scientific processes. The NSCA sport science textbook and related resources defining the scope of practice will serve both existing and aspiring performance and sport scientists in team sport, individual sport, and tactical performance settings.  

Holding the CPSS credential will help if you are looking to advance into one of the following professional roles:   

  • Sport Science Coordinator (or Manager)
  • Human Performance Lead
  • Director of Sport Science
  • Director of Sport (or Athletic) Performance
  • Director of Performance Sciences  
  • Director of High Performance
  • Director of Sport Performance and Analytics
  • Assistant (or Associate) Athletic Director for Sport Performance and Wellbeing
  • Senior Director of Health and Performance
  • Senior Research Scientist – Biomechanist, Physiologist, or Data Scientist 

What Tasks are Performed by a Certified Performance and Sport Scientist (CPSS)?

  • Training Theory and Process
    1. Understand the relevant theory and principles that underpin training.
    2. Design or evaluate a performance program based on sound programming and periodization principles around the constraints of the training environment (e.g., equipment, location, time of year, athlete history, and sport.
    3. Understand the multiple dimensions of the training process (e.g., psychological, physical, sport development, personal growth, nutrition, recovery, and interventions.
  • Needs Analysis
    1. Research factors related to success in a sport through qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g., organizational, motion, dynamics, biomechanical demands, tactical patterns, technical requirements, and injury)
    2. Establish key performance indicators that relate to performance.
    3. Identify environmental or situational constraints that may impact performance.
    4. Develop benchmarking (e.g., normative data) around the attributes needed for success.
    5. Establish assessment strategies to evaluate performance status.
    6. Establish resources and methods to help understand load measurement as it relates to the sport (e.g., internal load vs. external load).
    7. Identify acquired research and development activities that will facilitate performance planning, ongoing monitoring, and assessment.
  • Monitoring
    1. Select appropriate and feasible assessment tools to track the key performance indicators identified in the needs analysis.
    2. Design robust data capture protocols that enable appropriate analysis.
    3. Analyze data and apply results to each specific key performance indicator (e.g., training and the athlete response).
    4. Use data driven outcomes to make recommendations, support the decision-making process, and/or directly intervene.
    5. Evaluate the efficacy of existing assessments, protocols, applications, and interventions (e.g., the quality assurance process).
  • Communication and Education
    1. Understand general communication and education strategies for delivering information to athletes, coaches, high-performance teams, management, or the sport science community.
    2. Utilize creative and efficient solutions to disseminate situationally appropriate and timely information and data to a target audience (e.g., athletes, coaches, and performance team members).
    3. Translate research and theory to inform best practices within the constraints of the performance program.
    4. Collaborate with other professionals in finding customized performance solutions.
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