Exploring the Positioning of Sport Science Programs within Intercollegiate Athletics

by Dr William Hornsby III, PhD, CSCS,*D, Benjamin Gleason, PhD, CSCS,*D, RSCC, Kristen Dieffenbach, PhD, Clive Brewer, MS, CSCS, and Michael Stone, PhD, CSCS, FNSCA
NSCA Coach December 2021
Vol 8, Issue 3

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The purpose of this article is to outline the three general formats in which sports science programs are implemented within intercollegiate athletic departments and to provide pros and cons of each situation.

Introduction

In coach education resources, guidance for effective coaching in any context involves understanding and manipulating details and optimizing processes (11,17). Multiple challenges exist that may reduce coach effectiveness in every coaching context. Because of the voluminous tasks inherent in running a sport team, most coaches will benefit from infrastructure provided to support them. This point is demonstrated well by the development of the strength and conditioning field several decades ago and the proliferation of jobs across the sport industry. As it may be observed in professional and Olympic-level sport, it is also possible for intercollegiate coaches to benefit from further specialist support, such as the assistance of a sport scientist—a formally trained individual who specializes in applying the scientific method to sport in order to enhance player performance, maximize player availability, and maintain player health (4,8).

Recently, an increase in sport science (SS) opportunity has emerged within intercollegiate sport. This has been generally brought about by sport coaches and athletic directors who seek to better inform their processes of training and optimize performance. In many ways, this trend has been fueled by the proliferation of sport technology, despite the reality that validity, reliability, and interpretability are still ongoing concerns for many emergent technologies that have not been exposed to sufficient scientific rigor. Ultimately, SS aims to use an applied scientific process to aid coaches’ decision-making processes and enhance athlete development in competitive sporting environments (8,14). If performed optimally, this process involves an uninterrupted loop of collecting quality data, accurately interpreting the data, and disseminating relevant information to stakeholders within an appropriate timeline (1,2,6,14,15,17,20). This process involves a spectrum of low-tech and high-tech tools with the intent to inform coaching decisions.

This article originally appeared in NSCA Coach, a quarterly publication for NSCA Members that provides valuable takeaways for every level of strength and conditioning coach. You can find scientifically based articles specific to a wide variety of your athletes’ needs with Nutrition, Programming, and Youth columns. Read more articles from NSCA Coach »

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References

1. Balagué, N, Torrents, C, Hristovski, R, and Kelso, JAS. Sport science integration: An evolutionary synthesis. European Journal of Sport Science 17(1): 51-62, 2017.

2. Bishop, D. An applied research model for the sport sciences. Sports Medicine 38: 253-263, 2008.

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4. Brocherie, F, and Beard, A. All alone we go faster, together we go further: The necessary evolution of professional and elite sporting environment to bridge the gap between research and practice Frontiers in Sports and Active Living 27, 2021.

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9. Hornsby, WG, Gleason, B, Wathen, D, Deweese, B, Stone, M, Pierce, K, et al. Servant or service? The problem and a conceptual solution. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport 10(2): 228-243, 2017.

10. Kreider, RB, Ferreira, M, Wilson, M, Grindstaff, P, Plisk, S, Reinardy, J, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 30: 73-82, 1998.

11. Martens, R. Successful Coaching (4th ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2012.

12. Petosa, SP. A sport science model for enhancing intercollegiate performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal 18(2): 58-64, 1996.

13. Sabin, R. Inside the technology giving Alabama a competitive edge. AL.com. July 2, 2017.

14. Schelling, X, and Robertson, S. A development framework for decision support systems in high-performance sport. International Journal of Computer Science in Sport 19(1): 1-23, 2020.

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17. Stone, ME, and Gray, H. The responsibilities of the elite coach: Embracing the science of coaching. Journal of Coaching Education 3(2): 74-83, 2010.

18. Stone, MH, Sands, WA, and Stone, ME. The downfall of sports science in the United States. Strength and Conditioning Journal 26(2): 72-75, 2004.

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20. Turner, AN, Bishop, C, Cree, J, Carr, P, McCann, A, Bartholomew, B, and Halsted, L. Building a high-performance model for sport: A human development-centered approach. Strength and Conditioning Journal 41(2): 100-107, 2019.

21. Walsh, C. Alabama’s new sports science center is all about the pursuit of high performance. Sports Illustrated SI.com. Oct 30, 2020.

About the author

Dr William G. Hornsby III, PhD, CSCS,*D

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Guy Hornsby is a Teaching Assistant Professor in Athletic Coaching Education (ACE) at West Virginia University (WVU). His primary responsibilities inv ...

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Benjamin H. Gleason, PHD,CSCSD

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Ben Gleason has worked in a variety of coaching roles at the high school and college levels. He also served in several management and sport science ...

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Kristen Dieffenbach, PhD

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Kristen Dieffenbach is the Director of the Center for Applied Coaching and Sport Science at West Virginia University and an associate professor of A ...

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Clive J. Brewer, MSC, CSCS

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Clive Brewer is a world-recognized expert in athletic preparation with many years experience as a Performance Director, consultant, and strength and ...

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Michael H. Stone, PhD, CSCS, FNSCA

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