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Sports programmes now produce some of the leading research into physiology

number of companies that we work with as a result of recommendations made by the institution. We encourage our lecturers to become members and attend conferences, so it’s a great link with the industry.”


Despite the vast amount of choice currently available at universities and colleges, programmes in sport science can be broken into two main strands. There is the ‘hard’, more science-based courses which include the study of physiology, psychology and bio-mechanics. The other, referred at times as ‘softer’, concentrate more on coaching and the sociological side of sport. Professor Ken Green, head of department

of Applied Sociology of Sport at University of Chester, said: “The ‘hard’ strands include sports science degrees at places such as Loughborough University and University of Brighton. Their programmes cover all of the five sub-disciplines (physiology, psychology, bio-mechanics, performance analysis and pedagogy) and then give you the opportu- nity to specialise at the end of the pro- grammes. They do not really do the social science, they do not do sociology and the may even do less pedagogy and coaching – there is certainly a concentration on bio-mechanics, physiology and psychology.” One of the institutions that Professor Green

mentions in Liverpool John Moores. LJM’s Tim Cable agrees with the categorisation, but has reservations about the terminology.


The real trick is combining the two approaches to gain insight into problems that afflict society

“I’m not sure about ‘hard’ and ‘soft’, since

soft may infer ‘easier’,” he said. “However, it is certainly true that exercise physiology, biomechanics and psychology represent more quantitative and empirically-based assessments of human performance in its broadest context (i.e. from sedentary to elite). This is juxtaposed by more social and management-orientated studies which may be more qualitatively informed and community-focused.” Cable adds that both strands of sports

science play an important role in modern society and solving problems within it – such as obesity. “The real trick is combining these approaches to gain insight into problems that afflict society. For example, much is known about the beneficial effects of activity on the health of the population but little is known about how best to provide behaviour changes in people. This problem requires a multifaceted approach that includes social policy, transport policy and funding policies in order to identify solutions.”

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So how are the two strands delivered? What skills and attributes do prospective lecturers – looking to get involved in sports programmes – need? And do the necessary skills to secure a position differ depending on whether a university is considered as delivering ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ programmes? An acting subject group leader at a

midlands-based university has a clear view on the matter. “To be a lecturer in a good university you need a PhD – go get one!”, he said. “It's good training intellectually but will also enhance your career prospects within the university sector.” Professor Green concurs, but adds that

despite the increase in the theoretical content of sport programmes, some institutions will still look for a teaching background – or at least the willingness to pick up teaching skills. He said: “Teaching experience is desirable,

but not essential. However, if you are working in sports science at one of those universities that are not intensely research

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