Why did I study Sports Science?

That is actually a good question. Back then, it is something that I thought I might like and be passionate about. Back in High School, I was passionate about sports and in particular football. Just like many of the kids out there, I had an ultimate dream to become a professional soccer player, where I can earn millions of bucks and live the life by just doing something that I truly enjoyed in life. Because of that, I naturally became intrigued on how I can do about in improving my own performances to achieve my ultimate dream. Hence, when I saw that there a course called sports science that is available for Bachelor’s Degree studies, it was a no brainer to me to choose it.

Back then, I had a choice between Australia and UK, and I did apply to Universities in both of these countries. However, what made me chose UK was actually a much more simpler decision compare to other people. My passion was in football, and UK, with the Premier League and the whole football industry just within their backdoor, is the most logical destination if I want to learn the ins and outs of what’s going on behind the spotlights. Compare this with Australia where, back then, football took a role within the background role compare to other mainstream sports, such as Aussie Rules, Rugby, Cricket, or even Swimming, and it is lacking in the professional industry setting. Furthermore, football was somewhat still perceived as a minority’s game. Hence, it was a no brainer as well for me to choose UK over Australia.

During the application process, I only managed to receive offers from two Universities… with the two being both the UK ‘Modern’ Universities, namely University of Hull and Liverpool John Moores University. I ended up choosing Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), simply because they have a particular course that I like, which focuses specifically on football (the course name is called ‘Science and Football’). In addition, Liverpool had the advantage in terms of size, culture and footballing history. And, to my oblivion, I actually did not realise that LJMU is a top ranked University in Sports Science discipline, where they had a long standing of academic and research excellence and reputation in the field of sports science. This can still be seen even now in the ARWU 2018 Sports Science Ranking, where they are ranked higher in this field compared to some of the other traditionally established Universities.

So, what is Sports Science? In a layman’s term, it is a study on what happens to the human bodies during physical activities. It is through these studies that scientists from this discipline, also known as sports scientists, were able to discover the benefits of physical activities for the human bodies, and also how improvements can be made in order to help people achieve their desired fitness level or sports performance. In all, sports science consists of four major disciplines, which are highlighted and described below. Each of its disciplines are different and unique on its own respect and, as far as course progression concerned, students will have a taster of each of these disciplines before they select a particular discipline that they like as they progress through the course.

  1. Biomechanics – is a study of physics in sports. That is, looking at the measurement in terms of motion and movement that are relevant in the sports performance of the athletes. As measurements are involved, there are physics and some degree of mathematics attached to this. So why is this necessary in sport? If we dig further in to these analysis and measurements in terms of motion and movements, there are a number of variables that could possibly affect an athlete’s performance, such as speed, force, time, drag, etc. A simple illustration is in swimming when a swimmer is doing the freestyle swim. A sport biomechanist would analyse the efficiency of the swimmer’s stroke before making suggestions on how he/she can make better improvements to it. Another application of biomechanics in the sporting world is in terms of sports technology in the development of sporting equipment, such as tennis racquet, or athletics shoes.
  2. Physiology – This discipline focuses specifically what is happening within the athlete’s body physically during the performance, such as the heart, lungs, muscle fibres, energy production system, etc. Hence, contrary to the previous discipline (biomechanics), this discipline is heavy in Biology, such as human anatomy and physiology, and chemistry as well. Some examples of how physiology can be applied into sports includes: sports nutrition and supplementation, or how different climate affects the athlete’s body and subsequent performance.
  3. Psychology – The focus of this discipline is more on what is going on in the athlete’s mind, and this applies not just during the performance, but also before and after the performance. Believe it or not the athlete’s mind’s health and performance is as important as the body’s performance. The sports psychology looks things such as the athlete’s self-efficacy and confidence, or using imagery practice (this is like day dreaming on the actual performance, but instead you involve a little bit of motor neurons into this) in improving performance.
  4. Sociology (can also be Sports Development, etc. etc.) – though this discipline is somewhat different than the previous disciplines, in that this discipline doesn’t study the athlete’s mind/body directly, but rather it looks at the athlete’s immediate social surrounding which may or may not support the athlete’s development. In my opinion, this can perhaps be more detrimental as to whether or not a talented individual can make it as an athlete. So how can these social aspects affect the athlete’s development, one may wonder? Well, quite simple really, especially if we look at these two timelines in an athlete’s life. First, is during their childhood in that their interaction and relationship with their significant others, such as parents, siblings, and friends, can influence whether the athlete will engage in sport, participate in the sport, or even continue with their talent development. Meaning to say, is the environment supporting the athletes to let them develop better? Second, let’s say at the actual end game… why do athletes train week in, week out? Because they want to perform at the highest of level to get paid and achieve the highest satisfaction. So, what if there are no stages where these athletes can perform? Meaning to say, there are lack of professionalism or professional infrastructure for the given sport? If these athletes knew this from the beginning, i.e. playing football will only give them meagre salary, because no one else in the population bothers with their sport, would they still want to become a professional athlete?

Now, there are some Universities that would also include the fifth discipline, which is Sports Management. This deals with the business side of sport, e.g. marketing, sponsorship, etc. However, because this doesn’t immediately concern the athlete’s performance development, I would not count them in as a discipline under sports science, but rather a business discipline.

From the descriptions above, I think you would have guessed which discipline that I chose for my degree. However, for those of you that still need me to mention it out, I chose sociology. In particular, my field of studies was within Childhood and Development, where I learnt the whole lot of social aspects that are involved in a child’s talent development journey to become a professional athlete. It can be said that I became fascinated in this area, because of the culture that we have in Asia, where a child’s immediate significant other, namely parents, play a big important role in the child’s education journey, and also one that I could relate to with my own experience. In the end, I managed to complete my degree and achieve 2nd lower class Honours. This was not bad, considering that I have never been an academic type of student to begin with.

So, one might ask, how was the overall experience of studying in the UK and also sports science? To sum it up, I thoroughly enjoyed it! What I like about it was that I was really close to the footballing scenes. I really got to see and hear what the professional world of football is about, and we even visited couple of Premier League clubs’ training facilities back then, and managed to watch one of the first team trained, which was surreal. To top it off, just having many opportunities to watch live football matches at the stadium. What about life outside of the class and courses? Well, I learned how to look after myself, how to cook for myself, enjoyed the small city of Liverpool, which is affordable and has beautiful riverside! With all the positivity, you might be thinking, there must be some aspects that I did not enjoy? The answer to that is yes, there was one in particular that I didn’t like, which is the depressing winter season of UK (yes, it is no joke and can affect your mental health if you’re not careful. But in all, heck yes… I would live through it again!

Though I am not currently working in the sports industry setting, one might ask if the sports science degree that I did a total waste? Honestly, no… because I did fulfill my curiosity in terms of knowing what sports science is all about. Had I not done sports science, and choose a different course, like Business Management, I think I would have regretted it even more. And I did learn few things within sports science that were transferable into other settings in my career throughout, namely performance analysis and reflective practice. These two techniques alone have allowed me to improve myself as I progressed through my career. It is only a pity that I am not able to practice these two or other skills more in the sports industry.

Currently, I am now working in the overseas education consultancy where I have been advising students on how to go about with their overseas studies, or what options are there available for them. Though not initially intended, I must say that this has not been bad at all, and little do I know I have been working in this industry for 7 years now. I guess the reason why I am able to stay in this industry for this long is because when I see those students step into our office, I remember how I was back then when I was that young and wasn’t too sure myself on what to do. And the difference was that, these students stepped into our office, whereas back then, I didn’t know that such services were available. Hence, knowing what some of these students are going through, it can be said that I am somewhat determined to help this people, guide them in their studies, or pretty much reassure them that the next step that they are taking is a correct one.

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