"Studying science has been extremely useful to me as an athlete." DR ANDREW BLACK, FORMER AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL TEAM ROWER AND UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT
Great results in sport are not achieved by chance. Along with the hard work and discipline required to become a successful athlete, the science behind sport is a key factor in many improvements and achievements.
The skills gained in an undergraduate science degree can be used to assess and develop better sports programs as well as improve performance. Scientific analysis and research provide an essential framework for understanding the physical, mechanical and psychological aspects of sports performance, the dynamics of sports techniques and the technology associated with sports equipment.
Science is also integral to understanding the effects of training, fitness, endurance and fatigue on the body, from a molecular and cellular level to cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and psychological responses.
Identifying the genes that may impact on physical strength and endurance, as well as those that affect psychological factors such as persistence and competitive drive, may one day help to identify talent and suitability for certain sports. The genetics of injury recovery is also an evolving area of scientific investigation.
Dr Andrew Black, former Australian national team rower and University of Sydney Director of Research Development, is someone who appreciates the benefits of a science degree in sport. “Studying science has been extremely useful to me as an athlete. Not only does it provide a framework for understanding the basic principles of sporting techniques and performance, it gives you valuable knowledge about methodological approaches to problem solving and learning.”
Given the continuing emergence of many new technologies, science can also provide a methodical and systematic approach for coaches, athletes and teams seeking to improve performance. Examining the physics of movement and skills acquisition, investigating the biological changes that occur during workouts, analysing and improving the design of sporting equipment and monitoring how the body and mind deal with the demands of performance are just some of the ways in which science can help to improve sporting success.
It’s not just elite sports where science has a leading role. Physical activity has an important impact on the human body and is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. Understanding the scientific basis of physical activity is an essential part of promoting positive health behaviours to people of all ages and abilities.
A strong scientific education can be an effective springboard to several career options in sport and exercise disciplines. As in many other science-related fields, postgraduate qualifications may be essential or highly beneficial for certain careers. A sample of career opportunities in sports - related fields is:
- Biomechanist: conducts research in the area of sports performance and sports techniques, footwear development, acute and chronic injury prevention and treatment strategies
- Sports statistician: collects and analyses data from athletes and sporting events
- Exercise physiologist: analyses how physical movement affects human function; assesses muscle strength, breathing and heart rate to help build training programs for athletes
- Sports/exercise scientist: applies scientific principles to sporting activities; works to enhance athletic performance and minimise the risk of injury; may focus on research into sporting techniques and development of equipment
- Sports psychologist: assists athletes in achieving goals by better understanding their mental strengths and weaknesses; helps athletes to develop strategies to enhance performance
- Sports dietitian: provides expert guidance on nutritional needs for athletes, including ways to maximise energy levels, what to eat and drink before, during and after competition and how to maintain appropriate body fat levels
One of Australia’s competitive advantages in recent years has been strong innovation in sports research and development, making Australian athletes better prepared and equipped than many competitors. It is predicted that innovation, research, science and technology will continue to be drivers of Australian sporting excellence in the coming decades.
- Exercise physiologist: $47,000–$54,000
- Sports/research scientist: $50,000–$60,000
Source: Graduate Careers Australia
- Australian Academy of Science
- Australian Psychological Society
- Exercise and Sports Science Australia
- Sports Dietitians Australia
- Sports Medicine Australia
- Dieticians Association of Australia
Consider enrolling in one of the following courses and majors to prepare yourself for a career in Sustainability.
- B Liberal Arts and Science
- B Medical Science
- B Psychology
- B Science
- B Science (Advanced)
- B Science/M Nutrition and Dietetics
- B Science in Agriculture
Options are also available in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
- Anatomy and Histology
- Food Science
- Molecular Biology and Genetics
- Nutrition and Metabolism