Welcome to the New Science of Sport

15 Oct 2013 Posted by

Welcome to the Science of Sport v 2.0

Welcome to the new Science of Sport website!  It’s been a long time coming, and yes, it is long overdue (as a few have pointed out, and trust me, I know!), but today is the launch of a site that I hope provides you with a better overall experience of sports science, and provides me with the motivation to grow the site even more!

When The Science of Sport was “born” in 2007, I certainly did not imagine that it would grow to the point of having had almost 4.5 million visits,  thousands of comments, referrals and flatteringly, would be used as a source of teaching material in university sports science (and marketing and law) courses.  The highest compliment of all, however, is the continued readership that you all provide, and this new site, hopefully an improvement, is aimed at enhancing The Science of Sport experience for you.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that the site has been enormously influential for me.  Six years ago, it was beyond the capabilities of my imagination to even consider that a goal of translating and applying science to sport could lead to such rich discussion and rewarding networks, relationships and opportunities.

When the site began all those years ago, the plan was actually to provide training information and become a resource for athletes wanting improved performance – Jonathan would cover cycling and triathlon, I’d do running and other sports.  That lasted barely a week, because it was immediately clear to me that this particular market was cornered, but there existed a gap and a great opportunity to provide insight and commentary on sporting news, interspersed with more substantial series that covered relevant topics in exercise science.

The mission statement grew to deliver value to a ‘hungry market’, one that wasn’t satisfied to simply know what happened, but also why and how?

Over the years, there have been many such “Why” and “How” questions.  We’ve covered doping in sport, particularly cycling.  Oscar Pistorius and the carbon fiber prosthetic advantage gave us our first big controversy, but not the last (and it continues).  Then there was  Caster Semenya, male or female? (It is a crazy co-incidence that these two athletes, perhaps the most controversial Olympic athletes in our lifetime, are both right here in South Africa where I am.  But I’ll take it!).

World records have fallen, and so have legends of the sport.  We’ve covered six Tours de France with too many doping scandals to remember, over 30 Major Marathons, tragic deaths of champions and recreational runners, stories of survival, two Olympic Games and numerous World Championships.

The content has even inspired one book, as well as at least five scientific publications (for me as an author), with a handful more on the way in coming months.

There’ve been numerous series too – mini reviews of the scientific literature, including dehydration, fatigue, barefoot running, talent vs training, running technique, and sudden death in athletes.  The site has spawned  relationships with media, athletes, coaches and the public, and I can’t begin to put a value on the stimulation it provides to interact with every single person, whether we have disagreed or not!

And now, six years in, a step in a different direction.  All in all, after something of a brutal “cull” to get rid of dated articles, 551 remain.  It’s an enormous body of content, and the old site simply could not do justice to the past, the present or the future vision for The Science of Sport.

What’s new?

And so, here we are, taking the first steps to what I really hope is better experience.  Some of the changes, aside from a better look and feel,  include:

  • An improved “filing system” to allow you to locate specific topics quickly and easily.  The top of every page has a drop-down menu bar, with links to all our common topics, including running, cycling, sports science, series, controversies, research and bookings.  The archiving system is also improved
  • A series of carousels on the home page where you can find the most recent articles, a featured series each week, as well as two “Best of” carousels.  I will update these weekly, digging into those archives to find valuable content that may have been missed in the past.  This will also keep the site fresh, because work pressures sometimes force weeks where I simply can’t write new articles
  • An improved social media interface, via both Twitter and Facebook, on the website
  • Timelines that list all the posts within subjects that come up over and over.  For example, you can see the entire history of our Tour de France analysis, or our big city Marathon series, and our Olympic coverage, on a single timeline.  The same goes for news stories like that of Oscar Pistorius or Caster Semenya
  • Opportunities for  commercialisation of the site, including opportunities to advertise on The Science of Sport.  I’ve tried to steer clear of this topic in the past – I hate mixing money and science, they’re generally not good bedfellows.  However, commercialising the site, and making some money remains an elusive hope.  Part of the reason this site upgrade has taken so long is because of the lack of time to devote to it – work pressures with UCT, SSISA and consulting to teams meant the site was always a sideline, a hobby.  I am hopeful that the new site will allow me to source some advertising and build partnerships that add value to both us and those potential partners.I have kept the “Donations” option open at the top right of every page, and while I hate to ask, I will from time to time make appeals for donations – if you regularly enjoy the work, we welcome any and all contributions.  I’ve often considered a subscription model, but honestly, the whole point is to make sports science more accessible, and throwing up a paywall seems counter-productive to that goal.  So the content remains free, but donations and commercial support are always welcome.

Looking further ahead, it remains an ambition to turn The Science of Sport into a leading platform for other sports scientists and journalists as well.  In that regard, I’m very much looking forward to receiving contributions in the near future from David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, and who will shortly be providing some unique content for the site.  I am also working on organizing an international Sports Performance Summit, here in Cape Town, held in conjunction with the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and will tell you more about that in the near future.  It’s all part of moving to the next level, becoming more than just an idea and an insight.

Most of all, however, I look forward to continued interaction and discussion.  Incidentally, that interaction will move to our social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook, because I simply can’t keep pace with the depth and volume of comments on the site.

I look forward to the next six years, and thanks once again for your ongoing support.

Ross

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