Jonathan speaks: site origins and coach-science conflict  //  The origins of the site and the eternal science-coach-athlete conflict

09 Oct 2009 Posted by

I realised the other day that in the two and a half years that The Science of Sport has been running, very few of you have ever heard directly from us. Sure, there are posts and opinions and replies to comments, but unless you’re in Chicago or Cape Town (or you’ve seen the odd TV appearance), we’ve been no more than words on a page!

And so today, while Jonathan and I visited with the Vitality Group here in Chicago for a Q & A session, I decided we should change that! Being in the same city, something that happens only once every 18 or so months, affords us the chance to actually get “interactive” and more personal, and so there will probably be a few more of these in the coming days!

To start with, below are two videos of Jonathan at our Q & A, just so you know we’re real people after all!

The origins of The Science of Sport: modest beginnings

Nothing false about that – when we started, I’d wake up in SA and check the site and discover that a grand total of 4 people had visited the site the day before. I recall the first day we hit 100 visits, it was a momentous occasion! And no, we don’t have that many friends, so by then we had at least spoken to some ‘strangers’! To all the “strangers” since, thank you for your continued support!

But seriously, what Jonathan doesn’t allude to is that we started out with the view to being a coaching site, but very quickly recognized that the news was where the gap existed, because, quite frankly, the mainstream media often didn’t deviate much from “the script” when it came to reporting scientific angles on stories. The very first big story we hit was Oscar Pistorius, where the media, particularly here in SA, lapped up everything they were fed by the PR machine, and there was no science. Some have disagreed with our version of that science, but that’s OK, I would prefer for there to be disagreements around the science than none at all!

I guess the very latest controversy, that of Caster Semenya, again highlights just how the general sports media are often ‘blind-sided’ by sports news that requires scientific reporting. It is ironic that both these cases involved SA athletes, so I was ‘fortunate’ to be exposed to much of the media coverage, and the claims of ‘pull down her pants’ made by esteemed politicians here in SA, which provided plenty of opportunity for comment!

We’re actually very fortunate to be in a field where so many opportunities for this kind of insight are needed – whether it’s pacing during marathons, dehydration, muscle cramps, world records, doping or sports management, sport creates news, and science and management help interpret it. So we’re in a good position to be swept up by the current!

The marriage between science, coaching and medicine

The next video has Jonathan talking about one of the biggest challenges facing sports science today. That is the challenge of taking knowledge and applying it to the ‘end-user’, the athlete, coach, and occasionally, the medical doctor. Case in point is hyponatremia, which is what Jonathan speaks about in this clip.

So that’s a few thoughts from Jonathan.

Tomorrow might be my turn – I give a talk at Jonathan’s University, and so we’ll see if we can film some of it and post clips here.


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