Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knowledge Transfer: Are Sport Scientists “Bridging the Gap”?

As pointed out on the Science of Soccer Online, there are a number of top-notch researchers conducting exciting and valuable research into all areas of soccer. However, it’s not completely clear if this information received by coaches and being applied to their teams. A new article appearing the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching examines the relationship between coaches and sport scientists. The authors found that coaches are aware that research is being conducted in areas of nutrition, injury prevention, equipment, psychology and fitness. However, coaches feel that academicians do not do a very good job of translating research into practical applications. As such, coaches do not take advantage sport scientists, universities and various research councils. These findings suggest that a better effort needs to be made to “bridge the gap” between research and performance on the pitch.

The study surveyed head and assistant coaches involved with competitive university teams. A variety of sports were included, soccer, volleyball, swimming, to name a few They were asked several questions about what types of coaching information that they seek out, where they look for that information and how they feel about communication with sports scientists.

The survey found that coaches are most interested information about strategy and tactics, mental preparation, fitness training and drills. They seem to be less interested in nutrition, injuries and strength training. However, coaches feel that these areas (along with fitness training) are where most of the sports science research is being conducted.

The majority of the coaches responded that they get new coaching information from other coaches, seminars and videos. They are less likely to use books, magazines and the internet. They very rarely seek out potential research sources such as universities, research councils and scientific publications.

For the most part, coaches don’t feel that academicians do a very good job of translating research into practical suggestions. Coaches comment that most sport science research is too technical, difficult to read and does not appear to be applicable to their teams. They also note that original sport science research articles are difficult, if not impossible to access and they simply don’t have time to read and digest technical papers.

Based on this study, it appears that sports scientists are not “bridging the gap” with coaches. The coaches’ responses indicate that much of the cutting-edge research is not being accessed and utilized by coaches. Why is this? There are probably two reasons. The first lies with the researchers. Having been involved in sports science research for 25 years, it has long been clear to me that we dot no do a very good job of translating research. We need to be willing and able to translate our research into formats that can be 1) readily accessed, 2) easily understood and 3) quickly applied. Researchers should look to venues such as websites, listserves, newsletter, meetings and conferences to present their ideas to the coaching public. The second reason lies with the coaches. It is important that coaches keep their eyes and ears open for new information that is supported by quality research. Coaches indicate that they often don’t have the time to read and educate their players on many aspects of sports science. For example, time devoted towards educating players on nutritional concerns is often time take away from technical and tactical development. However, it is important for coaches to consider that new research pertaining to nutrition, equipment and injury prevention can improve team performance. In addition, applying this information can benefit the player’s overall well being as well as promote a healthy lifestyle once their playing career is over.

Clearly there is soem disconnect between researchers and coaches. However, if both work towards bridging the gap between science and application, new and valuable information can be used and applied. In the end, the ultimate goal of developing player’s abilities and love of the game can be reached.


Reade I, Rodgers W, Hall N (2008) Knowledge Transfer: How do high performance coaches access the knowledge of sport scientists? International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 3:319-443.