A critical review of the role of coordinated sports science support and its importance to elite level performance Sport today has changed greatly from 40 years ago where love for the sport and intrinsic rewards were the main motivations (Green & Holmium, 2010). In the present day with mass exposure and popularity of elite level sport along with big financial rewards and losses at the highest levels (Yardman & Jones, 2011), and increased level of performance in sport (Collins, Moore, Mitchell & Lappers, 1999) coaches are under pressure to deliver successful performance results (Richardson, Anderson & Morris, 2008).
With this level of investment and interest from the masses, fulfillment professional careers for athletes have been created who dedicate their lives to their sports, putting their bodies and minds on the line and increasing risk of negative health effects (Handstand & Wadding, 2009). According to Pipe (2001), it is sport coaches and sport science support (ASS) responsibility to act as an athlete’s advocate and reduce these negative health effects, protecting their health and well-being.
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Southeast (2012) highlighted that margins between podium places are getting narrower and the increased need to look at all options to find improvements, squiring specialist sport science skills to be able to measure, interpret and improve particular areas. This pressure from dedication levels of athletes, financial rewards/ loses, smaller winning margins and exposure by the media and the public that stresses the importance of the athlete receiving the most thorough and professional service possible.
To provide this service, coaches and sporting organizations are increasingly seeking ASS (Lees, 2003; Collins et al. 1999), and ultimately enhancing athletic performance (Williams & Kendal, 2007; Hooper, 2006). Due to the above- mentioned issues it is essential to consider the most efficient and effective way for coordinated ASS to work, however with coordinated ASS certain issues may arise having negative effects of athletic performance and athlete well-being (Collins et al. , 1999).
In the following text the author will, define and critique the different coordinated ASS approaches, review the issues and areas that may impede efficiency and finally conclude and provide recommendations for the application of coordinated sports science support. An interdisciplinary approach is where a number of sport science personnel (SSP) room different areas of sport science integrate and work together in a coordinated manner to problem solve (Burrito, Moore & Wilkinson, 1994).
Elite level sport is based upon a number of multi-factorial variables (Meyers, & Laurent, 2010) that can be measured, analyses, interpreted and ultimately manipulated to promote increased performance. Interdisciplinary ASS can produce a vast range of in depth information and data (Knudsen, 2011), which in turn means that appropriate and specific training regimes and strategies can be implemented in order to increase performance coaching team must have knowledge of how different variables inter-link and be able to consider how manipulation of one variable may affect another.
For example the use of a head guard in boxing from a biomedical perspective would have a positive effect because it would decrease punch force however from a psychologists perspective this could grant a false sense of security, having a negative effect (Burrito et al. , 1994). As well as being able to interpret these risk and benefits the coaching team must be able to assess their significance, priorities and contextual in order to Justify implementation of manipulations (BASES, [n. ]). An interdisciplinary ASS approach requires a number of team-wide skills in order for it to be successful, they are; Bridge building – the linking of knowledge from different spinelessness, Restructuring – methodologies, theories and practices transferred into different spinelessness and Integration – the application of a number of spinelessness (BASES, [n. D. ]), without these skills a support team would move towards a multidisciplinary approach.
Multidisciplinary is defined by Burrito et al (1994) as a number of SSP working in parallel rather than in symbiosis, Corner (2010) supports this and adds that each SSP as a clear role definition, specific task and hierarchical lines of authority. Within Interdisciplinary approach there is little or no communication among each susceptible, as a result there is little overlap (Corner, 2010), which means SSP from a particular discipline may be unaware of detrimental effects caused in another discipline when interventions/ strategies are implemented in his field of expertise.
Whilst both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches are products of an input from more than one discipline, the principle difference is the integrative approach of the interdisciplinary sports scientist as opposed to scientists working in parallel often associated with multidisciplinary (Dandles, 2011). Interdisciplinary approach is having a single sub discipline that works in isolation to the other sub disciplines; interdisciplinary approaches are often undertaken during research, but are not always appropriate when holistic athlete centered approach is desired (Burrito et al. , 1994; BASES , [n. D. ]).
Interdisciplinary approach is similar to multidisciplinary in that it has no or little overlap between disciplines, reducing role conflict to an extent. Another benefit as noted by Jones (2006) is that each specific aspect of sport science can be taken into account and can be assessed in a thorough manner. The main difference between interdisciplinary and other approaches is that because the SSP work in relative isolation to the others alliances and allegiances tend not to be as prevalent. These alliances and allegiances can produce subgroups and isolates, decreasing productivity (Slinkier et al. , 2012). Therefore, Reid et al. 2004) suggested an optimum group number should be five or less to maintain the best mix of commitment and collaboration. Within all of these approaches there exist a number of possible issues that may increase athlete stress and in turn decrease athletic performance, this section will look at some of these issues. Fletcher, Wanton & Mealier (2006) identified five performers: factors intrinsic to the sport (e. G. Training schedules); roles in the sport organization (e. G. Lack of role acceptance); sport relationships and interpersonal demands (e. G. Conflicts with coaching staff; athletic career and performance development issues (e. . Selection); and organizational structure and climate of the sport (e. G. Result vs…. Placement focus), all of which can be influenced by ASS. Within all teams, particularly at an elite level there are substantial organizational and team dynamics (Collins et al. , 1999), an understanding of these dynamics are crucial for most effective work (Arnold, Moore & Burrito, 1998). Figure 1 shows the organization of most elite level support teams, the dashed line is knows as the ‘us and them’ divide with anyone above the line having or perceived to be having power to influence selection (Collins et al. 1999). Anyone above this line with perceived power and influence will experience high levels of impression management from athletes, particularly at elite level where benefits of selection are so high (Leary, 1994). Impression management is altering ones interactions in order to protect or improve ones position and the most common occurrence of impression management is limiting information on the status of and injury/fitness in order to improve chances of selection (Collins et al. , 1999).
Some athletes may even take impression management to the next step and exploit certain members of the support team as a naive conduit in order to use their link to and influence on selection in order to improve chance of selection (Collins et al. 1999). Once being identified as on the them’ side of the ‘us and them’ divide, SSP will in one way or another receive limited and well managed information, however Leary (1994) notes that this is neither dishonest nor devious but rather is an inevitable feature of group dynamics.
Being on the or being perceived to be on the ‘us’ side of the divide SSP will gain trust and improve SSP – athlete relations. However in order to be perceived as on the ‘us’ side of the line the SSP must work in total confidentiality or they will seem to have influence on selection by passing information onto management and therefore being placed in the them’ category and experiencing more impression management. Therefore in order to be considered ‘us’ SSP must regard the athlete as the client and exhibit total confidentiality (Klein et al. 2012). However by maintaining this patient confidentiality the SSP may mean withholding information from management that the athlete does not wish to be disclosed, which could put the SSP reputation and Job at risk, highlighting an issue with patient confidentiality (Collins et al. , 1999). Confidentiality is crucial to the SSP – athlete allegations, however if an athlete is unfit to play the SSP may struggle to deal with this issue without breaking confidentiality.
SSP also recognize the pressure to divulge information applied by management as they have a responsibility to management as ultimately they pay their wages (Collins et al. , 1999). SSP have varying codes of conduct when it comes to confidentiality; for example traditionally banishment’s and physiologists share information with coaches, whereas psychologists must protect all psychometric data (Collins et al. , 1999). Depends on their philosophy and will be influenced by whom they see as the client, he athlete or the management. Collins et al. 1994) identified two separate approaches to confidentiality depending on who is regarded as the client; firstly the athlete client approach where the SSP will work in total confidence and only divulge permitted information; and secondly the management client approach where the SSP will field athletes who are fit to partake. Both approaches do however have implications, being management client based and removing an athlete from events technically stands the SSP liable for causing ‘loss of earnings’ or ‘restricted trade’ (Collins et al. , 1994).
Being athlete client based causes issues with confidentiality as discussed in the previous paragraph. Contrasting philosophies can cause conflict within a ASS team, for example a SSP who has an athlete centered philosophy may want extended rest period after big competitions whereas a SSP with a result based philosophy may disagree with this and want them back training as soon as possible. This highlights the need to consider philosophy when recruiting SSP into a ASS team in order to reduce conflict, however some may argue that the more qualified the better, regardless of their philosophy.
Conflict is a regular and expected consequence of ASS (Collins et al. , 1999; Reid, Stewart & Throne, 2004), and is often born from different conclusions of the same problem from different sub disciplines. To avoid this conflict some may support a indiscipline approach, however conflict is often key to making informed, correct Judgments being made to improve athletic performance, furthermore it facilitates SSP self critiquing and questioning of practice (Ride et al. , 2004).
The author will now consider ways to combat these afore mentioned issues. Due to each discipline having varying codes of conduct when it comes to confidentiality Collins, et al. , 1999), athletes are often left unsure on information handling procedures and roles (Moore & Abbott, 2012) and SSP are left in a difficult position. To combat this all disciplines should have a standardized level of confidentiality through their professional associations, currently only the Charted society of physiotherapy has a cross discipline code of conduct (CUPS, [n. . ]). Athletes should have to sign an athlete charter which presents the scope of data confidentiality and whose interests are being met by each role so that the athlete clearly knows how the information he gives will be used and to what extent it will be confidential (Collins et al. , 1999). In order to reduce conflict within ASS group member philosophies must be considered, however at an elite level it is usually results based, therefore the most qualified/successful SSP may be employed.
ASS group size can also be considered to reduce conflict, but at elite level it is unlikely to reduce the size of the support team, reducing performance, purely to reduce chances of conflict. Although these things can be done to reduce conflict, as pointed out by Ride et al. (2004) some conflict can e a positive. Bigger the group the more conflict (Ride, 2004) an interdisciplinary approach allows for integrated and coordinated problem-solving resulting in a higher quality of collaboration and team performance (Mackinac & Rodgers, 2000; Norwalk, 2003).
Therefore an interdisciplinary approach must be adopted in order to produce the highest performance levels. Athlete charters and universal codes of conduct should be used to clarify confidentiality levels and reduce issues in this area. Conflict is expected in ASS and some conflict is good however ASS team philosophies should be noninsured in order to reduce it and make sure the entire team has the similar aims. Due to the nature of sport, impression management will always be present, therefore SSP must be aware of this.