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ESSA emphasises the importance of science in Australian sport 

ESSA emphasises the importance of science in Australian sport 
January 21, 2019

With the announcement in late 2018 of Cricket Australia’s High Performance Manager, Patrick Howard being asked to step down, the role of sports scientists has now come under the microscope and sparked a debate about what high performance means for sport. 

As the accrediting body for sports scientists in Australia, as endorsed by Sport Australia in 2017, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is dedicated to protecting the sports science industry and strongly encourages the place of science in all sporting codes.

Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive, explains “there’s been a range of coverage disputing the necessity of high performance units, however ESSA supports the statement that sports science plays a key role in not only enhancing the performance of an athlete or team, but in also considering their health and well-being."

Doing a lot more than just simply choosing who are the best players to take the field, sports scientists, high performance managers and the like contribute to the performance of a team through ongoing monitoring, analysis, management and support and more. 

Dr Matthew Varley, Lecturer in Sport Science at La Trobe University who previously worked for Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence and Victoria University, advises “the monitoring and management of athlete load and wellness goes well beyond what is reported to the public, i.e. which players should or should not be competing. It allows support staff to better understand the daily physical, mental and emotional health of the athlete.

“Athlete monitoring assists with the rehabilitation process, minimisation of the risk of injury, implementation of an appropriate training stimulus to maintain or improve current performance levels, and in general making sure the athlete feels okay. The most important aspect is that this allows sports scientists to support both the coaching team and the athlete in the decisions that are made to manage the athlete and their long-term health and well-being.” 

Dr Hugh Fullagar, who is a Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Technology Sydney and an Accredited Sports Scientist (and also previously worked for the Oakland Raiders and the University of Oregon), also supports the importance of science within sport. 

Dr Fullagar advises “our profession is based around integrating coach and our own expertise, the values of the athlete and the best available relevant research evidence to help optimise the decision-making process for the day-to day-service delivery to athletes.

“Sport scientists don’t just monitor load and assess recovery, they work together with the coaches, players and other performance and medical staff to improve many aspects of training and performance, help balance known benefits and risks in decision making, challenge commonly-held views with research evidence, and assist in the integration of athlete, coach and organisational preferences into decision making around approaches to achieving lasting success.” 

With home-grown sports scientists and high performance managers working in sporting codes  all over the world, Australia’s sports science industry is a testament to the strong reputation and branding that has been created over the years that helps to maintain the integrity of Australian sport. 

Dr Fullagar adds “as a collective, we are proud of our local-based sport scientists, many whom were pioneers from the Australian Institute of Sport, as well as those working abroad in leagues such as the NFL, NBA and English Premier League. These people are all respected, valued and integral members within their organisations."

Image courtesy of ESSA.

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