Why become a Sport Scientist?

Phill Heritage is Course Lead for the BSc (Hons) Sport, Exercise and Health Science degree at AECC University College and Lecturer in Physiology and Health. He coordinates the University College’s on-site Sport Performance Centre working with UK and overseas coaches, athletes and support staff.

Phill has supported athletes undertaking ultra-marathons at the North Pole and in the deserts of North Africa, professional football clubs, Formula1 teams, and worked with sit skiers preparing for the Winter Paralympic games.

He tells us more about the career of a Sport Scientist and what makes it such an exciting and worthwhile career:

“Sport science gives you the opportunity to work in high-pressure environments with focused, motivated athletes and other professionals. It also gives you opportunities to travel all over the world and collaborate with people from different countries and cultures.

“There is nothing like the buzz you get from seeing an athlete you work with improve and then seeing them perform in front of a crowd or on TV.”

What does a Sport Scientist do?

“Sport scientists measure, analyse and improve a variety of factors related to sporting performance. This includes athlete physiology, such as VO2 max [the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise], the lactate profile [measuring power output/speed and the associated heart rate at which you produce more lactate than your body can reuse and recycle], and other metabolic responses.

“We also look at biomechanics variables, including analysing movement and skill execution, injury and rehabilitation, and economy of movement.

“We can also be found supporting athlete psychology, which can include learning skills, coping with different environments or situations, and managing the pressures of being an athlete.

“Most often we can be found monitoring athletes in the field using a range of equipment and techniques. Depending on the environment you work in you might spend more time in the laboratory conducting testing and working within a multidisciplinary team that supports the team or athlete.

“We then spend a lot of time taking information and translating it into training and performance approaches for coaches and athletes. This is how we actually turn our knowledge into actions that enhance performance.”

Qualifications

“In terms of qualifications, you would be expected to have an undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science, or an equivalent subject. Most people working at the top of sports will also have either a Masters degree or PhD.

“Many sport scientists in the UK are also accredited by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences, a process that can be achieved after undertaking two years of supervised experience. It is a sign of knowledge and understanding both of the subject area and the traits required to continually improve in your role.

“Many sport scientists will also undertake additional courses to widen their skillset, which could include massage, nutrition, strength and conditioning or medical training.”

Is Sport Science for you?

“If you love sport and have an interest in how to extract the maximum out of the human body, then this is the perfect profession for you. All the work is worth it for the feeling of stepping in a stadium and watching your team or athlete win: you can’t beat it.”

You can read more about Phill’s career here.