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The Science of Sport

Author Professor Trevor Arnold, PhD

As was the case in most of the Western world, the initial undergraduate courses in Australia with content pertaining to human movement and sport science were programs that were initiated as Physical Education teacher preparation qualifications. The professional career paths available to graduates within this domain are now as diverse as the imagination of the graduate.

The initial programs commenced soon after the conclusion of World War II. One of the primary motives for these initiatives was the evidence of so many males who were declared unfit for military duty during the war effort. The government saw the solution as introducing better Physical Education programs in the schools, being delivered by better prepared and specifically educated PE  teachers.

The oversupply of teachers in Australia in the late 1970's and early 1980's de- manded that the institutions delivering these qualifications identify new employ- ment opportunities for the graduates, resulting in the first appearance of de- grees catering for recreation professionals. In many instances, this diversity of program delivery merely led to degrees delivered by physical educators, as a side- line activity to the production of PE teachers.

Whilst the need to  produce Physical Education teachers remains a significant social need, and most developed societies demand the availability of quality leisure programs for their citizens, the career options of graduates within this domain is developing. The two most evident growth domains are in the area of the professional delivery of sport, and the role of a physical lifestyle for community health.

The sports industry is developing at an unprecedented rate of growth. From a business perspective, sport is now seen as an area that has the potential for high returns on investment. It is quite significant that Rupert Murdoch has broadened his business base from multi-media production into sport, having recently pur- chased an American baseball team and Australian Rugby League interests, as

well as seeking opportunities to invest in an English football club. No business person of Rupert Murdoch's international stature would see fit to invest in sport unless he was satisfied that this was a sound business venture with ideal revenue-generating opportunities.

The actions of Rupert Murdoch and others has identified sport as a business venture with professional management structures, marketing processes and development strategies in place. It has portrayed new and developing career paths for graduates of human movement science, sport science, exercise science and related degrees. Graduates from these degrees who have undertaken an appropriate mix of subjects can now visualise career paths extending into such diverse domains as sport management, sport marketing, event and facility management, government policy development pertaining to sport, sport journalism, sport psychology, sport coaching and athlete conditioning. Business leaders are only going to continue their enthusiasm for such investments if they receive returns for their money. Such returns will only be forthcoming if astute, enthusiastic and properly educated professionals are delivering the programs that earn appropriate financial returns. The successful universities of the twenty-first century will be those that have responded to this challenge by delivering such degrees.

A second professional growth area for this group of graduates is associated with community health. The increasing demand for government expenditure within Health budgets is reaching the stage where most governments are simply unable to function in a manner that is satisfying their constituents. One of the primary reasons for this problem is that governments have continually centred their expenditure on the construction of hospitals and medical care programs. Governments have functioned with politicians parading with the nomenclature  of 'Minister for Health' when in actual fact they have performed as a 'Minister for Sickness and the Construction of Hospitals'. Government focus simply has to change. If the change is not brought about as a philosophical change, it will occur simply because insufficient funding will be available to address the ever-increasing costs of medical support.

Graduates of human movement, exercise science and sport science degrees have the potential to become the major players in this shift in policy focus. It is these graduates who have the skills, knowledge and understanding to initiate community health education programs to reduce cardio-vascular disease, to reduce medical dependency for diabetics, to improve workplace health leading to increased production, to initiate and promote pro- grams of activity for the elderly that reduce medical dependency, and to maintain an active lifestyle for the unemployed and disadvantaged groups in society. These are the graduates that governments will be calling upon to shift the community focus from medical dependency to healthy lifestyles in the decades ahead.

The career paths of human movement science, sport science and exercise science graduates are developing at a pace that is not being witnessed within other professions. Opportunities for such graduates are expanding.

The contribution that these people can make to society and the recognition of this contribution is at an unprecedented high and all indications are that this recognition will continue to grow.

Author Professor Trevor Arnold, PhD

School of Health and Human Performance

Central Queensland University

www.cqu.edu.au/

Tel: 00 617 4930 9777

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