Sport and exercise science: studying out of the norm
I have just finished my degree after three years of study at the University of Exeter, UK, and most of my friends and family still don’t quite understand exactly what the subject is.
Seeing that my degree title has the word ‘sport’ in it, my acquaintances believe that sport and exercise science is the study of glorified PE.
Unfortunately, a stigma still exists on anyone studying something out of the norm (law, accounting, medicine, IT, teaching or economics). As much as this amuses me, I am tired of constantly having to give the same speech to blank faces and feel that more awareness in general needs to be raised about studying subjects outside of this bracket.
I feel that parents, schools and career guidance counsellors still don’t push a variety of subjects to young children who are full of passion and diversity to do things that interest them individually.
Naturally, we all have similarities and differences; it’s simply the way the world works and what pushes us forward as a global society. If we all fit into one bracket, or liked/did the same things, we wouldn’t be able to invent or create, and the world would be a boring place.
Over time, we have been drilled into taking the safe route in order to have a stable life and income. Today’s world is full of endless opportunities, and people need to realise that they can still love sport, pursue a degree in a related field and make a lot of money doing so. The same goes for art, music and so on. All it takes is passion, determination and a bit of research. Google is available 24/7.
Now that my rant is over, I’m going to move on to the question at hand: what is the study of sport and exercise science?
A BSc in the field branches out into three main subjects: physiology, biomechanics and psychology. It is designed for one to develop a comprehensive understanding of the scientific principles underlying sport and exercise performance and participation.
As much as people think the degree is solely sport-related, optional modules reflect the application of scientific knowledge in a variety of populations such as athletes, children and the general public, including advanced statistical knowledge.
The government has started to realise the importance of sport science to improve sporting success
Nearly all professional sport teams, international sporting brands such as Nike and Adidas, private sport research centres and top universities employ sport and exercise scientists for diverse roles. These scientists are responsible for the design of the new football/tennis/running shoe that is being advertised everywhere, the statistics that show up at the end of a sporting match on TV, the heart monitor you wear at the gym, the subsequent protein shake afterwards and the government exercise guidelines, to name a few.
I was lucky enough to have been able to attend one of the top universities in the world and the best sport science programme in the country to see and learn these skills first hand. In the UK the degree is highly sought after by employers due to the advanced analytical and problem-solving skills taught on the programme. Unfortunately, in Malta the field is not acknowledged, and no programme exists to the required standard at the University.
However, in an age where Maltese sport is under review, the government has started to realise the importance of sport science to improve sporting success, with the best teams in the world employing sport scientists to enhance and monitor the recovery, diet and training of world-class players, giving teams that slight advantage needed for success over their competitors.
Due to this, a scholarship scheme was set up in 2012 for individuals who wish to pursue a career in sport and exercise science or something closely related. The criteria include individuals who are, or have been involved with a national team, top grades at Sixth Form level and an interview process whereby 10 candidates every year are selected out of all the applicants. If successful, the applicant receives a bursary covering half of their tuition and living expenses and incentives to pursue their knowledge within Maltese sport, once finished.
I was lucky enough to receive this bursary in 2014, having previously been involved with the national Malta rugby union team at youth level and national rugby league team at senior level. I would like to thank the Malta Sports Scholarship scheme for providing me with this incredible opportunity and I am convinced that this investment will reap benefits for Maltese sport.
Personally, I have decided to pursue business interests now and I’ve just been accepted to study a master’s degree in marketing. However, as a coach and sport lover, I wish to use my knowledge to help local teams; and I’ve already been in contact with a number of teams across different sports to provide assistance.
I believe awareness is key, and if young children are more aware of the opportunities available to them within sport, we can flourish and progress as a nation. We are making progress through schemes such as the Malta Sports Scholarship and I believe it is the right avenue to pursue, if we want to see an improvement within Maltese sport.
Robin Cutajar has a BSc (Hons) in Exercise and Sport Sciences.