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Careers in Exercise and Sports Science: From Athletic Performance to Disease Prevention

On the evening of 13 August, the Olympic Torch will reach the end of its 2004 international journey at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. To the public, the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games will be the kick-off to a display of festivities, a promise for breathtaking sporting records, and above all a celebration of human performance.

For the elite athletes of the 37 different sports disciplines who will compete over the following 16 days, the time will have come to make a reality check on their ultimate dream. After years of extreme training, intense mental preparation, and often many sacrifices, the athletes will get to know--some in the space of a few minutes--how close to an Olympic gold medal they can really get.

But to the sports and exercise scientists, the Olympic Games are bound to represent one of the most wonderful examples of how science may be used to push further the limits of the human body and the human mind--enhancing physical abilities, stretching our perception of the possible, and bringing faith into dreams.

Athletes may appear on their own on the trackside, but not very far from them is a cohort of trainers, coaches, nutritionists, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, to name but a few. An Olympic medal is a reward for their achievements too.

Of course, working by the side of elite athletes is the most visible career option available to sports and exercise scientists. But pushing the boundaries of the possible starts in the lab, and, increasingly, the knowledge and technical advances made in the sporting environment are being brought to clinical settings. It seems the benefits of sports and exercise science are set to reach beyond the elite athletes and so are the career opportunities.

Next Wave has asked sports and exercise scientists from a diversity of backgrounds to let you peek into what their jobs are really like and how as scientists they made it there. We've explored the different avenues into the field, found out where opportunities are to be found, as well as identified the hurdles and rewards you should expect in a career in exercise and sports science.

So, do you think you're up to the challenge? If you lack the confidence, remind yourself of what Wayne Gretzky, ice hockey player, once said:

You'll miss 100% of the shots you'll never take.

Get a Feel for the Field of Sports and Exercise Science

Keeping your Finger on the Pulse of Exercise and Sport Science

What exactly is "exercise and sports science?" What does it take to break into the field and what employment opportunities are there for early-career scientists? Next Wave Europe editor Elisabeth Pain peers into the job market trends and issues everyone should know about.

Finding the Right Track after your Sports Science Degree

As far as finding a job goes, there certainly is more to graduating in sports science than fitness training and PE teaching. To Tinaz Kumana the opportunities, from supporting elite performance to the health of the nation are there for the taking, but it is crucial students shake their blinkers off before entering the field.

This Time, We Mean It

A technology called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) helps distance runners and road race organizers keep more accurate performance times and report results on larger numbers of competitors. Next Wave's Alan Kotok says RFID is also one of the hot new electronic technologies with growing career potential for engineers and scientists.

Meet Some Sports Scientists at Work

Olympic Inspiration

When Ben Brennan visited a friend during the '96 Olympics, in Atlanta, he realized that sports psychology was what he wanted to do. Now Brennan treats athletes with performance enhancement techniques as well as through more traditional clinical therapy in the New York/New Jersey area.

A Booming Field

Philip Atherton , a distance runner, describes his motivation and training as a sports scientist, where he says the love for what you do - both sports and science - is the most important attribute.

Pushing the Boundaries of Elite Sport

Tegwen Rooks has represented Great Britain in rowing, served as a rowing coach and gained a degree in psychology, followed by a MSc in sport science. Using his education and athletic background he has channelled his professional development into becoming a sport psychologist.

Funding Face-Off

Next Wave's Andrew Fazekas talks with McGill University professor David Pearsall who studies equipment design and helmet protection used by both amateur and professional hockey players. Successfully getting funding for his projects from major sports equipment manufacturers since 1995, he offers young upcoming researchers valuable advice on what it takes to start and stay in the corporate funding game.

Reach Out for Your Dreams

Monna Arvinen-Barrow , a Finnish figure and synchronized skating coach has come all the way to the UK for a degree and then a PhD in sports psychology. She finds that while fulfilling her dream of becoming a sports psychologist she's found much more on the way.

Getting Ice Time

According to Next Wave's Andrew Fazekas , the field of sports science is getting lots of ice time with early career scientists in Canada. A researcher working on improving safety on the ice in two different sports talks about experiences in the field and offers valuable insights on current and future career prospects in Canadian sports science.

Clap Your Skates

Diederik Hol got involved in the development of the clapskate as an MSc student, an invention that turned the ice speedskating world upside down. Next Wave's Terry Vriejenhoek says that being on the edge of commerce and science, Hol recognises the importance of good ideas and open mindedness.

My Journey Out From Under The Stairs

Stephen Seiler , an American exercise physiologist now living in Norway, tells us how his research went from looking into medically-relevant topics to enhancing athlete performance, to eventually blend the two.

Talent Development in Science and Sports

What mattered most to Nicholas Holt , an Englishman in Canada, was to apply his sport psychology research to the sporting ground. So when he's not looking into the factors that may affect talent development, chances are, he's on a soccer pitch with the teams he´s coaching.

Training Programmes

Training at the American Sports Medicine Institute

MiSciNet Editor Robin Arnette takes a snapshot of the Student Research Program at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham in the US, a unique centre in that it trains both sports science physicians and researchers.

Diary of a Sports Medicine Intern

Rochelle Nicholls is one of ASMI's former students. She then came all the way from Australia to learn about the biomechanics of baseball at ASMI and explains how her research experience has helped her along her career back in Australia.

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