Strength and Conditioning is a young industry in the UK and as such has the opportunity to shape its’ future in the coming years. The UKSCA has, is and I’m sure will continue to do an excellent job in building the industry. The introduction of the accreditation process and the continuous work with governing bodies in numerous sports are two of the highlights of their portfolio. However, there is an opportunity which is currently being overlooked that I believe could lead to massive gains in athletic performance nationwide, growth in knowledge of the industry by athletes and general population and a bridging of the void often seen between sports science research and its’ application.
There are a large number of universities in the UK that offer sport science undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Many of these institutions have superb laboratory facilities and researchers, funding for health/fitness facilities and a large and consistently turned over student population. While I was at university I found myself frustrated by a few things (and I’ll only mention the ones related to strength and conditioning!); the lack of opportunity to use the practical laboratory skills introduced by my sport science course and the number of students training for their respective sports that appeared clueless as to what training would have the most benefit on their performance, unless there was a bicep curls and dips team that I never heard about!
If Universities offered strength and conditioning services that included physiological testing it would allow sport science students a chance to better their skills with actual athletes, improve the performance of their sports teams, offer health benefits to the student population and massively increase knowledge of what strength and conditioning is and does. To me, this is relatively simple to do. Many universities already have the laboratory and training facilities in place, all they need to do is employ a strength and conditioning coach. This can be subsidised by offering services to external populations, particularly during university holidays where pre-seasons for popular winter sports offer a market or potentially offering the role as an internship mentored by an external practitioner. This will also aid the growth of industry by increasing the number of formal strength and conditioning jobs. I know universities have tight budgets and that sport often isn’t at the top of the agenda but collaboration with local councils, colleges and perhaps other universities could help overcome these issues.
If a new source of jobs arises, and I’m not saying that this is the only way of doing it, then industry can avoid a potential bottle neck where newly accredited coaches are playing a dead man’s shoes game waiting for positions to open up it makes that first step on the ladder a lot easier to make.