Modern sport science: from stagnation to new development paradigm


Dr.Hab., Professor L.I. Lubysheva
Russian State University of Physical Culture, Sports, Youth and Tourism (GTSOLIFK), Moscow


Keywords: kinesiology-based cognitive methodology, paradigm, sport science.

Background. Modern sport science is based on methodologies of the commonly accepted traditional physical culture and sport theories. Many modern researchers, however, are concerned by a variety of challenges and barriers complicating progress of the national sport science and sports [4, 6, 7]. Core theories forming a methodological groundwork of the sport science are the following:

  • Physical education and physical culture theory built up mostly on the ideas and concepts of P.F. Lesgaft, V.V. Gorinevskiy, M.F. Ivanitskiy and some other leading researchers who developed and contributed to fundamentals of the physical improvement system in the period of early 1920ies to late 1930ies;
  • Physical culture history and theory basically developed in the period of 1920ies to late 1980ies by V.V. Stolbov, A.B. Sunik, A.D. Novikov followed by serious theoretical and practical contributions to different aspects of the L.P. Matveyev's theory and the Saint Petersburg scholar school headed by N.I. Ponomarev, V.M. Vydrin and Y.M. Nikolaev;
  • Sport theory shaped up and tuned to the modern form by L.P. Matveyev, V.N. Platonov, Y.V. Verkhoshanskiy, V.K. Bal'sevich and some other leading Soviet scientists in the period of 1960ies to 1990ies.

Why then have some basic provisions and assumptions of these theories lately been challenged so fiercely?

First, the contests and calls for revisions are quite natural for any theory lifecycle. It is commonly known that the older is a theory the more its contradictions, erroneous assumptions and assertions are revealed and challenged in modern practices.

Second, the socio-cultural development logics of the modern sports calls for new conceptual revisions and innovative technologies being designed to advance the educational practices and facilitate social progress.

Third, many other theories have been intensively advanced lately including the motor action control theory by N.A. Bernstein, D.D. Donskoy and S.V. Dmitriyev; motor skill training theory by Y.K. Gevardovskiy and M.M. Bogen; and some other psychological, educational, social and theoretical concepts of the modern sport science that have largely contributed to many key provisions of the general and traditional sector theories.

Objective of the study was to make a theoretical analysis of the current problems in sport science and outline a new science development methodology driven by a kinesiological approach.

Study results and discussion. The present critical situation is further complicated by the fact that the modern Russian physical education system appears to be still largely limited by apologetics of the past theories and concepts. This situation effectively conserves the scientific progress by keeping in check the emerging productive ideas and concepts. Regretfully, even many young researchers tend to hold to opportunistic opinions and positions and replicate in their theses and monographs the long outdated but still commonly and traditionally respected good old assumptions and beliefs – as the reliance on the past authoritative leaders is always comfortable and safe. Ideas coming at variance with the commonly accepted concepts are more often than not ignored to avoid unnecessary problems with defence. However personally valuable the PhD or Doctor degrees may be for the young researchers, these opportunistic and conservative individual agendas collectively drive the modern national science into degradation and pseudoscientific constructs that have little to do with real research and life goals.

Students, postgraduates and masters tend to hold on to the good old theoretical canons and never doubt them to avoid troubles. As noted by Professor V.B. Korenberg, renowned researcher, the older is an assertion and the longer is its “track record” in science, the more doubtless and sound it seems. It should be noted, however, that the general logics of science dictates quite a different attitude i.e. the older are some beliefs and concepts the more critically should they be accepted and revised to check their relevance and validity [4]. It should be clearly understood that no progress may be made and no new concepts may be designed unless the constraints of the old theories are at least partially challenged or revised regardless of how sacred and sound the relevant old beliefs may seem. Young researchers should not turn the blind eye to obvious errors, vague points and misconceptions of the old theories and concepts regardless of how high their appreciation of the past accomplishments and respect to the past leaders of the science is. These opportunistic attitudes of the new generation of researchers may be viewed among the reasons for the present stagnation of the Russian sport science and its lagging behind the other sporting nations in many aspects including the innovative training systems development process. It is not unusual that resourceful coaches and sport instructors fail to find support for their promising theoretical findings and innovative training practices albeit they are much needed in the national sports. No wonder that the modern national sports system now tastes the bitter fruits of the traditional “pharmacological support” that has long been viewed as a miracle cure on the way to competitive success and athletic performance improvement.

Advancement of the sport science has long been driven by the physical education methodologies development component, with the physical education logics and motor activity optimisation issues being always ranked among the top priorities for the studies. Special attention in that sport science development period was given to the studies in the teachers’ training and biomedical disciplines. When a new social and practical demand for theoretical and practical athletic training tools and systems for elite sports came up, the national sport science made a special emphasis on the efforts to advance the relevant disciplines including sport physiology, sport medicine, sport anthropology, sport psychology etc. The modern development trends in the national sport science are dominated by every field in the sport theory being driven by practical methodologies of the subject disciplines each of which is designed to explore and analyse some specific component of the athletic training process. Every modern sport school is being governed in the research designing policies by its own ideas on the potential solutions for the specific subject issues within the paradigms and knowledge frameworks traditional for the specific research field and research team.

Modern sport practices have given rise to a new social demand for highly integrated knowledge to help further specify and clarify the subjects for research. The new vector in the national sport theory implies the national sports as a phenomenon being studied on an integrated basis, i.e. a key objective of the process is to work out an integrated theory and combine the subject-specific knowledge basics within the frame of this theory. It should be noted that the modern sport science has made serious steps to success on this way by having created the modern athletic training theory as an integrated knowledge system designed on the analytical and synthesising concepts rather than on the accumulative ones [7].

However, in view of the modern challenges in the period of the qualitative breakthroughs and revisions in the traditional sport practices, the sport system needs new methodological approaches to the research structuring policies that could give the means to design new practical concepts, integrate the knowledge basics and take benefits of the process logics to advance the modern sport science. The knowledge integrating mission could be addressed, in our opinion, by kinesiology that may be described as the system of scientific ideas on how the human cognitive resource will be employed [1]. The modern sport science needs to establish not only due interdisciplinary connections of the sport science domains but also, and even more importantly, good super-disciplinary links within the frame of a meta-disciplinary methodological approach that is being widely applied by the modern education system. Logics and specifics of the modern sport science, nevertheless, urge the sport theoreticians make an emphasis on the physical activity control practices and methodologies. This is the reason why we would propose the researchers to give a top priority to kinesiological approach for their developments in the modern sport science methodologies [3, 5]. The approach is largely based on the philosophical category of kinaesthesia viewed both as a spiritual source of physical activity and a part of the world and universal order [2]. Kinaesthesia may be interpreted, in our view, as the perception of movement by the human consciousness. 

Conclusion. Based on the above definition of kinaesthesia, kinesiology may be referred to as the science focused on the flows of feelings and thoughts and muscular movements. We believe that such an interpretation is advantageous in view of the fact that kinesiology strives to clarify the close interaction of the muscular movements with the human spirit.

We have reasons to assume that the kinesiological approach in sport science will help solve the problem of the humanitarian and natural scientific knowledge being united in one universe in the physical culture and sports sector research with the subjective-objective dualism genuine for the both fields being removed.

When it comes to the traditional views on the modern sports and training process designs being seriously revised, the above approach may be applied to build up a new sport science development paradigm that is quite different from the purely pragmatic development agenda.


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Modern Russian physical education system appears to be still largely limited by apologetics of the past theories and concepts. This situation effectively conserves the scientific progress by keeping in check the emerging potentially productive ideas and concepts. In the context of the modern initiatives to reform the national sport system and practices, the sector critically needs new practical approaches to the research process design and management in the national physical culture and sports sector to facilitate innovative processes, integrate new knowledge bases and employ them within the modern sport science development logics. This integrated knowledge, in our opinion, could be systematised by kinesiology as a system of research approaches to explore the human cognitive resource development mechanisms.