foresight of university sport progress trends and avenues

Dr.Hab., Professor V.I. Grigoryev1
PhD, Associate Professor I.G. Gerasimova2
PhD, Associate Professor E.S. Novikova2
1St. Petersburg State University of Economics, St. Petersburg
2St. Petersburg Mining University, St. Petersburg

Keywords: foresight, innovations, codification, modality, Russian Student Sports Union (RSSU), temporality.

Background. For the whole history of the national academic sports and at its every reform stage the academic system has strived to constructively and effectively use academic sports for at least the following practical purposes: improve students’ life quality, cultivate patriotic values and make students fit for their professional services. Practical experience and studies have given the means to formulate an academic sport paradigm in the context of the national mentality. It should be noted that, despite the social mission of the academic sports being in high priority for generations of the national researchers including V.V. Gorinevsky, V.V. Ignatyev in the 1920-30s; V.V. Belinovich and K.Kh. Grantyn in the 1940s; A.D. Novikov and L.P. Matveyev in the 1950s; V.D. Goncharov, N.I. Ponomarev and V.I. Stolyarov in the 1960-80s, the theoretical resource of the academic sport system still remains largely untapped. Wide versatility of the phenomena and the developmental contradictions may be interpreted as indicative of the modern academic sports probably being much more complicated than it has been perceived before. External factors of influence on the academic sport culture development process are still not clear enough, and the present study was designed to address the relevant issues.

Objective of the study was to identify the most promising progress trends and driving forces for the academic sports in Russia.

Methods and structure of the study. We applied a foresight analysis to codify the available theoretical resource, core ideas and notions of the modern academic sports [3]. The analytical toolkit is sensitive and self-referent enough to help identify the external factors of influence on the progress of the modern academic sports and move from a consideration of the academic sports concept on the notional level to an analysis of its progress drivers and forecasts.

Study results and discussion. Sport movement in the Russian Empire in the early 19 century was largely propelled by the growing fashion for sports in a few developed European nations including Austria, Belgium, the UK and Germany. Therefore, I.A. Rapoport offered to consider the core ideas and notions of the academic sport concept in the context of the scientific and technical progress and the European integration and identification priorities [5]. The methodological provision by Karl Marx – who viewed sport practices as a tool to galvanize the ‘latent abilities’ – may be applied as a key for understanding the development process drivers.

A theoretical modeling exercise shows that the intervention of the European ideas and notions (thesaurus) in the Russian academic sports was facilitated by the people’s educational system liberalization process. Since the Temporary Rules for the Student Establishments at Universities were approved in 1901, the ontological ideas importing policies were formulated. The sport development policies of St. Petersburg University, Polytechnic and Electric Engineering Universities in Moscow and Kiev (1908) were perfectly compliant with the relevant European cultural codes in terms of the anthropological semiotics and the process stratification and management principles. Sport interests of the academic communities were explained by the ‘pressing natural needs’ in the context of the European living standards (Jose Ortega y Gasset). For then-agrarian Russia, the academic sports provided a breakthrough to the values-driven ‘versatile physical practices’ with their evolution into relevant sport institutions. Ideas of P.F. Lesgaft, A.D. Butovsky and P. Bokian and publications in the Sports journal (1900) helped enrich this drive with the basic meanings and interpretations. The collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, however, forced the academic communities to radically revise their academic sport models.

Soon after the October Revolution (since the early 1920s), the government came up with its mass sport movement advancement policies with the logo “Non-stop physical activity”, with the government acting as the key driver for the sport progress. In 1928 the first Athletic Games of the USSR People were launched supported by the mass sport movement with the rapid growth of the sporting population – from 311.2 thousand in 1924 to 911 thousand in 1927. The further progress was secured by the special projects to develop the sport assets and facilities and train a high-quality human resource to serve the sport system [2]. 

In the 1930s the research basis for the academic sports was successfully developed due to the facilitating governmental decisions. Thus, Y.M. Zelixon and A.D. Novikov came up at that time with a neo-Marxist methodology to offer their phenomenological concept on the role of modern sports in the proletariat culture and reproduction of a socially-conscious personality, with the cultural ideas of the concept being largely based on the tenets of the military communism.

Further progress of the conceptual grounds for the national sports in the 1940s was largely influenced by the relevant political, social and cultural factors mostly determined by the national defence related interests and challenges. The educational process in the academic sport system at that time was based on the theoretical fundamentals laid by I.M. Koryakovskiy and K.Kh. Grantyn including physical education concepts, models, methods and tools, with a high priority still given to the applied combat training related aspects. A special priority was given, for instance, to the combat hand-to-hand and bayonet fighting techniques, grenade throws, swimming skills etc., with the numbers of sport enthusiasts estimated at 2.7% of the total population at that time, with the physical education service provided by as many as 27 thousand specialists.

In the administrative system reforms of the 1950s geared to make a transformation from the sector-specific control to the areal control system, the sector analysts made progress in their studies of the academic sports sector and its driving forces, followed by a number of projects to update the national sport infrastructure, institutions, assets and facilities. The mass academic sport movement was headed and regulated at that time by the Russian Voluntary Sport Association ‘Burevestnik’. The sector research community applied a concept of convergent evolution to lay a foundation for the unique human resource knowledge system; develop the relevant sport information network and sport thesaurus; offer motor skill biomechanics analyses and concepts (N.A. Bernstein); and explore the body adaptability to physical loads (A.N. Krestovnikov, V.S. Farfel and N.V. Zimkin). The growing scientific discussions helped revise the energy supply basics for motor activity (N.N. Yakovlev). The inflow of the breakthrough ideas in the sector made it possible to notably improve the training process efficiency, with the sport facilities and sporting population reported to grow twice for the period [4].

The theoretical and practical toolkit of the national sport science was enriched in the 1960s by the studies of the academic sports qualifying functions and database verification studies geared to demonstrate, among other things, advantages of the Soviet sports and civilization on the whole. The practical studies at that time helped offer the athletic training basics (Y.V. Verkhoshanskiy, V.V. Dyachkov, V.M. Zatsiorskiy). The theoretical developments (widely variable in the applied analytical tools and findings) by L.P. Matveyev, N.G. Ozolin and A.A. Ter-Ovanesyan heavily contributed to the information database and facilitated the consensus being reached on the key categories and notions of the sport theory. As a result, the academic sports made a phase transition to form an effective operational field well-supplied with high-quality human resource, assets and service facilities. The growing popular demand for sports and physical trainings was satisfied by 1960 when the sport system reported holding 324 thousand sport facilities served by 126 thousand sport specialists.

In the 1970s the national academic sports system evolved towards its further versatility driven by the pragmatic goals of the sport progress being reasonably combined with and facilitated by the general academic progress. The key sector development policies were designed to expand the social base for the sports, improve the academic living standards and establish sport schools; with the capital investments in the national sport infrastructure budgeted (since 1983) in the economic and social development sections of the National Budgets [7].

Upon a technical default of the Russian Voluntary Sport Association ‘Burevestnik’ in 1987, its mission was inherited by the Russian Student Sport Union (RSSU). The research studies at that time gave a growing priority to the sport philosophy (S.I. Guskov, N.I. Ponomarev), sport sector design and its social functions (S. Bryankin, N.I. Ponomarev) with the relevant resource codifications (by V.I. Stolyarov and Y. Fomin). Special efforts were made to provide theoretical support for replication of the popular 1920s mass sports movement in the new “Academic Youth Sportization” model (by V.K. Bal’sevich and L.I. Lubysheva). In terms of its theoretical grounds, the sporting model has been focused on the goals related to the broader inclusion of the student population in sports, trainings for the GTO tests and qualifications, and for the formal basic sport qualifications; with the applied professional physical education at universities offered to be driven by the relevant academic sports [6].

Since the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the academic sport system has been lagging behind the best European sport models. Reforms of the government system in the early 1990s may be viewed as the bifurcation point associated with the growing disorder in the legal and regulatory systems and degradation of the relevant ideas and values. Since then the practical policies imperative for the national system progress have been designed to establish facilitating provisions for the sport infrastructure development and training base renewals supported by the regulatory framework revision efforts to secure due living standards for and physical progress of the student population. The process missions may be attained conditional on the theoretical resources being codified and due developmental motivations being offered. Mission of academic physical education departments is to help the students realize their constitutional right for the sport service and progress, with the student clubs providing the prospects selection and commercial sport services and assisting in the sport event organizing initiatives.

A new historical stage in the academic sports development history is associated with the new project initiated by O.V. Matytsyn, FISU President [1]. Since then virtually every sector researcher and analyst (V.N. Platonov, V. Issurin, L.I. Lubysheva) has noted that the technological revolution has heavily contributed to the growing coherence of the interrelated processes in the sector including human resource growth, diversification of the progress avenues and growing informational support in the whole post-Soviet education universe. The modern sports development concept is geared to develop the quality human resource viewed as the key driving force for progress of the sector and Russian nation on the whole.

The O.V. Matytsyn progress model adapted to the modern progress concepts, axiomatic and Russian sport traditions and goals may be applied as the new sector development driver. The sector reforms shall be geared to establish a new ‘matrix of opportunities’ in the sector resource mobilization and employment domain, with the reasonable public-corporate interest protection and fundraising policies to help the students realize their constitutional rights for sport services and progress. As opposed to the prior sector development models, the new model makes a special emphasis on the operational benefits of the intellectual capitalization process, high-tech attraction tools and IT-platforms for the sport services. The Russian Student Sport Union (RSSU) cooperation with the universities shall be transparent enough to provide an efficient support to the sport clubs at 700 national universities, 13 student sport leagues, 63 regional and 8 territorial associations, plus Moscow and St. Petersburg academic communities. Success of the RSSU cooperation with FISU and EUSA has been verified by the world-class competitive accomplishments of the national athletes and their leadership in the World University Games.

Conclusion. Theoretical analysis of the national academic sport sector progress demonstrates the need for cooperation of physical education departments with academic sport clubs to be advanced to make success in sport excellence, physical education and volunteer movement advancement domains.


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The article makes a historical and theoretical analysis of the academic sports progress for the century. Fast changing theoretical vision of the world and civilization development challenges require the cultural and functional process being thoroughly analyzed. It should be recognized that the social fluctuations are of notable effect on the academic vocational identification and sport culture modalities. The historical and theoretical analysis of the academic sports progress for the study period showed the development trends being determined by a variety of external factors of influence. The foresight analytical model in its application to the university sport ideas and accomplishments may be also used to forecast the most promising strategic development avenues. In the context of the ongoing discussion of the promises of the European integration, further development drivers and variations in the consumer demands in the academic communities need to be taken into account; and most beneficial in this context are the programs designed to mobilize the theoretical resource of the sport science and step up the technological emphasis in the academic education curriculum. Modern studies show the need for due cooperation of university departments and sport clubs to make success in the sport excellence, physical education and volunteer movement advancement domains. The decision-makers shall give a growing priority to the sport science development and sport infrastructure renewal projects with due governmental support.