Modern sport science: problems and development prospects


Dr.Hab., PhD A.A. Peredelsky
Russian State University of Physical Education, Sports, Youth and Tourism (SCOLIPE), Moscow

Keywords: sport science, electronic resource, content analysis, classified recommendations.

Background. Sport science is at least 100 years old and has produced multiple concepts and theories for this time. Each of them may be tested by the following logical questions: (1) How well it describes the physical culture and sports process as its key object? (2) Are the key provisions for the descriptions accurate and sound enough? (3) How reliable and unbiased are the findings?

Objective of the study was to make a critical analysis of the modern national sport science and to offer its most promising progress avenues.

Study results and discussion.

Question 1 may be responded as simple as that: it should be confessed that the modern sport science still fails to describe its object in every aspect for at least the following reasons.

First, the existing definitions of ‘sport’ vary in a wide range. Presently there are 86 formally registered sport disciplines in Moscow versus 159 in Russia and about 2000 in the US.

Second, the political attitudes and recognition of sports have been historically nation-specific as they widely differed in the XIX-XX centuries. In our country, for example, the Soviet authorities started showing relatively constructive and positive attitudes to the sport movement only since the early 1930ies – largely due to the Communist Party Decree of September 23, 1929 “On the physical culture movement’ with expressly negative attitude to the sport titles and records prioritizing policies and practices.

Third, since the XX century there have been quite a few sport models promoted the world over, and they were seriously different in their religious, economic, social and political basics and goals. In our national science, for instance, the research has been focused exclusively on the Soviet amateur sport model, and much the same interpretation has been applied to the Olympic sport model.

Responding to Question 2 on how accurate and sound (verifiable) the key provisions for the descriptions and research are, we believe that they are rather not, as verified by the statements of renowned western sociologist Claus Heinemann and findings of the study report by Y.V. Koryagina et al. (2016) ordered by the Ministry of Sports that provides an overview of the most promising research findings in the global sport science for the last decade. The conclusion is supported by the leading researchers of the human genome from Lomonosov Moscow State University.

It may be stated with confidence that the current sport science theories are far from being sound on the whole as their verification is always partial i.e. geared to assess how verifiable the variations in the local objects profiled by multiple specific experiments are. The descriptive theories providing a frame for these experiments cannot guarantee verifiable knowledge due to their partial research induction and generalizing logics and, hence, they are limited to the probabilistic knowledge production – that is determined in its turn by adequacy of research programs and representativeness of study samples.

We believe that sound knowledge may be generated only by hypothetic-deductive theories with their idealizing and interpretation methods which have not been acknowledged and accepted by the sport science so far. When developing the social philosophy and sociology of sports, we have proposed such a hypothetic-deductive theory that could be applied in the sport science to produce and secure a sound knowledgebase (A.A. Peredelskiy, 2016).

On the face of it, the above problems may be provisionally interpreted as the growth ailments expected to disappear with the sport science maturing process, although it is not exactly so. Given hereunder are the findings of a few our empirical studies with the content analyses of the digital research database of Russian State University of Physical Education, Sports, Youth and Tourism (SCOLIPE) library. Subject matter for our study was the classified content of the publications on the issues of sport selection, athletic training systems and mass sport management aspects.

The study data and analyses showed the following:

  • The national and foreign databases on the early/ primary sport selection topics need to be adjusted to a variety of factors including, for instance, the Moscow population, when we consider the study data of 2016 with 4000 people aged 5-12 years being subject to the tests, with 1500 people sampled;
  • The existing study methods give only provisional means to analyze, more or less accurately, the situations in at most one sport discipline out of four registered in Russia. As things now stand, 159 registered sport disciplines are formally studied by 41 Integrated Research Teams (IRT) that means that most of the sport disciplines are still uncovered in the theoretical and practical provisions expectable from the IRT. Furthermore, having analyzed the research and education publications in the SCOLIPE librarian digital database for the last three years (2015–2017) classified on a sport-specific basis, we found only 70 sport disciplines addressed in at least one publication for the period; with only 22 sport disciplines covered in at least five publications;
  • Modern professional sport models are still being studied by the relatively limited (in the research scopes and numbers) groups of authors. Many elements of such models, including, for instance, betting shops, agent services, international rating systems etc. are still virtually unexplored or underexplored with their considerations dominated by criticism, biases and unconstructive assessments.

Summarizing the above, we would offer the following theoretical and practical recommendation classified into two modules:

(1) Historical theory module:

– The definition of sport by L.P. Matveyev with its attributes, elements and functions needs to be complemented by the definitions spelling out genetics, origins, types, content and systemic social meanings of the modern sports. The definitions should present the modern sports in the context of the ancient Mediterranean games and competitive forms of religious and secular physical contests successfully integrated by the relevant industrial, economic, social and political ties into the slave-holding and (two millenniums later) the capitalist societal system. It is the historical meaning and mission of sports driven by the idea of eternal psychophysical alienation for self-sacrifice that has resulted in the modern sports evolution into a leading social institute of physical culture and one of the most successful modern social service mechanisms;

– The above approach makes it possible to define sports, on a detailed and consistent basis, as an activity form and social institute that has borrowed the content and forms from historical martial arts and physical trainings albeit suppressed, transformed and virtually destroyed the relevant former social institutional system;

– It is also important to emphasize in the above context that the modern sports develop not as a self-management system but rather as an operator with its specific functions totally controlled by the relevant industrial and economic interests, policies and lobbying activities. Such a definition effectively cleans up the understanding of modern sport of the ideological and mythical meanings like ‘absolute freedom zone’ or ‘humanistic education application domain’ etc.

(2) Theoretical module of recommendations:

– The existing priorities of the sport science need to be revised as soon as possible to make a transition from descriptive theories to the hypothetic-deductive theories; with due financing for the fundamental integrative research and analytical projects; and with the relevant ideal objects being introduced in the general sport theory as required by the theoretical design forms typical for a mature science. This idea was advanced long ago by L.P. Matveyev who emphasized the promises of the theoretical studies applying such integrative notions;

– Focused efforts should be taken at the same time to get rid of the narrow theoretical concepts and provisions advanced in the socio-humanitarian sciences and never supported by due (full, independent and consistent) grounds and empirical evidence including significance of test data and probabilistic assessments;

– It will be beneficial to introduce the relevant simplified algorithm with its formal logics and specific empirical aspects in the empirical theoretic studies in the sport science – to accurately and effectively model and implement a variety of matrix theoretical research programs. The existing format of the scientific dissertations may be applied as a visible albeit limited model of such programs.

Conclusion. At this juncture the sport science is still not fully ready for serious reforms in the sports system. To begin with, the analysts shall consider specific and real – rather than abstract and virtual – provisions for progress in the modern sports, with their real development logics and vectors. 


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The author makes a comparative analysis of the national and global sport science progress in the key aspects including the sport selection process and professional versus amateur sports models; with the analytical data applied to assess and outline the real progress prospects of the sport science in every aspect. The article offers and substantiates the key theoretical and practical progress algorithms for the progress model with the key provisions for the practical implementation of these algorithms. It is concluded that at this juncture the sport science is still not really ready for serious reforms in the sports system. To begin with, the analysts shall consider specific and real – rather than abstract and virtual – provisions for progress of the modern sports, with their real development logics and vectors.