Sports science as a field is still in its infancy when compared with the history of association football dating back to the mob game of the mid-19th century.
Football has grown and the game played out in stadia, parks and schools all over the globe takes a very different form to that which had few rules and no governing body. The early years of the sport were a time for codification and evolution as the forefathers of football set about formulating the most popular sport in the world.
Whilst the rules of the game have come to a ultimately accepted format, sport science in its pure nature as a science will always be evolving.
From fundamentals to the future
By the early 20th century a selection of coaches had come to the belief that athleticism was a key part of success in football. From there research and theory into applied physiology has risen as has the use of it practically.
However, never a sport to be the pioneer, football was hesitant in embracing the work of science in the game. Of course the role of fitness grew in the post-World War era, but the appreciation of a so called sports science did not come to the fore until the technological advances of computing and data at the turn of the millennium.
From there it has evolved continuously to the present day in which sports science departments employ in some cases dozens of staff.
Through the Beautiful Science we will explore the current landscape of sports science in football from the role of a strength and conditioning coach and data analysts to advances in wearable technology and injury rehabilitation.
The speed at which sports science has advanced, thanks in a large part to the never ending progress in the field of technology, has rushed the sport of football. The balance between adopting new practices and advancements, whilst remembering the focus on improving player performance, is a challenge facing clubs up and down the country and across the developed football world.
With this in mind, the Beautiful Science is attempting to discover how this balance can be struck and unravel what the future holds for the relationship of sports science and football.
Is technology going to take the game to new heights? Are players losing their creativity and flair as a sacrifice to reach physiological peaks? Can clubs make sense of all the data that is at their finger tips and turn it into improvements on the pitch? Is sports science distancing fans of the professional game from the sport they adore? And is sports science just another example of money talks, widening the divide between those at the top of the football food chain and those in the lower echelons of the professional pyramid?
Sports science has changed the game so much in such a short space of time. No one can truly predict what the future holds for the beautiful game on the whole, but this project will attempt to pull back the curtains on what Sir Alex Ferguson described as “the biggest and single most important change in my lifetime”.