For so very long the motto for the National Strength and Conditioning Association has been Bridging the Gap referring to the discontinuity between what is discovered by sport scientists and the implementation of that knowledge by the practitioners in the weight room. This is an interesting situation given that many of the founding members were sport scientists who had formerly been athletes.
Anyway we are still in a situation where little headway is being made to bridge the gap. Thinking about this has caused me to reflect on one aspect of a trip that I took in 1989 and that was organized by the NSCA.
A JOURNEY SOMETIME AGO
I believe there were about 10 of us who took this trip that summer while there was still an Evil Empire. We went to Bulgaria and the U.S.S.R. The purpose was to study weightlifting and strength training methods. Being a teacher, what particularly intrigued me was the overall progression employed by Moscow’s Central Sports Institute. At the institute we were treated to a presentation by the head of the institute, Dr. Popov.
THE COMMON EXPERIENCE
He explained that admission to the institute was based on the results of a two-day exam in mathematics and science. I understand that candidates studied for months and only the highest scorers were granted admission. The intention was to have only the brightest becoming students in the fields of physical culture.
Those that made the cut were then placed into a two year curriculum that consisted solely of math and science courses. During that time these students shared a common experience, developed friendships and professional relationships, and gained a greater appreciation of the importance of science in the development of the physical body. This bonding would prove to bear benefits as the students matriculated into their various career pathways. The gap had been bridged.
At the end of the first two years students then selected whether they would specialize in physical education, sport science or coaching. Thus a candidate to become a weightlifting coach would start to study the pedagogy and science of weightlifting in the third year at the institute.
As time goes on, a physical education teacher or a coach with a problem that needed to be studied already was familiar with a researcher who could initiate such an investigation. Conversely a researcher in need of study subjects could enlist the assistance of a physical education teacher and in the case of more specialized studies, a sport coach with access to athletes of varying levels of development. In this way meaningful research could be carried out.
As it stands now with the NSCA, the only required common experience is the CSCS exam and voluntarily, the National Conference.
ONE POSSIBLE STEP
One possibility to increase the common experience as we move forward is the requirement of certain core courses for CSCS candidates. As it stands currently the only academic requirement is a bachelors degree in any subject. A required core curriculum would at least provide common talking points for coaches and scientists.
As things stand now there is not enough to meld the two groups and it is entirely too easy for the two groups to maintain their insularities. This topic could stand a revisiting.