In modern-day sport, it is often not enough simply to focus on coaching athletes in improving technique in their chosen sport.
Professor Robin Mason, pro-vice-chancellor (International) of the University of Birming-ham was recently in India to sign an agreement with the Sports Authority of India to help improve the sporting performance of India’s athletes.
Sports experts at UB will work with SAI to develop education programmes that can be used by coaches, sport scientists and PE teachers across India. The two-week programme organised by SAI, will benefit personnel from a range of sports and science disciplines. Prof Mason responded to an emailed questionairre earlier in the week. Excerpts:
Can you give us an overview of your agreement with SAI, and its purpose?
The Indian government has highlighted the importance of sport to the nation and is looking to invest in boosting India’s sporting performance through Sports Authority of India. Besides developing education programmes to benefit coaches and others, the University and the SAI will also identify joint research opportunities and areas of common interest, as well as team up to shape sports policy and the development of India’s next generation of athletes at all levels of sport.
What will the areas of emphasis be?
We will help SAI establish a sports science infrastructure in India, as they work with their colleagues to boost the country’s sporting performance. We will focus on the development of Indian sports scientists, PE teachers, coaches and other groups to support SAI through curriculum development and strategies. We will also develop research opportunities in areas of sports science that are of mutual benefit — such as diet and state of mind — which can help athletes to perform better.
India is a complex challenge. What sort of model has UB put forward as best suited to conditions here?
An integrated approach to education and sport will be very important in ensuring that India’s young athletes benefit from the best opportunities. Our experts will work with their Indian counterparts to determine the best way of delivering results together in India. This was initiated with a highly successful visit of Indian sports coaches and sports scientists to the University of Birmingham this summer.
Does UB have previous such experience at the national level?
Birmingham’s experts are world leaders in sports science and combining the latest research with coaching to help boost athletes’ performance. The university is as one of the UK’s top sports institutions, in terms of the quality of our coaching; and in the way in which we apply the latest thinking in a range of areas, including sports nutrition, sports psychology, performance analysis and injury rehabilitation to help improve the performance of our athletes.
In modern-day sport, it is often not enough simply to focus on coaching athletes in improving technique in their chosen sport. We live in an era in which sports science is needed to generate marginal gains — lots of small improvements adding up to a significant improvement in performance — and sports science can help to secure those marginal gains.
Our approach combines sports and science. For example, we have a range of hi-tech sports equipment in our School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences. This includes equipment such as an anti-gravity treadmill, as used by Olympic athletes such as Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe to speed rehabilitation from injury.
How has UB’s past experience been in interactions with SAI?
Birmingham’s collaboration with SAI began in 2012 through the work of staff in its School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences in 2012.
Dr Martin Toms held discussions with the ministry of youth affairs and sports, and SAI about how the university could help the country’s athletes boost their performance.
The partnership follows the successful visit of coaches and sports scientists to the University of Birmingham in the summer of 2016, following the success of the UK and the University at the 2016 Rio Olympics. This two-week programme benefited personnel from a range of sports and science disciplines.