By Gillian Burdett
Dribbling a soccer ball down the field, passing with precision and shooting with power and accuracy is an art. It requires the agility, coordination and strength of a dancer combined with athletic speed and stamina. It is no wonder soccer is called “The Beautiful Game.” Underlying the artistry of movement on the field are principles drawn from multiple scientific disciplines — physics, chemistry, human biology, social and applied sciences.
The work of scientists contributes to the physical and mental health of each player, the dynamics of the team as a whole, equipment design and even keeping the turf on the field green. If you think the job of a scientist means white lab coats, Bunsen burners and mice, think again. These careers in science bring scientists out to the field.
Engineering is an applied science. Physics and math are used to design, build and test everything from water bottles to superhighways. A sports engineer brings expertise in athletics to the equation. They are tasked with designing equipment, playing fields and even entire stadiums. The emphasis is on ensuring safety and maximizing performance.
Psychology is a social science that deals with the mind and human behavior. A sports psychologist works with individual athletes and whole teams to solve issues such as anxiety, inability to concentrate, loss of confidence and lack of motivation. The job may include developing team-building exercises.
While the sports psychologist deals with the mind, the fitness instructor is primarily concerned with the body – specifically how physical activity affects the different body systems. This field requires knowledge of physiology, nutrition, kinesiology (the mechanics of movement) and neurology. A degree in sports science can accelerate a fitness instructor’s career by adding skills necessary to become a sports performance specialist, health and wellness coach, physical therapist assistant or a researcher.
The study of horticulture and plant pathology can lead to a career in turfgrass management. This may sound like a limited career option, but consider this — there are thousands of golf courses across the country, and every town and city has sports fields. It takes a scientist to keep all this grass green and free from pests and disease.
All these careers require problem-solving skills and knowledge drawn from multiple academic disciplines. Advances in technology and scientific understanding continually change the job market. Many careers of the future have yet to be created. Before the invention of unmanned vehicles, the job of a drone operator didn’t exist. An interdisciplinary education that combines science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) will prepare today’s students for the careers of tomorrow.