Category Archives: E119

Three things you can do to make the most of your studies

By Simon Rea

Firstly, welcome to The Open University and I hope you enjoy your studies with us. You have started on an exciting path of study and hopefully a rewarding future career. There are great opportunities to work in grass roots sport, performance sport, health and fitness, coaching and teaching and exercise science. However, sport and fitness courses are now one of the most popular undergraduate courses studied at university. There are now over 80 higher education institutions offering degrees and around 15,000 students graduating every year. While there are good jobs available the competition is very strong even before you consider the number of students studying for Masters degrees and PhDs.

Employers recognise that Open University students have to show special skills to organise their busy lives, hold down a job and plan their studies. However, that may not be enough to make you stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for jobs. You need to be competitive in the job market and this may involve you showing skills beyond those of achieving a degree.

Between 2017 and 2019 I interviewed over 20 people currently working in sport and fitness occupations to find out what skills and qualities are needed to work effectively in sport and fitness roles. Many of the respondents explained how sport and fitness environments can be complex and challenging. This is because they involve people but also people who are goal directed and often high achievers. Sports environments tend to be highly pressurised and constantly changing and you need particular skills to navigate through them. You need to have skills to work with people who may be your colleagues or your clients. Being able to develop and maintain relationships is central to your success in sport and fitness.

In this blog I offer three tips that will help to improve your employability and effectiveness when you are in the workplace.

1. Get as much experience as you can from wherever you can.

Everyone I interviewed stressed the importance of gaining experience. All experience of working with people is valuable because you can then learn about your communication, listening and other personal skills. However, the main reason is that it is the best way to develop skills that are needed in the workplace. The only way to show an employer that you can do a job is by showing them that you have done it before. If you have spent the previous three or more years studying, then you can show that you have the knowledge but there is no evidence that you will be able to apply it in real life situations.

Experience can come from work experience placements or internships or you can volunteer at local sports clubs and offer to help. This may involve setting up equipment, helping with timings or preparing and handling out drinks. Once you are in a sports environment there may be opportunities to share your knowledge with coaches and athletes.

In addition to gaining experience you also need to be able to learn from your experiences by reflecting or reviewing them. This can be done by asking yourself reflective questions or discussing your performance with other people. This reflective approach is covered in module E119.

2. Gain as much knowledge as you can about as many disciplines in sports science as possible.

While I said that knowledge alone may not get you a job it is still incredibly important when working in sport and fitness. The study of sport is multidisciplinary in that it involves anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, sport psychology, biomechanics, nutrition as well as research skills. During your studies with us you will cover all these disciplines and also learn about coaching and instructional skills. However, due to the wide scope of your studies you may not cover everything in detail. Firstly, I would encourage you to engage with all the module resources and further reading where it is suggested but also read widely in relevant textbooks, journal articles and respected websites. Listen to as many sports related podcasts and watch programmes that can contribute to your learning.

By taking in as much knowledge as you can you will start to learn about the range of occupations in sport and fitness and the knowledge that different specialists will have. In performance sport the support team may be made up of exercise physiologists, sport psychologists, performance analysts, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists and it is important to understand what these people are saying so that you can develop working relationships with them. As a fitness trainer you may be called upon to advise on nutrition and psychology as well as training methods and the more you know about these disciplines the greater credibility you will have.

3. Find opportunities to share your knowledge.

One way to gain experience and apply your new-found knowledge is to offer advice and support to friends and family. You need to remember that most people don’t know about things we may consider to be basic, such as how to stretch, how to train effectively and what to eat. There are also a lot of fallacies or misunderstandings about the best way to train and recover and you can provide the science to address these.

As you progress in your studies you will be able to offer advice to people. For example, you may have a friend who wants to run a half marathon, complete the London to Brighton cycle ride or start training at the gym. You can let them know that you are studying sport and fitness and would like to advise them. You could write a blog about what you have been doing and make social media posts about their progress. This may lead to other people asking for your advice.

This type of activity is useful as a learning experience and also understanding how your new-found knowledge can be put into practice. It may mimic the type of work you will do in the future and be something that you could discuss in an interview.

These three things will help to enhance your employability skills and bring your knowledge to life.

This article is based on content from Simon’s recently published book Careers in Sports Science. In this book Simon Rea presents the findings of 20 interviews with people working in sports science roles. This includes the personal skills needed to work in sport and more advice about how to develop these skills. This book is available as a paperback or eBook at www.simonreasportscience.co.uk or through the Amazon bookstore search ‘Careers in Sports Science’.

Why racism is still only being shown a yellow card

By Rojo Warriors – John Dougal, Gavin Dunlop, Okito Gonzales, Conor Langford and Jamie Morrison (E119 18J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


I instantly felt uncomfortable. The moment I walked into one of Europe’s grandest theatres, I looked up to my right, a normal man, someone’s Father, Grandfather, Brother, was casually unfurling a huge flag. Yes, this is a common sight in any football stadium, however, it was what was on the flag that was disturbing, stopping me dead in my tracks. A huge image of The Wehrmacht Eagle (Nazi Imperial Eagle) Symbol appeared before me. Little did I know this was only the start of my ‘experience.’

Photo by Liam McKay on Unsplash

The setting was Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where The Derby della Capitale (AS Roma v Lazio) was about to take place. An image of Lazio’s most famous fan, Benito Mussolini covered the away section, while chants of ‘Seig Heil’ rang around the sea of straight-armed saluting ‘fans’. This place made an Old Firm game look like a tea party. Disgusted by what I was seeing, I somehow managed to ignore it, what I could not ignore happened with just 10 minutes to go in the game. Roma’s Brazilian defender, Juan, received the ball, when all of a sudden a deafening sound of monkey chants erupted from the Lazio fans, the next time he got the ball, five to ten inflatable bananas appeared with grown men impersonating monkeys. What struck me was there were sections of people looking at us in disgust and judging us for not joining in, as if we were in the wrong. What I could not believe was, the next day, not a thing in the newspapers about it, nothing on the news channels, it was just accepted this is what happens.

That was back in 2011, fast forward seven years and nothing seems to have improved. Boxing Day 2018, Inter host Napoli in Milan in what should be a celebration of Italian football, between two of the country’s most entertaining teams. However, what followed put a massive stain on the league. Throughout what was the stand out Christmas fixture, sections of the Inter crowd inflicted sustained racial abuse on Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, with the Senegal International visibly upset throughout the game in which he was ultimately sent off.

How was this ordeal dealt with? The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) have ignored criticism and upheld a two-match ban for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly for a red card in the game in Milan on Wednesday when he was subjected to racist monkey chants from the Inter fans (Wallace, 2018a). On top of that Inter Milan have been ordered to play their next two Serie A games behind closed doors, and close part of the stadium for one further game following racial abuse aimed at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly on Boxing Day (Gladwell, 2018). It is hardly a strong stance in stamping out racism, is it? It is merely a slap on the wrists. How do you explain to young kids watching at home, when they ask, “Why is there no fans in the stadium?” or they ask why they cannot go to watch their heroes because of a fan ban? Perhaps they should take heed of Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti who demanded the game be called off. “Despite our requests, the game wasn’t suspended. I think it should have been. Next time we’ll stop playing ourselves” (Wallace, 2018b).

Despite having a terrible reputation It’s not just in Italy of course. No country is free of racism – as was demonstrated by the banana skin thrown during the recent north London derby, and the reports of anti-Semitic chanting by Chelsea fans in December (Jones, 2018). The problem of racism in the UK seems to have been highlighted once again with several incidents so far during the 2018/19 season.

Former Liverpool and England star John Barnes recently commented; “The very fact that a real banana skin came on and there was real abuse doesn’t surprise me at all. I just thought it was to be expected” (Independent, 2018)

The fact that Barnes “expected” this sort of behaviour is rather alarming, and suggests that more needs to be done out with football too, to educate society from a young age. Nobody is born racist so they must learn it and pick it up from somewhere, as the recently surfaced very disturbing video of the young Millwall ‘fan’ shows. (Unbelievable! Millwall Racist Woman Teaching a KID To Chant, 2019)

In the UK, the Show Racism the Red Card, an educational charity, was launched in January 1996. The Kick It Out organisation was launched three years earlier. What is worrying is that over 25 years later the problem is still there. With Statistics from Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, reveal an increase in reports for the sixth consecutive year. Racism constituted 53% of them during the 2017/18 season, a rise of 22% from the previous year (Kick It Out, 2018).

With these campaigns in place, why are the stats still rising?
The simple fact is that more needs to be done. It is all very well having these campaigns such as Nike’s ‘Stand Up Speak Up’ campaign that launched in 2005, which received strong criticism from certain players. Gary Neville has criticised Nike for looking to gain commercial advantage from football’s latest anti-racism campaign (The Telegraph, 2005). The criticism comes as Nike were selling black and white wristbands which became more of a must-have fashion accessory rather than a tool to promote standing up against racism.

It is all very well closing stadiums, fining clubs or arresting people, the fact is, it is clearly not working. I feel anti-racism education should be on school curriculums so children are educated from an early age. I also believe the only way to stop it happening now is to go back to what Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti suggested and players simply walk off the park with the game being postponed, that would soon stop these so-called ‘fans’ disgusting behaviour. Finally, I feel the police and clubs should work together to name and shame the people that are guilty of these crimes, ensuring their family and employers are aware of their actions. We need to stop giving racism the yellow card and once and for all show it the red card.

Reference List

Gladwell. B. (2018) ‘Inter Milan given two match stadium closure after Koulibaly monkey chants’, ESPN, 27 December 2018 [Online]. Available at http://www.espn.co.uk/soccer/napoli/story/3737523/inter-milan-given-two-match-stadium-closure-after-koulibaly-monkey-chants (Accessed at 26 January 2019)

Independent (2018) ‘Raheem Sterling Chelsea abuse: Invisible banana skins thrown at black people every day, says John Barnes’, Independent, 11 December 2018 [Online]. Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/raheem-sterling-chelsea-abuse-racism-news-video-twitter-instagram-racist-statement-john-barnes-a8677516.html (Accessed 26 January 2019)

Jones, T. (2018) ‘Fascism is thriving again in Italy, – and finding it’s home on the terraces’, The

Guardian, 29 December [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/29/fascism-italy-racist-abuse-kalidou-koulibaly-italian-football (Accessed at 26 January 2019)

Kick It Out (2018), Available at https://www.kickitout.org/Pages/FAQs/Category/reporting-statistics (Accessed 26 January 2018)

Sky Sports (2018) ‘Chelsea suspend four supporters over alleged Raheem Sterling abuse’, Sky Sports, 11 December 2018 [Online]. Available at https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11668/11577275/chelsea-suspend-four-supporters-over-alleged-raheem-sterling-abuse

The Telegrapgh (2005) ‘Neville attacks Nike PR’, The Telegraph, 10 February 2005 [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2355144/Neville-attacks-Nike-PR.html (Accessed 27 January 2019)

Unbelievable! Millwall Racist Woman Teaching a KID To Chant, (2019) YouTube video, added by Team PKO [Online]. Available at https://youtu.be/HmaqX4p0yYM (Accessed 28 January 2019) WARNING Very disturbing language.

Wallace, S (2018a) ‘Kalidou Koulibaly given two-match ban despite being subject to racist monkey chants’, The Telegraph, 27 December 2018 [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/12/27/carlo-ancelotti-says-inter-milan-napoli-should-have-stopped/amp/ (Accessed at 27 January 2019)

On the Ropes: Depression in Boxing

By Inspire team – Corey Johnson, Joseph Bolton, Darcy Skelton and Gavin Macdonald (E119 18J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Boxing. The ‘Sweet Science’ of sport. It is often regarded as a macho man’s profession in which there is no place for the weak. However, having said that, in the modern day it is now becoming more prominent that boxers are suffering from inner, more personal fights of their own – Depression.

Sharkey and Gaskill (2013, p. 35) state that depression can be characterised as a collective of having low self esteem, as well as a sense of hopelessness and never ending despair. One man as of late within boxing who has suffered from such an ordeal is former WBA (Super), WBF, IBF and IBO World Heavyweight Champion, ‘The Gypsy King’, Tyson Fury.

Recently, within the past year, Tyson Fury has been incredibly open about his ordeal with depression in the hope to educate others. He was the man who had it all – fame, money and a healthy family – but he also had his demons. When appearing on the Joe Rogan Podcast (How Tyson Fury Bounced Back From Depression & Addiction, JRE MMA Show #47 with Tyson Fury, 2018), Tyson recollected a story in which he was driving towards a bridge at 190mph in a convertible Ferrari which he had only recently just bought (Blair, 2018).

He stated, “I didn’t care about nothing, I just wanted to die so bad. I gave up on life but as I was heading to the bridge I heard a voice saying, ‘No, don’t do this Tyson, think about your kids, your family, your sons and daughter growing up without a dad.”

It was at that moment Tyson decided that he needed to change not just for himself but for his family. The voice that had been putting him down throughout the years had suddenly switched and become the voice for change, to get his life back on track. In the years that followed he overcame many obstacles including battles against substance abuse, weight problems and against boxing authorities to obtain a boxing license.

His appearance on the podcast was to promote his major comeback fight against American Heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder but it became something much more. Following the appearance he became the people’s champion and an advocate for mental health. Fury’s status grew furthermore after the fight against Wilder when he credited his renewed faith amongst other factors for his successful battle against his ill mental health.

Tyson Fury is a big name in the sports world who was affected by ill mental health. One boxer who was willing to talk to us about mental health in boxing was Team GB’s Lewis Richardson. In an interview with him he stated that;

“Mental health is neglected in boxing due to the image of the sport. Everyone see’s boxing being a macho sport and you have to be physical strong and fit however it is mentally tough”

Here, it is quite evident that due to the perception that modern day society has of boxing, issue such as depression and ill mental health are often overlooked. A lot of people don’t truly understand what elite athletes like Lewis has to go through.

He went on to say, “Mental health issues can come into play particularly with big and pressure fights, as you go to bed thinking about your opponent and that fight is always on your mind until the fight is over.”

From this you can see that fighters at any level can often put themselves into a negative cycle and frame of mind due to the obsession of the opposing boxer. The one thing on their minds is the fight, how can they combat their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses to better their own chances of a victory.

He later added, “Pressure of making weight, pressure of winning, pressure of performing at training and afraid of losing are all factors that could affect mental health in boxers as it is business and the pressure on them is extortionate.”

One key issue that could influence a negative episode could be the hype of positivity which ends up in negativity due to losing a fight or due to an injury in training. All these factors actually coincide with what Tyson Fury had to say himself. It is interesting to say that both boxers, who are going down two very different paths, both share similar beliefs in regards to such important matters.

Various studies show that depression effects one in every four people within the UK. Also, suicide as a result of depression is the biggest killer in males under the age of 45. The male to female ratio of death by suicide is 3:1, which is an alarming observation which needs to be addressed (Gigney, 2017). This is often the case due to the stigma surrounding men suffering from ill mental health and the lack of acceptance of the issue by the man himself.

In regards to sport, this issue is often escalated. This belief is supported by Sports Psychologist Dr Caroline Silby (Gigney, 2017) who, in an interview with Boxing World, states that;

“Elite athletes have a difficult time accepting emotional struggles and seeking assistance. However, once they do seek assistance they often apply their sports work ethic to their emotional recovery, making progress more likely.”

This statement is backed up by Tyson Fury himself who decided the best to overcome his struggles was to box along is long journey of recovery. He openly admits that he still has his off-days in which he has some negatives thought but that is a fairly normal for somebody going through these issues.

Depression can take effect on anybody, no matter how big or small a person is. Boxing proves this, these elite athletes who are stereotyped to be ‘macho men’ can be brought down to rock bottom as a result of depression. However, one thing to remember is that if you, the reader, are going through a battle like this then you too can overcome it with the correct support.

Links for information on Mental Health support

NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

Time to change – https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-and-stigma/help-and-support

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/sport-physical-activity-and-mental-health/

Reference list

Blair, A. (2018) Tyson Fury opens up on depression, boxing career and Deontay Wilder fight [Online]. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/boxing/tyson-fury-opens-up-on-depression-boxing-career-and-deontay-wilder-fight/news-story/54479d963a55b8da9c5ede2f86660f42 (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

 Gigney, G. (2017) LONG READ Boxing needs to address its mental health problem [Online]. Available at http://www.boxingnewsonline.net/long-read-boxing-needs-to-address-its-mental-health-problem/ (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

Joe Rogan – How Tyson Fury Bounced Back From Depression & Addiction (25/10/2018) YouTube video, added by JRE Clips [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrM6WqYEj9Y (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

JRE MMA Show #47 with Tyson Fury (25/10/2018) YouTube video, added by PowerfulJRE [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNZtibrPo0g (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

Sharkey, B. and Gaskill, S. (2013) Fitness and Health (7th edn). Leeds, Human Kinetics.

The Dark-side of the Paralympics

By The Spartans – Jonathon Ingham, George Robinson, Harry Katsanikakis and Eve Williams (E119 18J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Every four years the Paralympic games are hosted as a parallel to the Olympics. This paramount international multi-sport event has become the largest single sporting movement globally, full of numerous inspirational, admirable athletes, leading to an emotional para-sport. As the Paralympian’s have a vast range of disabilities, from impaired muscle power such as muscular dystrophy, to limb deficiencies caused by amputations, the need for characterisations is crucial. However, these classifications are of high-priority, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) (2014) illustrates the worry of predictable competition, in which the most able athlete always wins. Hence, the division of para-athletes into ‘sport classes’, established upon their impairment, preventing such concerns.

What is the classification system?

Any Paralympian has a competitive disadvantage when it comes to sport. Hence the classification system. The system allows for the division of para-athletes into their correlative sporting groups, identifying the severity of their impairments. The intention of the classification system is to decrease the impact of individual physical impairments on the overall sports performance, identifying the athletes according to their limitations in a certain sport. The athlete’s fitness, skill, power, ability, focus and tactical ability are now relatively proportional to their competitors, ensuring for equal chance at success, with fair qualifying. Athlete’s performance is dependent on the sport, each sport requires performance of different activities. Consequently, the impact on impairments differs, for classification to minimise the effect on sporting performance classification must be specific (IPC, 2014).

However, the Paralympics permits the observer ignorance, watching from behind a tv or, if lucky enough, the stadium, yet it’s not so innocent. The precise classification process allows exploitation, the IPC warned the BBC (2017) of intentional misrepresentation – athletes bluffing, pretending to have a graver disability with the hope to compete in favourable classes. Paralympian’s described the process of more able-bodied athletes being put into the same categories as severely disabled athletes, with the intention to win by cheating. In the words of hand cyclist Liz McTernan (2017) “we’re not all inspiring, we’re not all ethical”, faking disability is no different to doping.

Blood tests confirm the miss use of drugs, unfortunately, the ability to prove such impairment cheats is not so simple, with no definite way to verify allegations. Despite this, Van de Vliet (2017), the IPCs medical and scientific director, as well as head of classifications, has reassured specific athletes are monitored, with the view to identify consistent manifestation during performances, on-going investigations, with some cases being processed by external legal counsels.

What are the Dirty Tactics?

Further investigations, such as that by the BBC (2017) uncovered the ‘dirty tactics’, manipulating the classification system. Allegedly, schemes were employed by both athletes and coaches.

  • The taping of arms. Swimmers spend days with arms strapped, the tape being removed just before classification, full extension of the limb is now unachievable.
  • Taking cold showers. A swimmer with Cerebral Palsy is submerged into a cold environment, further worsening their already weak muscle tone, or
  • The shortening and removal of limbs. Operations being held with the bid to physically distort athletes, when questioned some athletes described “advance in career”.
  • Athletes using wheelchairs solely for classification, no other time is such equipment used.
  • “Boosting”. Explained by Carpenter (2012) as intentionally increasing blood pressure stimulating the body’s energy and endurance, consequently allowing Paralympian’s to enhance their levels of performance artificially.
  • Classifiers are coaches. Specific to an athlete’s sport, coaches fake the severity of their Paralympian’s disability.

These modern tricks are now described as the para-equivalent to doping. The classification process being criticised due to sport class expansion, allowing less impaired athletes to compete against extreme cases. The classification controversy is with hope to increase medal chances, and sponsorship. Accusations of intimidation and bullying are also present, many athletes are afraid to speak out, fearful they will not be selected for the sport they love (Grey-Thompson, 2017). Cheating in the Paralympics is proof athletes are prepared to go to extreme lengths to stand on the podium.

What does this mean for future Paralympian’s?

Ultimately, the Paralympics is a means of enjoyment, internationally inspiring various social groups proving the impossible is possible. If only this viewpoint was enough to end cheating, unfortunately not.

Ongoing investigations into the Paralympian classification systems, as well as several inquiries into sporting governance are all with the intention to prevent deception. Eriksson, head coach at the Paralympics GB Team 2012, states classifiers are ‘doing the best they can’ (2017). Although, elaborates on the belief the process pinpointing the lies requires an independent organisation, comparable to the World Anti-Doping Agency, using drugs in sport and the means of prevention as guidance.

Strong evidence is a must, confirming cheats is a sensitive issue, for this reason there’s a demand for a powerful case. Paralympic cheating needs to be tackled, tougher punishment, strong repercussions, the same penalties for doping infractions. The hope independent organisations attack the frauds, depleting dishonesty and lies, allowing for less questionable classification to occur.

References

Carpenter, K – Law in Sport (2012). [Online] Available at: https://www.lawinsport.com/blog/kevin-carpenter/item/the-dark-side-of-the-paralympics-cheating-through-boosting

Peter Eriksson – I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41851149

Grey-Thompson, T – I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41851149

Grant, P – I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41253174

The International Paralympic Committee, Official website of the Paralympic Movement (2014). [Online] Available at: https://www.paralympic.org/classification

The Week – Paralympics: ‘Faking disability is no different to doping’ (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.theweek.co.uk/paralympics/88468/paralympics-faking-disability-is-no-different-to-doping

Van de Vliet, P. – ‘I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41253174

Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs – How the Desire of Creating the ‘Perfect’ Body Can Cost Your Health

By OUbloggers – Emmanouil Mandalakis, Selysia Lewis, Gabriele Leo and Sam Herd (E119 2018J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


The development of new technology, such as the internet, in which everyone can upload their body transformation videos, can create feelings of admiration as well as a sense of jealousy. This is particularly common in young men who have a strong desire of building a big lean body like those shown on social media.

Often, the first question that comes to mind of young men on their smartphones is whether or not they can achieve a physique like someone’s on social media, and how quickly a body like this can be achieved.

Interestingly, it is becoming increasingly common when as health and fitness practitioners you must convince young trainees that an aesthetical physique requires patience and long-term consistency; building towards health and beauty should be a gradual process. Laidler (2017), an experienced personal trainer, comprehensively explains in The Telegraph newspaper that factors such as patience, commitment, a healthy diet and specific training programmes, as well as sufficient rest and sleep, will all contribute to the handsome body one desires.

However, in a world in which everything is being created at a rapid pace and everyone is rushing to exhibit their achievements, a quick body transformation is demanded to make one feel proficient and competent, as well as to show it off in their social environment! Someone who begins a hypertrophy programme to build the physique they dream of, or more specifically the ‘perfect’ body they have seen on social media, will soon find out the harsh reality; that is, the body does not change as rapidly as many people advertise. Besides, if it was so simple for us all to get big and lean, then there would be a significantly greater number of young men with the body they desire. On the contrary, if you take a walk around the majority of gyms, you will soon discover that a massive and ‘shredded’ body it is no easy feat. Most individuals cannot naturally reach extremely high muscle mass levels along with very low body fat, with the exception of some individuals who are favored by their genetics, and even this is only up to a certain threshold (Morgan, 2015).

Nevertheless, on the subject of improving self-image in gyms, the argument seems to almost always be the same: ‘how are those two guys in the gym I have been training bigger and leaner than the others? I want to be like them’. If you are constantly asking for an answer, another coach will appear from nowhere and offer you the opportunity to achieve the body you have dreamt of. They will claim they can transform you into a bigger and leaner version of yourself (Krahn, 2009).

With the hope for positive and immediate results but a false sense of body image (Jones, 2016), you suddenly find yourself becoming victim to the IPEDs (Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs) world. (Mandalakis, 2019)

‘Up to a million Britons use steroids for looks not sport’ (The Guardian, 2018). Public health experts have stated that in order to change the way they look, up to 1 million people in the UK are taking anabolic steroids and other IPEDs. Ranging from teenagers seeking the perfect physic and elderly men hoping to hold onto their youthfulness. Anabolic steroids are the biggest group of IPEDs. They are a group of hormones which occur naturally in the body and are responsible for growth, physical development and functioning of reproductive organs. Some athletes abuse anabolic steroids to help them perform better as steroids build muscle and improve athletic performance.

In a Public Health Institute study, more than half of the respondents said that the development of body image was their motivation for using IPEDs. Those who took part ranged from 17-74 years of age, resulting in the average person likely to take IPEDs to be a white male in their 30s (The Guardian, 2018).

Image and performance enhancing drugs can cause numerous health issues; including both physical and mental side effects. For example, IPEDs can cause cardiovascular diseases and permanent disruption of normal sexual function as a result of long-term use (Pope et al., 2014). Some IPEDs are taken by injecting which can cause soft tissue injury and localised infections. Furthermore, sharing injecting equipment can spread HIV, hepatitis C and other infections. In a 2013 study, 8.9% of IPED users stated that they had shared injecting equipment. As a result, it was discovered that 1.5% of IPED injectors across England and Wales were HIV positive, and a further 8% infected by hepatitis B and 5% by hepatitis C (Hope et al., 2013).

Additionally, the main risks of steroids include stunted growth in young people and hypertension; steroids encourage the retention of water in the body and thus raise blood pressure. DrugWise (2017) also states that steroids can cause irreversible changes in the female body including the risk of developing ‘male’ features such as decreased breast size, facial and body hair, and deepening of the voice.

The IPEDs world is a dangerous one… Your health should always come first.

References:
BBC (2017) Main Motivation for Steroid Use ‘to enhance image’ [Online\. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-41984527 (Accessed 22 January 2019).

DrugWise (2017) Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs) [Online]. Available at https://www.drugwise.org.uk/performance-and-image-enhancing-drugs-pieds/ (Accessed 22 January 2019).

The Guardian (2018) Up to a Million Britons Use Steroids For Looks Not Sport [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/21/up-to-a-million-britons-use-steroids-for-looks-not-sport (Accessed 22 January 2019).

Hope, V. D., McVeigh, J., Marongiu, A., Evans-Brown, M., Smith, J., Kimergård, A., Croxford, S., Beynon, C. M., Parry, J. V., Bellis, M. A. and Ncube, F. (2013) ‘Prevalence of, and risk factors for, HIV, hepatitis B and C infections among men who inject image and performance enhancing drugs: a cross-sectional study’, BMJ Open, vol. 3, no. 9 [Online]. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3773656/ (Accessed 22 January 2019).

Jones, H. (2016) Steroid Use in the UK: What You Need to Know, ITV [Online]. Available at https://www.itv.com/goodmorningbritain/news/spencer-matthews-investigates-britains-steroid-epidemic-for-gmb (Accessed 16 January 2019).

Krahn, B. (2009) The Drug Coach [Online]. Available at https://www.t-nation.com/pharma/drug-coach (Accessed 23 January 2019).

Laidler, S. (2017) How to Build Muscle: A Complete Guide to Making a Bigger, Stronger You [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/build-muscle-complete-guide-making-bigger-stronger/ (Accessed 16 January 2019).

Morgan, A. (2015) Maximum Genetic Muscular Potential – The Models and their Limitations [Online]. Available at https://rippedbody.com/maximum-muscular-potential/ (Accessed 16 January 2019).

Pope, H.G. Jr., Wood R.I., Rogol, A., Nyberg, F., Bowers, L. and Bhasin, S. (2014) ‘Adverse health consequences of performance enhancing drugs: An Endocrine Society Scientific statement’, Endocrine Reviews, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 341-375 [Online]. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24423981 (Accessed 22 January 2019).

How can schools make sport the foundation of culture and society?

By Russell Dyas, Dean Ellis, Emma Hardwicke and Kevin Smith (E119 18J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Research acknowledges the benefits of physical education and sport (PES) for all generations through participation in a wide range of activities. Although it is admirable that those from any generation turn to physical activity to improve their quality of life, there is greater value to the societies of tomorrow that we positively discriminate in supporting the children and youth of today.

Talbot (2001) cited in Bailey (2006, p.397) claims that ‘physical education helps children to develop respect for the body – their own and others, contributes toward the integrated development of mind and body, develops an understanding of the role of aerobic and anaerobic physical activity in health, positively enhances self-confidence and self-esteem, and enhances social and cognitive development and academic achievement.’

The mental health charity ‘Mind’ (2016) has reiterated the importance of being active from an early age and maintaining this throughout life. Some of the key mental health benefits from regular exercise and sport include:

  • Increased self-esteem – Increased confidence not only in a sporting environment but in everyday life. Glenn (2003) describes healthy self-esteem as a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself.
  • Reduced feelings of stress – Exercise and physical activity helps control the body’s cortisol levels; elevated cortisol levels can increase the chance of heart disease and high blood pressure, and can affect our learning (Christopher, 2013).
  • Reduced risk of depression – One study has found that increasing activity levels – from doing nothing to exercising at least three times a week – will reduce the risk of depression by almost 20% (Mind, 2016).

Obesity amongst primary school aged children is now at an all-time high of 1 child in 3. This means that there needs to be more of an emphasis on exercise and sport activities in schools (Jenkin, 2015).

Oasis Academy Blakenhale Infants’ School introduced a fitness programme called ‘Fit4Schools’, to increase the pupils’ physical health and mental alertness (Hood-Truman, 2015). A teacher at the school explained that ‘our key stage 1 results changed dramatically this year. That is not only down to good teaching but also because we’ve created a really positive learning environment that incorporates physical activity.’

Stephen Roberts, the Managing Director of Fit4Schools, recommends the form of exercise being a 20 second warm-up, then a 20-40 second intense activity followed by a cooldown period, so this could mean jumping on the spot or coordination and balance work (Jenkin, 2015).

There are also behaviour benefits that can stem from being physically active, as Keith Barton from the Youth Trust explains: ‘The thing that leads to poor behaviour is kids not feeling any ownership of what they are doing and not feeling a part of anything. Sport can really help people to feel like part of a team’ (Jenkin, 2015).

Regarding participation in sport and exercise, a recent survey (Sport England, 2018) demonstrates a bottom-up PES position of 130,000 active 5-16-year olds between September 2017 and July 2018. A survey described as ‘phase 1’ by Sport England (2018) ‘specifically focuses on behaviours.’ The survey data highlights that 17.5% of the sample size were active for over 60 minutes every day, thus meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines on PES participation. Promisingly, 25.7% and 23.9% were involved in PES for an average of over 60 minutes (but not every day) and 30-59 minutes daily respectively.

Sport England (2018) proffers that ‘… attitudes towards sport and physical activity are often shaped by experiences in childhood attitudes towards sport.’ With this and the current statistics in mind, should society today direct the dispersal of ‘limited funding’ towards radically reshaping a culture of acceptance in the participation in PES? Specifically, should the funding for schools be ‘ring-fenced’ for PES, as opposed to that for academia? There are various influences on participation, whereby schools – moreover, a collective of highly trained experts – can be the ‘hub,’ ensuring inclusion of all levels of ability and interest.

To that end, a cross-functional team of experts (sports scientists, nutritionists, physios, coaches etc.) can be employed/deployed at countrywide ‘hubs’ to assess the ability of the children in a catchment area and guide them into participation based on their personal needs. The funding should come from Government and private sources (where appropriate) as a projected offset to the billions spent in the NHS on conditions related to non-participation in PES from an early age.

The position of sport in schools is often influenced by the perception of its importance. Sir Michael Wilshaw, an OFSTED Chief Inspector, describes how head teachers commonly view PE as an ‘optional extra’ (Paton, 2014). Attendance at the ‘hub’ should be part of the national curriculum, thus proactively focusing on sport.

This positivity towards sporting activity in schools, especially primary schools, is not only critical to positive mental health and wellbeing but also to the success of a country’s elite programme. The long-term athlete development model (Istvan el al, 2013) is used by numerous different sports organisations as a fundamental building block for sports development. A critical stage of the model is the FUNdamental stage. This is especially true in late specialisation sports such as athletics, combative sports, rowing and team sports (Balyi, N.D). This stage is often developed between the ages of 6 and 10 years, with schools providing an essential role. If a school has a negative view of sporting activity, this may pass on to the young people.

If sport is to become the foundation of culture and society and reap the benefits of better physical and mental health, and the benefit of providing the next generation of elite athletes, we must empower the next generation by using schools’ systems to provide a positive outlook on sports to young people. This will also provide infrastructure for country wide ‘hubs’ to provide a stepping stone between schools and ‘centres of excellence.

Reference List
Balyi, I, Way, R and Higgs, C. (2013) Long-Term Athlete Development, Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.

Balyi, I. (n.d) FHS [Online]. Available at https://www.activeoxfordshire.org/uploads/long-term-athlete-development-article.pdf (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Bailey, R. (2006). ‘Physical Education and Sport in Schools: A Review of Benefits and Outcomes’. Journal of School Health October 2006, Vol. 76, No.8 d 2006, American School Health Association

Christopher, B. (2013) Psychology Today [Online]. Available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1 (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Glenn, S. (202) The Self-Esteem Workbook, Oakland, CA, New Harbinger.

Jenkin, M. (2015) ‘Fit for Learning’ [online] available at: theguardian.com [27th January 2019]

Mind (2016), Mind How to improve your wellbeing through physical activity and sport [Online]. Available at https://www.mind.org.uk/media/2976123/how-to-improve-your-wellbeing-through-physical-activity-and-sport.pdf (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Paton, G. (2014) ‘Ofsted: state school pupils ‘under-represented’ in top sport’, The Telegraph, [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10912704/Ofsted-state-school-pupils-under-represented-in-top-sport.html (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Sport England (2018). ‘Active lives children and young people survey academic year 2017/18’.

Talbot M. (2001). ‘The case for physical education’. In: Doll-Tepper G, Scoretz D, eds. World Summit on Physical Education. Berlin, Germany: ICSSPE; 2001:39-50.

Student Induction 2018/19: Student Hub Live

On 25th September 2018 the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport held an online induction event for Open University students in Student Hub Live. If you missed any of the sessions you can catch up with them below.

The School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport

In this opening video associate heads of school Eric Addae-Kyeremeh, Liz McCrystal and Tyrrell Golding welcome you to the induction event.

Beyond Trivial: What Does Studying Sport Reveal?

In this session OU sport and fitness academics Ben Oakley, Jessica Pinchbeck and Alex Twitchen explore why sport and fitness is worth studying.

Study like a World Class Athlete

In this session OU sport and fitness academics Ben Langdown, Simon Penn and Simon Rea look at how you can  apply the strategies of top athletes to your studies.

Other Sessions

In addition to the sessions above led by members of the OU sport and fitness team there were several other sessions run by colleagues which are relevant to sport and fitness students. These can be viewed below.

Using the OU Library

Tutors and Tutorials

The Student Support Team

Critical Thinking

Debate – The purpose of higher education is to provide knowledge

 

To view some of the other Student Hub Live sessions led by the Open University Sport and Fitness Team click on the link below:

Sport and Fitness Student Hub Live Sessions

 

 

 

How to get a First in Sport & Fitness

By Helen Owton

The summer is here and for those who want to use it to your advantage here are some top tips on how you could get a First in Sport and help you get ahead for your next academic year!

Passion

One of the top tips for students wanting to gain a first in their subject is to have a passion for their subject (Tefula, 2012). The vast majority of sport and health science students share some sort of sporting experiences given that the majority of students partake in sport themselves.  Indeed, I argue that these sports science students tend to be ‘active learners’ (Owton, 2016) which means that the best students make notes in learning sessions which can help if you have a short concentration span. Get the most from your lectures by doing pre-reading, take notes and record the sessions and listening to podcasts of lectures that relate to your topic area.

Reflect on personal experience

As sports students, you are in an ideal position to reflect upon your own experiences. Indeed, previous sporting experiences have been sources of confidence for sport psychology graduates and this experiential knowledge can have a major impact on a student’s development (Brown, Gould and Foster, 2005).  Martens (1987) has highlighted the importance of experiential knowledge which is vital in areas such as sport psychology and sociology to forming relationships, understanding the human experience, and introspection of self. This is something sports students can use to their advantage and making the most of activities that give you the opportunities to think with personal experience and blend this with academic literature to support your claims will help gain you first in your final degree.

Prior knowledge is another tip for getting a first. Again, sports students have an advantage here with their shared experiences in sport. Also, you have lots of opportunities at the Open University to engage in free OU learning courses at different levels and participate in the Skills Check on the library website (https://www2.open.ac.uk/students/skillsforstudy/assignments.php). You could use the summer holidays before and during your studies to participate in the free OU learning courses to give you a head start. It means you keep a foot in the door of studying as well so you build on your knowledge from year to year.

Reference, reference, reference! Whilst prior knowledge and experience bodes well for students wanting to get a first for their degree, it goes without saying that referencing your points with supporting literature helps strengthen your arguments. This demonstrates that you have read widely and the more widely you read the more you will understand the wider arguments embedded in the topic areas.

Work ethic

When we think of someone with a good work ethic, we might think of someone who is self-disciplined, professional, responsible, positive, organised, dedicated, accountable and humble. These are all qualities that help towards gaining a first in your degree, but being disciplined by making the most of the time and space you have is key to giving yourself the right environment to process what you are reading and digesting. Just remember to submit mitigating circumstances and seek support if you need to.

Study environment

It much more challenging when you are juggling family, part-time or full time work, multiple modules, relationships and other personal responsibilities which is why this is one of the key aspects. If you cannot study at home or at work, there are plenty of other places which might suit you better – cafes, libraries, hotel receptions. Try different locations for different tasks to see what suits you.

An Open Mind

Your degree lasts 3years and longer which is a commitment to learning, but once you recognise that learning is something that happens through life and your career and doesn’t stop once you complete your degree then this opens up a new way of thinking outside the box. I’m sure some of you are familiar with Carol Dweck’s concept of the growth mindset given that this theory is covered in some of the Sport & Fitness modules. A growth mindset is the idea that talents and abilities can be learned and developed through constant effort, determination and persistence. In other words, with hard work, you could get a first. Working hard and putting in lots of effort isn’t just enough if you are not working hard on the right aspects. Imagine a hamster running round and round in a wheel; the hamster is working really hard but isn’t getting anywhere. If you are not working hard on the right things then whilst you might feel like you worked really hard you haven’t achieved the grade you want because you haven’t worked smart.

Work smart

Take exam preparation as an example. You can read and re-read notes over and over again until you are blue in the face, but there are strategies for revising which help you to master memory. Testing your memory with Cue cards will be more effective than reading your notes over and over again. Being strategic about how you revise and work will help you achieve the grade you want which is the same about how you work and prepare for your assignments. Reading widely around a topic is a good start, but don’t just include everything you have read and think that a long reference list will get you high marks. Remember, you need to be selective about the things you have read and form a coherent and convincing argument which answers the question.

Writing is a craft

Preparing your assignments in advance of the deadline is a useful strategy. This gives you the opportunity to proofread your work, let others proofread it, give yourself space from the assignment and then craft your assignment with fresher eyes. Writing is a craft which needs work and not even the best writers share their first draft.

Make your final assignment count!

Remember, at the Open University, your final assignment can sometimes determine your overall grade regardless of how well you have done in your overall TMAs. Think about where you expend your energies and how you apply yourselves to make your final grade count.

Run your own race

Remember the best athletes are those who focus on their own race, their own personal best and don’t compare their results with others. Make the most of your degree but remember to look after your body and mind (keep a check on exercise, diet, alcohol and sleep).

References

Brown, C., Gould, D., and Foster, S. (2005). A Framework for developing contextual intelligence (CI), The Sport Psychologist, 19, 51-62.

Martens, (1987). Science, knowledge, and sport psychology. The Sport Psychologist, 1, 29-55.

Tefula, M. (2012). How to get a first. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Taster material from OU sport and fitness modules

If you are interested in studying with us and would like to find out more about the sport and fitness modules available as part of our BSc (hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree at The Open University you may find these taster materials useful.

E117 – INTRODUCTION TO SPORT AND FITNESS:

E119 – WORKING WITH PEOPLE IN SPORT AND FITNESS:

 

E217 – SPORT AND CONDITIONING SCIENCE INTO PRACTICE:
Please note that from October 2020 E217 will be replaced by E236.

E235 – SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY IN ACTION:

E233 – SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY – A CASE STUDY APPROACH:
Please note that October 2019 is the final presentation of E233, but we recommend that students study E235 in October 2019. 

EXC224 / EXF224 – MAKING YOUR COACHING / EXERCISE INSTRUCTION CERTIFICATE COUNT:
Note: February 2020 is the final presentation 

E313 – EXPLORING PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT:

E314 – EXPLORING CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN SPORT AND EXERCISE:

 

For more information on the Sport and Fitness qualifications we offer click here.