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Applying sport and exercise sciences to coaching

This module is for sports coaches, exercise professionals and sports enthusiasts. Develop your scientific knowledge, analysis skills, coach-athlete relationships and reflective practice in sport and exercise settings. By investigating and applying aspects of sports science – including physiology, movement analysis, and strength and conditioning training methods – you’ll enhance your understanding of human movement and performance. Applying sport and exercise science principles to case studies allows you to develop your reflective practice and become a more effective coach. Some options, built into the module, let you explore areas of interest in greater depth.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
2 9 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

People who work, or who have an aspiration to work, in sport and fitness environments, whether as teachers, coaches or instructors will always require a level of underpinning scientific knowledge to get the best out of their athletes/participants. It is this underpinning knowledge that allows them to make effective decisions in the planning and monitoring of injury risk reduction, performance gains, technical adjustments etc. with the person’s wants and needs at the centre of every decision.

The module content draws on Côté and Gilbert’s (2009) definition of effective coaching which introduces that coaches require underpinning ‘professional, interpersonal and intrapersonal knowledge’. This underpinning professional knowledge will be covered in four of the six study topics by providing applied anatomy and physiology, athlete monitoring and biomechanics, and strength and conditioning content. Following this, you’ll work through a final study topic that covers the softer skills of coaching (inter- and intra-personal knowledge), applying these to coaching contexts and possible athlete outcomes. This module will therefore allow you to develop a solid grounding in physiology, athlete monitoring, biomechanics, strength and conditioning training methodologies and effective coaching, allowing reflective application to various populations/contexts throughout. Ultimately, this module will allow you to become a more effective coach, meeting the needs of your clients/athletes/participants in the sport and fitness environments you choose to work in.

Study Topic 1 (3 weeks): Exploring science and coaching
You’ll be introduced to sport and exercise science as a discipline and begin to explore how this can be applied to coaching in various sport and fitness settings. The study topic will guide you through the science of coaching, what makes a coach effective and how coaches learn. Within this, a multi-disciplinary approach to working with an athlete will be introduced: i.e. a coach drawing on many different areas of sport and exercise science to influence the training and behaviours of athletes.

Study Topic 2 (5 weeks): Understanding the body in action
This study topic will explore the different systems in the body used in sport and fitness settings with a view to understanding the production and control of human movement. For example, the nervous, muscular, skeletal and cardiorespiratory systems.

Study Topic 3 (5 weeks): Monitoring people and performance in sport and fitness
This study topic will include ‘Athlete monitoring’ – from multiple aspects: e.g. athlete work load (training, practice, competition, etc.), hydration, fuelling, body composition, recovery, biomechanical analysis (including movement and force analysis), linking to performance increases and injury frequency/risk reduction.

Study Topic 4 (5 weeks): Strength and conditioning in action
Following on from study topics 2 and 3, it’s important that you develop your underpinning knowledge of how the body can produce and control movement, and how we can monitor the athlete, to be able to increase levels of performance through strength and conditioning. This study topic will guide you through various training approaches to meet the needs of each individual, be that a sports athlete or a fitness client. It will consider strength, endurance, and power/speed training as well as exploring periodisation for various contexts.

Study Topic 5 (two options from a choice of three – 4 weeks total):
a) The child athlete
b) The ageing athlete
c) Environmental physiology
The three options allow you to focus your attention to working with and developing young people in sport and fitness, or working with older people in sport and fitness, or alternatively to develop your understanding of how varying environments can impact upon human performance and physiology of people you may be supporting. For each of these contextualised scenarios, you’ll consider the individual needs in potential scenarios. You’ll draw on your reflections and study through previous study topics in this module to be able to plan, programme, monitor and adapt training/coaching to meet these individual needs under the context of these three options.

Study Topic 6 (3 weeks): Sport and exercise science in practice
The content will draw together the previous five study topics for you to critique and build on the softer skills of coaching in a sport and fitness environment. This final study topic will help optimise the development of coaches’ competencies by encouraging self-reflection on all aspects of applying sport and exercise science to coaching.
This module will also build on the academic skills that you’ve developed at OU level 1.

You will learn

When you complete your studies for this module, you’ll have knowledge and understanding of how to:

  • explain how movement is produced, controlled and sustained during sport and fitness activities
  • analyse an individual’s technique and monitor the impact of their training loads, nutrition, hydration, and sleep on performance
  • apply principles of strength and conditioning to programme interventions that meet the needs of individuals in sport and fitness settings
  • discuss the considerations required to coach younger or older people in sport and fitness contexts, or those in extreme environments
  • critically evaluate your understanding and knowledge of the coaching process to meet the needs of individuals more effectively.

Vocational relevance

When you complete this module, you’ll be able to:

  • collect and analyse information to plan a progressive training programme
  • recognise the value of sport and exercise sciences and associated subjects in the disciplines of sports coaching and exercise instruction
  • reflect on the impact of your (or another’s) coaching on various individuals or groups in sport and fitness settings.

The aim of the programme is to enable you to develop as a creative, imaginative and reflective learner as a foundation for employment, professional and further academic study in the field of sport and fitness. The module aims to develop knowledge and skills that are relevant to professional roles in sport and fitness and thus incorporates work-related learning and applied case studies.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll be assigned a tutor who will help you understand the study material and mark your assignment work. You can ask your tutor for advice and guidance during your studies. You’ll have contact with your tutor in the following ways:

  • online tutorials, which are arranged to help you with the module materials and assignment work. We strongly encourage you to participate, since most students find these extremely useful
  • an online tutor group forum
  • personal email or telephone.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Future availability

Applying sport and exercise sciences to coaching (E236) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

However, this is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good knowledge of the subject area, obtained either through OU level 1 study or by doing equivalent work at another university.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2027.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 22/06/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

  • Online, interactive audiovisual and study material.
  • A textbook.
  • A module web app for strength and conditioning programming.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11). Any macOS is unsuitable with this module.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E236 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.