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Applying sport and exercise sciences to coaching

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Course work includes:

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