Why Humble Farmers May in Fact Grow Bigger Potatoes: A Call for Street-Smart Decision-Making in Sport

TitelWhy Humble Farmers May in Fact Grow Bigger Potatoes: A Call for Street-Smart Decision-Making in Sport
MedientypJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AutorenHecksteden A, Keller N, Zhang G, Meyer T, Hauser T
JournalSports Med Open
Date Published2023 Oct 14

BACKGROUND: The main task of applied sport science is to inform decision-making in sports practice, that is, enabling practitioners to compare the expectable outcomes of different options (e.g. training programs).

MAIN BODY: The "evidence" provided may range from group averages to multivariable prediction models. By contrast, many decisions are still largely based on the subjective, experience-based judgement of athletes and coaches. While for the research scientist this may seem "unscientific" and even "irrational", it is important to realize the different perspectives: science values novelty, universal validity, methodological rigor, and contributions towards long-term advancement. Practitioners are judged by the performance outcomes of contemporary, specific athletes. This makes out-of-sample predictive accuracy and robustness decisive requirements for useful decision support. At this point, researchers must concede that under the framework conditions of sport (small samples, multifactorial outcomes etc.) near certainty is unattainable, even with cutting-edge methods that might theoretically enable near-perfect accuracy. Rather, the sport ecosystem favors simpler rules, learning by experience, human judgement, and integration across different sources of knowledge. In other words, the focus of practitioners on experience and human judgement, complemented-but not superseded-by scientific evidence is probably street-smart after all. A major downside of this human-driven approach is the lack of science-grade evaluation and transparency. However, methods are available to merge the assets of data- and human-driven strategies and mitigate biases.

SHORT CONCLUSION: This work presents the challenges of learning, forecasting and decision-making in sport as well as specific opportunities for turning the prevailing "evidence vs. eminence" contrast into a synergy.

Alternate JournalSports Med Open
PubMed ID37837528
PubMed Central IDPMC10576693