Engineering and Sports: More Similar Than You Think

Sports and Engineering
The field of Sports Engineering is rapidly growing and becoming more popular on an international level, since it unites two seemingly dissimilar interests: the physically demanding world of sports, and the intellectually intense world of technology and engineering.

But, as this field of study rises into prominence, it is worthwhile to ask: in what ways do sports and engineering intersect, and what kind of people are able to excel in both domains? How does combining them work to better our society at large?

Where Do Sports and Engineering Intersect?

Sports Engineering

In the realm of high school, the individual “cliques” rarely interacted. The kids in the robotics club seemingly had nothing in common with the first string football players. It was counterintuitive to think that engineering and sports could form a venn diagram with any significant amount of overlap.

I am here to put that perspective to rest and demonstrate that the overlap between brains and brawn is greater than most people believe.

Consider the engineering-like intellect that is required to navigate through the command line syntax of the simple robotic motion of moving a remote control car forward. Now contemplate the path a skilled football running back takes when trying to navigate his way through a defensive line to the end goal. Both individuals must combine strategy, foresight, and theoretical expertise with skill and instinct.

Fundamentally, engineering is about knowing how many separate components fit together and understanding how they can work in harmony. It is also about how to recognize when one of the components isn’t working well.

While of course engineers learn many specific technical skills as a part of their training, this understanding is still a central part of what makes an engineer truly excellent. This ability to fully understand systems and their components, no matter what type of engineer they are, will make or break their engineering career.

In that sense, it is easy to see how an engineering-oriented mind may be able to understand what is happening on the sports field in a way that other minds cannot. Many sports rely on the same ability to quickly understand a system of components, navigate trough those components and then apply what is learnt to the next course of action.

In sports like soccer and basketball, for instance, the player has to immediately be able to assess a given situation. If the player is trying to pass the ball to another player on their team, they have to immediately take what is in front of them and react in a way that gives them the advantage. Many players learn how to do this over time, coming to recognize certain situations the more they play the game.

However, players who are more engineering-minded may be quicker to recognize patterns, and will be able to understand the field as a system of components that either work together or fail to do so. This is helpful for both fast-paced sports, where a quick decision about how to pass, score, or defend is the difference between winning and losing.

It is less of a technical knowledge that is required, and more of a theoretical knowledge that quickly becomes an applied knowledge on the sports field. Certain minds respond better in given situations, and engineering and other similar sciences can give people an edge in responding to various situations within the context of sports.

But How Does it Work from the Other Side?

Engineering - back stage

Most people fail to recognize how physically intense a career in engineering can be. While it is quite obvious that it requires a great degree of intellectual prowess, the diligent and routine physical aspect behind it should also be recognized.

Of course, much of this depends on the specific field of engineering a person enters. Generally, however, engineers are expected to lift heavy items, move materials from one place to another, either on a shelf or under a table, be on their feet for hours on end, work to get cables in the proper position, squat for extended periods, and so on.

More than these specific tasks, however, is the kind of persistent physical stamina required to keep on working until a solution is reached, a physical mentality you will also easily find in the world of sports. Solving electrical, mechanical, and physical problems requires a physical and mental endurance similar to sports disciplines.

This is why people are realizing how well these two fields fit together: each requires a perfect union of the theoretical and the applied, as well as mental and physical stamina. Both require a similar way of thinking that is able to understand systems, patterns, and behavior.

These facts have also partially contributed to the rise of eSports: while eliminating all physical components except pure hand-to-hand reflex, eSports has allowed people to participate in a type of sport that reduces the activity level to rely completely on the technical and intellectual components that sports require.

What is Sports Engineering?

Engineering Field

For these reasons, Sports Engineering is becoming more and more interesting to the public eye. There are many people, like the ones that have just been described, that love both sports and engineering, and are desperate for a way to combine their two interests. They encountered both of these interests because of a certain way of thinking: so how can they make this into a career?

Sports Engineering involves the art and technology of designing sports equipment and facilities. The aim of this field is to constantly develop technology to keep up with the rising demand for innovation in sports.

Many universities like University of Colorado Denver and, outside of the USA, Victoria University in Australia, are beginning to offer programs in Sports Engineering alongside mechanical and electrical engineering programs. This is a relief to many people, who were afraid they would have to separately study sports, science, and engineering, and attempt to synthesize them.

Engineering Tennis

Thankfully, this is no longer high school, and you don’t have to choose between hanging out with the jocks or the nerds. It is perfectly possible to synthesize a love of sports and engineering and to make it a career. The more students who cross the clique boundaries and enter Sports Engineering programs in the university system the more sports will benefit. People are better athletes, quicker to develop a strategy and more competitive because of analysis and a shift in training – thanks to technology.  I look forward to the increasingly more exciting and dynamic uses of design and technology in the interconnected realms of sports and engineering.

Total Phase products are currently used in the development of wearable fitness tracking devices as well as larger cardio equipment. Whether you are designing the next commercial exercise machine or simply trying to track your personal movement, Total Phase may have the development tools for you.

Total Phase provides high performance, cost effective tools for the development, test and simulation. Please contact us at sales@totalphase.com if you would like to learn more about how our tools can make your projects easier.

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