Sports and Sport-Science — some things I like to do, watch, or study

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

    From a young age — beginning informally with sandlot baseball and schoolyard football, or just running for the pure joy of it — I've been interested in sports as a participant and spectator.  At one time, I almost became a graduate student in kinesiology (to study the physics, physiology, and learning of high jumping) at the University of Washington.
    A decade ago, I began developing a mini-website about The Science of Sports.  But currently, due to the higher priority of other projects, I've written only a few pages (links are in this paragraph) plus some links to web-pages of others.  Mainly it's IOUs for:  the science of Nutrition, Physiology, Sports Medicine, Training, and (sadly necessary) Performance-Enhancing Drugs (as in world-class bike racing);  Running (e.g. Music Tempo and Running Tempo), Rowing, Bicycling (e.g. The Soap Opera of Tour de France in the 1980s), and Swimming;  Game Strategies, Sport Psychology, Sociology of Sports, and more.   /   For all of these areas, eventually my main activity will be making link-pages with descriptions-and-links for pages & websites made by skilled writers who know a lot about their subject area and can explain it clearly.

    TEACHING:  I've taught a variety of skills, both mental and mental/physical; science (mainly chemistry & physics) and math, and problem-solving skills like the Process of Design that can be used to Learn More from Experience in all areas of life, to improve learning and/or performance in Physical & Mental Skills that include those used in sports, with examples from tennis and welding & skiing and juggling and musical improvisation (using creativity + theory) and ballroom dancing.   {also, A Scientific Problem-Solving Approach to Improving Pronunciation when learning a foreign language}

Here is an invitation I wrote in 2009, for an ESL discussion group with scholars (mostly grad students, but occasionally professors) from China:
    Sports-Talk Sunday  —  We can discuss whatever you want, any sport (common or unusual) and any event (Tour de France or Big Dance, the glorious Olympics in China or...) and any aspect of sport (its culture or science, training or strategies) as a player, teacher/coach, or spectator, and I think it will be very interesting.

        A Personal Interest in Science for Sports & Arts
        Many people, including me, think sport and art are inherently fascinating.  And we do science whenever we wonder “how-and-why is this happening?” (trying to understand) and sometimes (trying to improve) “is there a way to do it better?”
        SPORTS:   In early 1974, I began preparing to work with professors in the Kinesiology Dept at the University of Washington (at that time it was one of the best kinesiology programs in the world, especially for science-based research) and seriously considered becoming a kinesiology major, planning to do research on three aspects of high jumping:   A) especially biomechanical analysis (re: how much "jumping force" goes into rotation and vertical uplift, how to generate more uplift, and so on, at a time when athletes & coaches & scientists were still comparing old and new styles – the straddle and flop [the eventual winner] – to determine which was best, and why);   B) but also muscle physiology;  inspired by a hitchhiker who asked “why is there never a superhorse that runs twice as fast?”, I asked “what limits the high-jumping ability of humans?” at a time when the detailed physiology-and-energetics of muscles was still a mystery, compared with what we now know;  {there is a connection between A and B, because the straddle & flop are strategies for moving toward our actual limit, by breaking through the pseudo-limit of thinking that a straddle-style was our best strategy, because eventually most people decided a flop-style is a better strategy for overcoming a pseudo-limit and moving closer to our actual limits};   C) and strategies for learning & teaching physical skills, as in using visualization and mental rehearsal to modify split-second actions in mid-air during a high jump.    {oops – why I failed to reach my own “actual upper limit” with high jumping}   /   In late 1974, I got sidetracked by a temporary return to the Chemistry Dept of UW (to finish an MS) and never entered the kinesiology program, but before 1974 and (mainly) afterward, I've been a teacher of physical/mental skills (tennis, musical improvising, juggling, ballroom dancing) plus mental skills (science, math) and generalized problem solving.
        ARTS:   In 1976, during a break between graduate studies at UW-Farwest & UW-Midwest in Seattle & Madison, I designed and made bamboo flutes and wrote a “how to make music” booklet for buyers, then held two workshops on musical improvisation (for the Northwest Folklife Festival) and eventually these ideas became a web-page about Musical Improvisation.  Later, in 1989-90 as a grad student at the U of Wisconsin, in a "Physics in the Arts" course I helped students learn the Physics-and-Math of Music Theory plus Color Science (in a links-page and my own page about splitting out the white) and the Art & Science of Photography.

We can use science – for sports & more – in everyday life.

These paraphrased-excerpts are from a bio-page about trying to maintain a young Satchel Paige Age:

        my hobbies:  learning and thinking!
also juggling, music — listening to a wide variety (jazz and rock, country and classical,...) and playing some, too — plus dancing (swing & waltz, contra & square,...) and sports (spectator and participatory).
        spectator sports:  everything from Olympics to X-Games, from windsurfing and snowboarding to motocross and bullriding;  some of my favorites are bicycle racing and trick-riding, football and basketball, baseball in the playoffs, and listening to sports radio (in Madison, it's ESPN and Big1070).
        participatory sports:  In the past, lots of basketball and volleyball, played on championship teams in tennis (for high schools in Southern California), track & field (later high jumped 6'7" [2.01 m], 8" over my head, and could dunk), flag football (defensive cornerback in intramurals), and slowpitch (left field, intramurals);  won U.C. Irvine's Anteater Olympiad (a “decathlon” with 2 runs, 2 jumps, shot put, and skills in baseball, tennis, football, basketball).
        Currently, for fitness I lift and stretch, bike (mainly to get places, but once rode a 100-miler just to do it), run (5-minute mile as a young adult, and later two half-marathons, at 45 & 60 years, with paces of 8:24 & 10:00 per mile), and row (did a marathon on a machine);  in 2008, ran a 7-minute mile (yes, I'm slowing down, but am trying to decrease the rate of slowdown) plus my second half-marathon, and in 2009 ran under 31 seconds (200 m) and 73 seconds (400 m);  also in 2009 I made a juggling video and learned to ride a unicycle;  since then, instead of these OCCASIONAL GOALS [that require a higher level of effort than is needed for basic fitness] I'm mainly doing...
        CONTINUAL GOALS:  I have a list of exercises to do regularly, at home 2-4 times each week (the goal varies for different exercises) plus two workouts at the gym, and this list provides motivation;  during weeks when I'm paying attention to the list I usually do the exercises, but I usually don't when I'm ignoring the list.  The goal of these exercises is practical, to invest a reasonable amount of time (and with multi-tasking it doesn't require much extra time, it mainly requires discipline) to gain the main benefits of exercise.   { This is one application of an 80/20 Principle, with 80% of health benefits coming from the first 20% of exercising effort. }

• analogous page for Arts and Arts-Science

• Craig Rusbult,