Audio Forbes Carlile talks about sports science as a career, 2008

TLF ID R10263

This is an edited sound recording of the Australian sports scientist and swimming coach Forbes Carlile (1921-), speaking about sports science as a career. Carlile states that being competent at sport is useful, but not absolutely essential, for someone to be a good sports scientist. He says all scientific discoveries lend themselves to application in sport, and many discoveries are yet to be made. He suggests that much of the currently accepted knowledge about sport science will be replaced by new discoveries. The recording was made in October 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • In this recording Forbes Carlile (1921-) explains that sports science involves relating science to the way athletes' bodies and minds perform, and stresses the importance of aspiring professional sporting coaches having training in this field. Carlile notes that while there are courses in sports science available at Australian universities and colleges, some are of a higher standard than others, implying that those who seek such a career need to choose carefully.
  • Carlile makes it clear that he believes the future is bright for sports scientists. He suggests that he and other coaches accept that 'probably half' of what they think they know currently will eventually have to be rejected or modified. He notes that there are 'many, many' applications of new knowledge, and that applications in sport will be found even for scientific discoveries that at first appear to have with nothing to do with sport.
  • Carlile worked at the University of Sydney from 1945 until 1955 under the leadership of Frank Cotton (1890-1955), often described as the 'father of Australian sports science'. As a physiologist, Carlile investigated the phenomenon of athletes' 'failing adaptation' to intense training by measuring physiological changes, for example heart rates and changes in the chemistry of the blood. This work resulted in publication of a number of scientific papers.
  • In 1963 Carlile published his book 'Forbes Carlile on swimming' in which he discussed the physiological changes that occurred in athletes' bodies as they underwent hard training, how these changes could be measured, and how this could help to determine an athlete's training program. In particular the book promoted the new concept of 'tapering', where hard training was reduced and rest enforced ahead of competition. This concept is still widely practised today.
  • Carlile is also credited with other pioneering work on training methods for elite athletes, particularly swimmers. Mainly developed in the 1940s and 50s, these included the use of interval workouts, pace clocks, blood tests, and heart-rate measurements to assess effort. Carlile also developed new swimming techniques, including even-paced swimming and two-beat kicks used in long-distance events.
  • This recording presents the views of an Australian who has been internationally recognised for his pioneering work in the use of scientifically based training, particularly in relation to swimming. As well as being a successful sports scientist and swimming coach, Carlile is particularly well known for his work as the coach of world record holder and Olympic swimming champion, Shane Gould (1956-).
Year level

6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science

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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Person: Forbes Carlile
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  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
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Learning Resource Type
  • Audio
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