Our research

We collaborate with sportspeople and other professionals working in exercise and sport science. This helps to guide our research projects, as we can use real-life issues they face within their industry.

Research themes

Under the themes of sport and exercise science; sport development; and sport management, our research program focuses on: 

  • performance and measurement
  • health
  • participation in sport
  • sport management
  • sport marketing.

Research methods 

We employ both quantitative and qualitative research methods, including: 

  • laboratory assessments and validation
  • field assessments and observations
  • sports data analytics
  • surveys
  • interviews
  • focus group discussions.

Sport and exercise science

This research stream aims to maximise sporting success for athletes and coaches by analysing preparation strategies and adaption responses. 

As leaders in the fields of sports data analytics, integrating data mining methodologies and sophisticated analysis techniques, we develop and assess methods to accurately measure training loads. 

We also examine the relationships between load, physical adaptations, injury and athletic performance.

Read more about sport and exercise science

Sport development

Sport development includes both the development of sport, as well as people's development through sport.

Our research in this area increases opportunities to participate in sports within communities. Our dual focus is on:

  • activities to develop athletes
  • ways in which sport participation can be used strategically for the benefit of communities. 

Read more about sport development

Sport management

This research theme examines governance in national and state sport organisations and focuses on:

  • sport strategy
  • organisation theory
  • corporate social responsibility
  • sustainability
  • sport marketing.

Read more about sport management

Sports Engineering

Upcoming research plans

Over the next three years, we'll be carrying out research in the following areas.

Women in sport

Community sport and exercise plays a vital role in shaping an individual’s perception of self and in developing positive habits that influence physical and mental wellbeing. 

Women's participation in exercise and sports has improved across all age groups. However, it's not well understood how exercise and sport – as well as coaches, and sports medical professionals –  impacts the physical and psychological wellbeing of women. CSR has the multidisciplinary skills and research themes needed to explore this question.

Our external partnerships within netball, cycling, waterpolo (AIS) and the Deakin Melbourne Boomers (WNBL), as well as with sports academies and colleges, gives us a competitive advantage as we have direct access to female athletes of different ages and performance levels.

An additional advantage for CSR is our strong links with the AFL. With the launch of the Women’s league, the AFL plays a major role in advocating gender equality in sport and society.

CSR's research could directly influence management and administration, the training load, performance analysis and coaching principles in the AFL Women’s league. This will also provide a way for us to impact women’s football at community club level – a setting that can positively impact numerous social issues.

Our future research will focus on:

  • understanding the physical load, associated adaptations (including injury) and performance of women participating in sport and exercise
  • understanding how sport and exercise impacts the psychological wellbeing of women
  • assessing the influence of the coach on exercise and sport participation in women
  • administration and support structures that enhance and promote women’s participation in exercise and sport. 

Learn more about women in sport

Sports injury prevention, training and rehabilitation

The aim of this research program is to advance knowledge and practice in sports injury prevention, training and rehabilitation, and to translate intervention-based research into clinical practice and safe community sporting participation. 

The innovation in this program comes from four currently funded projects: two Faculty of Health Research Development Grants, one AFL Research Grant, and one Research Connections Grant.

All projects stem from a track record by the research team, in collaboration with internationally renowned external research groups, in developing evidence-based research to design intervention programs relating to injury prevention and rehabilitation on musculoskeletal pain and injury. 

This research stream uses world-class technologies to measure biomechanical and neuromuscular behaviour in response to loading and adaptation to inform intervention practices.

A key strength, supported by experience within the research team, is that these studies focus on community-level involvement in sport, so that ideal clinical and injury prevention models can be developed that will optimise translation of evidence into the community. 

Ultimately, the fundamental premise underlying research in this area is to conduct robust scientific studies to best inform sports injury practice, with the intention to conduct ongoing studies to translate findings to promote ongoing participation and safety in sport.

CSR researchers are well positioned to lead this innovative work. Dr Jason Bonacci is trained in exercise science, and is accredited and practising in physiotherapy. Dr Natalie Saunders is an accredited clinical exercise physiologist practising in the school’s Clinical Exercise Learning Centre.

Sport as a vehicle to promote mentally healthy communities

One in five Australians will experience mental illness this year and, adding to this, high levels of alcohol misuse, gambling and community violence are prevalent within Australian communities. 

In order to prevent mental health issues and the burden of problematic behaviours within communities, we need to think differently. Community-level sport can be a way to both promote positive mental health and wellbeing among Australians, and reduce the risk of negative mental health outcomes.

However, many contemporary sports operations are compromised by unhealthy marketing and sponsorship, as well as relaxed policies and practices. For example, alcohol is consumed in a number of settings, including the home, licensed venues and other community settings.

An example of this is community sports clubs, which are often associated with high levels of alcohol consumption. Approximately 20% of Australians participate in community sports clubs and ~40% of all adolescents are involved in community sport. Due to poor alcohol management practices, and irregular monitoring and enforcement of liquor licensing regulations, this setting can provide opportunities for supply of alcohol to adolescents.

We aim to reduce adolescent alcohol consumption across all levels of the population by monitoring alcohol supply to adolescents in community sports clubs across Australia. We'll then develop simple but effective educative interventions that have been shown to reduce underage supply in other contexts, and tailor these for the community sports club setting.

We're also interested in better understanding how sport can promote a greater respect and understanding among specific population groups including new immigrants in regional communities. 

The typical approach to investigating the role of sport in developing and promoting strong and cohesive communities has been done through measuring social capital. While these ‘aggregate’ approaches provide important information, they fail to capture the critical dynamics through which such community effects are developed. 

Social network analysis (SNA) and associated modelling approaches, e.g. exponential random graph modelling (ERGM) have been used to represent and understand these interpersonal dynamics in a range of contexts. 

These methods, however, have been under-utilised as a means to understand how sport develops and promotes social cohesion and the role that critical ‘actors’ play in this process. 

We'll use SNA and ERGM methods to investigate how sports clubs develop social cohesion and the critical environmental and individual attributes that influence this process.

The development of community-orientated practices by sport organisations

The power of sport as a tool for social and economic development has been recognised for decades, and is a key reason why governments invest in and support sport systems. 

Within such systems, evolved and better resourced professional organisations are increasingly using sport strategically and intentionally to engage populations in socially desirable behaviours that contribute to community development outcomes – including those linked to health, wellbeing, social justice and social capital.

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and AusAID partnership developing the Australian Sport Outreach Program – along with national sport organisations (e.g. Netball Australia) partnering with the Australian Sports Foundation are examples of sport-through-development and sport-for-development objectives being realised within Australia.

With increased responsibility for community-orientated practices being grasped by sport organisations, gaps exist in understanding how best to implement such programs, and how resources can be most effectively used. Aligned with these gaps, research streams spanning sport-for-development, commercial sport and sport organisational design emerge.

Primary questions concern the rationale, motivations and structures by which organisations are involved in such programs. Additionally, the perceived or targeted benefits of such programs, and expectations of public stakeholders (e.g. participants, fans, members) with respect to community-oriented practices offer ways to demonstrate best practice and models for future adoption.

This research stream has potential to integrate existing networks, academics and research interest from diverse areas, with outcomes linked to sport management, sport development and wider aspects of community and health. 

Dr Karg and Dr Rowe (Dept of Mgt) were recently awarded a 2016 Deakin Central Research Grant ($20K) to assess Community Orientated Practice specific to Professional Sport Teams. 

This project spans Australian and overseas leagues to assess the structures, outcomes and consumer perceptions of professional team practices. 

It is anticipated that findings from this initial study will build a foundation for future work, including grants and funded projects focused on managing programs and maximising the impact and outcomes of sport initiated community-oriented practice.

Transforming sport in India

Transforming sport in India: Investigating current and future governance structures and practices in Indian national sport organisations

Sport in India is in a state of flux so this research aims to investigate current and future sport governance practices in India. We hope to better understand how national sport organisations are able to adapt to a rapidly changing sport environment in which professionalisation and commercialisation are dominant driving forces for change.

Indian sport structures and governance practices remain sheltered in an outdated amateur volunteer delivery culture that prevents the progress of Indian sport. Indian sport organisations must confront the cultural tensions and motivations driving current appointments to boards of Indian sport organisations.

Stage 1 

In stage 1, this study will undertake an audit of current governance structures of Indian national sport organisations, including:

  • the size of the board
  • structural relationships to state and regional sport organisations
  • decision making processes
  • background and profile of Directors
  • election or appointment processes.

Stage 2 

In stage 2, this study will employ an action research approach to work with a number of sport organisations to improve their governing capacity. 

In addition to facilitating improved governance practices for each individual sport organisation, the research team will monitor and reflect on progress, identify and record critical incidents, and construct and record interpretations of change and learning.

Within this process, the research team will play a role in integrating theory and framing outcomes in theoretical terms to both advance sport governance practice in Indian sport organisations and gain insights for theory development as it applies to sport governance in India.

Approach to research 

Approaches to action research can vary according to:

  • the length of field work (long term with multiple cycles to short term between 12 and 24 months)
  • theoretical grounding (low to high)
  • degree of change (low to high radical change)
  • the extent of collaboration (low to high) (Ferkins, 2007). 

The style of action research to be employed in this study is characterised as short-term fieldwork, low in radical change and high on collaboration between the national Board (core research participants) and the research team. This style was largely shaped by the work of Cardno (2003), Heron and Reason (2006), and Coghlan and Brannick (2010) and is best described as developmental action research.

Based on prior governance research and experience with action research programs undertaken with Australian and New Zealand national sport organisations (Ferkins & Shilbury, 2010; Ferkins & Shilbury, 2015; Ferkins, Shilbury, & McDonald, 2009; Shilbury, Ferkins & Smythe, 2013; Shilbury & Ferkins, 2015), such work typically lasts for up to 18 to 24 months. 

This is a long-term research program designed to pave the way for governance reform in India via a halo effect, showing how the participating national sport organisations have transformed their governance structures to accommodate an increasingly professionalised sport industry. It will also examine how good governance practices deliver enhanced performance outcomes across the realm of the sport organisation.

Given the longitudinal nature of this research and its potential to have a significant impact on Indian society and sport generally, this project is targeted at the proposed Indian post docs. They will be overseen by Professor Shilbury who has international standing in relation to sport governance research and practice.