This is one aspect about which a lot of youngsters get confused and are rarely counselled on. There are tons of institutes offering courses on various aspects of sports, fitness and nutrition. But there quite a distinct difference between courses for sports and fitness.
Fitness can be a part of sports training and for every other aspect of life, for e.g. for normal individuals, elderly, children, women, rehab cases, special population etc. But sports training is primarily targeted at sportsmen or competitive and pro athletes.
One really needs to understand the difference between the two when it comes to training and education. The course content of various courses offered under sports is quite distinct from the ones offered in fitness. Though there can be quite common aspects in extensive courses like degree courses, but still the aim would be different. For e.g. a degree in sports science may offer quite similar content as a degree in exercise science. But eventually the course would differ in terms of aim and major specializations.
You need to be clear in terms of your aim, as to which field you want to enter. For e.g. an experienced and qualified fitness trainer can help most sportsmen but a sport specific coach, may not be able to do that for most part of the population. That is one reason, most youngsters who have done their degrees in physical education or sports, end up doing fitness related certifications like personal training, nutrition, strength & conditioning etc. This helps them widen their scope of knowledge and employment aspects.
Let’s take a look at some of the subjects covered in the sports related degree or courses. For e.g. NIS (Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala), offers various courses in sports coaching. The Masters degree in Sports Coaching is conducted in Athletics, Basketball, Football, Gymnastics, Hockey, Swimming, Volleyball, Weightlifting and Wrestling. This simply means, that you would be getting ready to coach athlete or sportsmen in one of the chosen sports. So, if you chose to become a swimming coach, you may not be qualified to coach weightlifting athletes as the skills needed for both sports are absolutely different.
On the other hand, a strength & conditioning coach, or a nutrition coach, would be able to help athletes from all the above sports and rest everyone else.
When you check the courses offered by sports specific institutes be it government or private, these are generally covered either under the heads of sports management, sports coaching, or sports science. Then there are some other courses being offered like sports medicine, sports nutrition, sports psychology etc.
When we talk about courses like sports management, the subjects taught are sports equipment and technology management, media management, event management, sports marketing, sports tourism etc. which actually have no much use in fitness related fields.
On the other hand, the courses offered in fitness related fields be it degree, diploma or certifications may have quite a lot common with the sports related courses, but have a lot of differences too. For e.g. most smaller sports science related courses like diploma or certifications are just as a base personal training certifications with some minor variations in terms of subjects taught. They do not go in detail in any of the aspects, but cover the basic outlines of various topics, as done in a personal training certification. However, they may touch upon topics like sports management, sports technology, doping in sports, sports medicine etc. which won’t form a part of a personal training certification.
On the other hand, a personal training certification may offer subjects which are not covered in sports related certifications or diploma courses. For e.g. biomechanics, kinesiology, basics of exercise for special population, general nutrition, basics of periodization and program design, muscle mechanics etc.
But, the major differences come when you do advance specialization in various fitness related fields, which I haven’t seen being offered anywhere in India in any of the colleges or institutes. For e.g. specialization in strength & conditioning, exercise therapy, corrective exercise, special population, general nutrition, fitness for older population, youth fitness, female fitness, pre & post-natal courses etc.
This is a reason fitness related courses ultimately get an edge over sports related courses and why most people who have done their degrees in sports specializations end up doing these advance fitness related courses to enhance their employment opportunities and overall skills and knowledge base.
Therefore, one should be well aware of the difference between sports and fitness related courses and subjects and understand that sports specific coaching is a completely different ball game. For e.g. I train a number of athletes in various sports, like cricket, swimming, wrestling, basketball, badminton, squash etc. But they come to me for specialized training in sports nutrition, supplementation, strength & conditioning, post injury rehab progressions (basic injury management is by a physician only), and certain psychological aspects. But I cannot teach swimming skills, or badminton skills etc. to them. This is the job of their sports coach. That is why to create a champion athletes so many people are involved, not just a sports coach, and that is also one reason Indian sportsman lag behind as compared to international athletes.