View Full Version : USOC Biomechanics Program - A Response

Jeff Broker
11-03-1998, 08:29 AM
Dear Interested Parties:

A message posted on this list September 25, 1998 by Jack Sujovolsky
(titled "employment question") queried the readership concerning job
possibilities in biomechanics. In the message, Mr. Sujovolsky asked how
the USOC can offer a position for a Masters graduate in biomechanics for
"only $16k for a year, with no benefits or housing."

I was going to respond to Mr. Sujovolsky and the list with an explanation
of our program, which he misrepresented. I then realized, however, that
we are days away from posting our 1999/2000 Research Assistant (RA) job
openings - and thus thought I'd wait and let the announcement speak for
itself. Unbeknown to me, until yesterday, one of our RAs responded to Mr.
Sujovolsky - defending the USOC program on behalf of four USOC RAs (two
biomechanists and two exercise physiologists). She told me they were all
somewhat insulted by the comments made, and that she outlined the greater
benefits of the RA program in her response.

Then, yesterday, Mr. Sujovolsky posted a summary of replies to his
original question. This summary was quite disturbing to many of us at the
USOC, due to its negativism toward our organization in particular, and the
biomechanics field in general. To make matters worse, Mr. Sujovolsky
apparently elected to NOT include the response put forth by our RAs.
Further, a particularly inflammatory response was posted, authored by Dr.
Gordon Chalmers, attacking me personally.

I recognize that people are free to say whatever they like, but the issues
raised by Mr. Sujovolsky and Dr. Chalmers deserve comment.

First, the USOC Sport Science RA program offers Masters level or better
graduates in biomechanics (as well as exercise physiology and sport
psychology) one to two year appointments. The salary is $19.7K a year,
with full medical/dental and insurance benefits (one of the best medical
packages going). Housing is not provided (the Training Center is near
full capacity with coaches and athletes).

The two positions offered each year are, in essence, "post-doc" like
opportunities for Masters level biomechanists. These positions are highly
competitive. Every year the quality of our applicants (usually 25 to 35 in
number) increases, in terms of skill sets, research and/or service program
experience, computational abilities, etc. We have been blessed with
outstanding RAs every year, thanks largely to the high quality academic
based biomechanics programs conducted throughout the country.

As one of our current RAs said, paraphrasing what she wrote in her response
to Mr. Sujovolsky, "the USOC RA position is more than just a job." She
said, "students with graduate degrees in biomechanics cannot expect to walk
into quality positions right away. There are too few positions available
and too many graduates. Graduates must therefore separate themselves from
the others by acquiring unique skills and experiences." The USOC offers
experience working with elite coaches and athletes from a wide array of
sports, with an unlimited set of science needs, using many different
analysis and measurement systems (custom and commercially available).

Addressing the broader issue of what biomechanics graduates can do after
completing their programs and its relation to our RA program, many of our
past RAs have gone on to obtain doctorates in biomechanics and are
currently in academia. Others have found employment with big name sports
equipment/shoe manufacturers, motion capture equipment companies, and
various biomechanics laboratories supporting clinical or sports research
in academia and/or private industry. Further, many of those who have gone
on to get their PhDs have remained in contact with us and USOC/National
Governing Body (NGB) sport programs. They participate in our SS&T
research grant program, and contribute to NGB educational, service, and
research programs. The backbone of Olympic Sport science is thankfully
supported, in part, by these individuals and their academic based
programs. If one measure of a program's success is the success of its
"graduates," we feel our program should be considered very successful.

I am annoyed that Mr. Sujovolsky did not post the response written by one
of our RAs concerning our program. The posting was not saved in an
outgoing e-mail folder here, so I cannot duplicate it in this message. I
would hope that Mr. Sujovolsky would post it in the near future (assuming
he did receive it) and any others like it to provide some balance on this

Finally, if Dr. Chalmers has any questions or concerns about how I obtained
my position or my job performance at the USOC, I encourage him to contact
Walt Wilson, our Division Director, at 719-578-4851. Further, if Dr.
Chalmers would like clarification as to why he was not selected for the
biomechanics position, assuming he did apply, he is welcome to call the
above number.


Jeffrey P. Broker, Ph.D.
Sport Biomechanist, USOC

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