The International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS) is ensuring the next generation of sports leaders are equipped for the 2020s and beyond after revamping its core Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) program.
The Lausanne-based academy has undertaken a comprehensive review of its MAS degree in Sports Administration and Technology over the past two years so that the course – widely regarded as the industry benchmark – continues to develop graduates with the skills required.
The revamped course, which will start in September, will bring new learning opportunities while retaining the essential aspects of the old MAS. For example, AISTS has enhanced its curriculum with a digital focus, while developing real-world problem-solving projects and exercises contributed by external companies and sports organizations. Finally, the coaching and career support service, much appreciated by participants, is maintained throughout the program and beyond.
Cedric Vanden Bogaerde (VdB) has played a key role in revamping the course, having returned to AISTS – where he studied more than a decade ago – from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2021.
“We conducted a thorough review of the course, with one goal in mind: what successful sports managers need to master now and in 5-10 years,” VdB said.
The new MAS program will last 15 months, with the first eight months consisting of intense study at school and lectures led by visiting professors from the academy. From June to the end of the training in December, students are required to work for two months within an organization – as an intern, employee or via an entrepreneurial company – and must then submit a study report based on their experience.
Although much of the framework has remained the same, significant changes have been made to the way the modules are structured.
“One of the changes is to highlight and improve the interconnections over the weeks of lectures, because it otherwise becomes a patchwork of topics.
“Our role here with the faculty and staff of the Academy is to mentor participants and help them unpack the interconnections between subjects to elevate their understanding of the sports industry,” VdB said.
Five areas of study were also prioritized, with a top tier including management and technology, followed by law at the second tier, then sociology and medicine at the third tier.
“Management and technology really determine the content of the program. In the digital age of sport, they must be the strong point of a sports manager. However, we deemed it necessary that these other three branches remain on the program,” added VdB. “Sport is above all a sociological phenomenon. Structure, rules and regulations and their activities come only after, so we cannot ignore this sphere. Similarly, medicine must be taken into account as health and well-being are at the heart of sport.
Digital functions as a common thread in the five branches of study. In the area of technology, students will look at machine learning, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things and how they are used in sports. Digital technology will also be present in medicine, law and other fields.
“We want to understand the situations in which these modern digital technologies can be applied, in terms of improvement,” VdB added. “We have struck a balance between understanding and applying concepts without becoming unnecessarily technical.”
Another area that crosses industry boundaries is sustainability, which has grown in importance in sports, events and most industries over the past decade. Although there is a stand-alone sustainability module, the broader topic is something students will be encouraged to consider throughout the course.
“For example, in management how do you integrate sustainability into your strategic roadmap? What impact does this have on your accounting? Are the stakeholders you are addressing changing? These are the challenges that our future leaders must take into account,” said the VdB.
The Digital Technology course also includes a project where students are tasked with solving real-world problems for external organizations. This project was piloted earlier this year in partnership with four organisations, including BMC, the world-class bike manufacturer, and FIVB Volleyball World.
“Volleyball World has suggested that the spread of volleyball has been the same for 50 years. They wanted to know how new technologies could bring a more immersive experience,” said VdB. “This challenge is exactly the kind of experience our students need.”
Digital is also driving development in terms of how AISTS students will learn, as well as what is learned. The academy has expanded its e-learning offer to offer more support to new MAS enrollees but also to its alumni, promoting lifelong learning.
Those undertaking the course will have access to a full range of tools and study guides, with initial learning now done outside of the classroom to allow professors to focus on more complex work during seminars.
AISTS will use its enhanced e-learning infrastructure to ensure that its graduates can continue to learn throughout their careers. VdB, himself an AISTS alumnus, is well aware of how sports leaders need to be open to new thinking in a changing world.
“We are considering complementary short programs so that graduates can learn and update,” he said. “Areas such as diversity and inclusion are extremely important in 2022, but may not have been addressed even 10 years ago.”
While the AISTS team has liaised with its founding members, such as the IOC, partners and other external organizations, to ensure its MAS curriculum is fit for 2022 and beyond, l Emphasis was also placed on the common theme that unites all participants in the academy – a passion for sport.
The class of 2022 will be encouraged to take part in a range of sporting activities, both as participants and volunteers. In the era of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, it is recognized that sports leaders need to have a broad understanding, not only of track and field athletes or football clubs, but also of emerging attractions like urban sports and electronic sports.
This, combined with the location in the Olympic Capital, offers participants unique opportunities to connect, immerse themselves and start their career in the world of sport.
“Every sport has a different culture,” said the VdB. “We want our attendees to experience it first hand.”