Course at a glance


Students with an interest in developing a career in sports will find that our Level 5 course provides a well-rounded base in all aspects of sport: including psychology, nutrition and coaching. This internationally recognised qualification can either be used to progress your career, or for further study at degree level.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Entry Requirements

Students must hold a Level 3 Diploma (or higher) or A Level qualification to enrol into our Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma.

Basic English reading and writing skills, as full tutor support is given.

All students must be 16 years of age or above.

Study Hours

Approximately 800 hours.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Course Duration

2 Year.


You can enrol on the course at any time.

Awarding Body


Quality Licence Scheme

Assessment Method

Coursework only.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Course Content

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 1: Using information, communication and technology ICT in the study of Sports Science

Information, communication and technology (ICT) comprises core skills for learning. In this distance learning course utilisation of methods, tools and strategies of ICT is important in order to establish and maintain a sound working relationship with tutors and the college.

Students will need to develop ICT skills in order to communicate effectively and maximise their study progression.

The first unit of this Level 5 Diploma in  Sports Science course explains how to set up an ePortfolio which students will use during the lifetime of the course for storage of all their files including coursework, self-assessment activities, independent research notes and reflective journals. The ePortfolio may be requested from time to time by tutors and moderators. Students will be asked at various points in the course to upload files for this purpose. The ePortfolio will not only provide students with a structured system of unique information but once completed can be used as a resource for continuing professional development (CPD), and a body of revision for future studies.

Independent research is fundamental to level H5 study and also equips students with confidence to source and evaluate information relevant to the core course topics.

In this first unit students are presented with tools and strategies with which to begin to undertake independent research and integrate this into coursework activities, for example suggesting ways to read research articles and assimilate types of information from these.

The development of knowledge and understanding through writing skills is important for communicating ideas and arguments to tutors and other readers of written work. Therefore this unit reviews writing skills, and incorporates reflective writing into both the course and coursework activities. Reflective writing is a way that individuals can review their own approaches to learning and communication; and it also promotes pro-active implementation of skills enhancement through tutor feedback and self-assessment.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 2: Essential anatomy and physiology part 1

Homeostasis can be described as a basic principle of biological order in which a constant condition of balance between opposing forces within the body can be maintained. The body’s internal environment is rigidly controlled and this state needs to remain as constant as possible within certain ranges. The process of homeostasis is controlled by sophisticated mechanisms which are sensitive to changes that affect the body’s internal environment, and they respond accordingly.

The circulatory system incorporates the cardiovascular system, respiratory system and components of blood. Oxygen transportation and removal of waste products of respiration are also included in this section.

The unit also examines the structure and functions of the musculoskeletal system, incorporating relevant discussion of homeostatic maintenance.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 3: Essential anatomy and physiology part 2

The central nervous system detects and responds to internal and external environmental changes in, and out on the body. Together with the endocrine system, the CNS works to maintain a stable internal environment (homeostasis).

The digestive system is a group of organs responsible for digestion, or the process by which food is broken down and used for energy within the body. This unit examines the structure and function of each of these organs and explains the processes by which energy transfer occurs.

The endocrine system consists of several unconnected glands. These glands contain groups of secretory cells which are surrounded by dense networks of capillaries, allowing the diffusion of the hormones they produce, into the bloodstream.

Hormones are chemical messengers which target specific organs and tissues in the body, influencing growth and metabolism. Although the endocrine system, which is under the control of the ANS is partially responsible for homeostatic maintenance, its main role is control of precise and slow changes of this state.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 4: Essential anatomy and physiology part 3

The skin is the largest organ of the body. It completely covers the body, and is continuous with all the linings, membranes and orifices. The skin protects underlying structures and organs from injury, and the invasion of foreign material and microbes. It contains the sensory nerve endings for touch, pain and temperature.

In almost every cell of the human body the nucleus contains and identical copy of the individual’s genetic material (apart from red blood cells and gametes or sex cells). Chromosomes carry genes along their length and each gene contains coded information which allows the cell to produce a specific protein. Each gene codes for one protein, therefore the number of genes within the human genome is some 24,500.

The reproductive system is one of the things that sets living things apart from nonliving things. It is not essential when it comes to keeping the living alive, but is essential in keeping the species alive. It is the process by which organisms produce more organisms like themselves. Both the male and female reproductive systems are essential when creating a new organism, and are very much alike in their qualities.

The renal system (anything to do with the kidneys) affects all parts of the body by keeping other organ systems functioning normally and the fluids in balance (homeostasis).

The unit ends by explaining the anatomy, physiology and homeostatic mechanism of the organs of special sense.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 5: Introduction to sports psychology

The first dedicated sports psychology facility was started in the early 20 th century (called the Griffith era after its founder Coleman Griffith, psychologist). This allowed detailed studies of sports performances, skills, and associated psychology to be conducted and analysed; the result was a working model for sport and exercise psychology.

By the 1960s physical education had become embedded within educational curricula and the academic standing demanded explicit discipline related knowledge and training. This led to the sciences of motor learning and exercise being separated from sports psychology, and the recognition of how psychological influences could enhance training and performance outcomes.

From the 1970s onwards growth in the field of sports psychology was exponential; research became important and the emergence of experts and consultants led to the science becoming respected and ‘noted’. Standards, training and professional codes began to be established and the field has continued to develop into a flourishing area of sport.

The essence of psychology is to look at behaviour, and this can be contextualized within all areas of life and living. Therefore it makes sense to separate various elements of psychology which is why there are numerous branches: clinical, nutritional, child, behavioural etc. In addition you then get the allied psychological fields of counselling and coaching etc.

It is accepted that anything theoretical is wholly different when put into practice; sports psychology is no different in this respect. Anything that is based on scientific evidence tends to have even more theoretical components and this can make implementation quite difficult considering the uniqueness of individuals.

Psychology is an evolving discipline: it has changed dramatically over time and continues to be modified by new theories and research. Perspectives on psychology tend to gain or lose popularity as new ideas and knowledge bring to light weaknesses in older arguments. Knowing the sequence of these different perspectives will show you why some ideas are no longer thought to be valid.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 6: Cognitive approaches in psychology

Cognition is the process of knowing, in other words, knowing something about an object, person or event in terms of structure, form or purpose. Cognition also can be described as the perception of the object, person or event. For example the recognition of another person by knowing certain characteristics about them from previous encounters and memories that are laid down.

Cognition is a dynamic concept and this means that the mental representations we make are constantly changing due to subsequent encounters, experiences and perceptions. Cognitive processes take place within the brain and are manifested in behaviour patterns, as actions, thoughts and feelings. In addition to perception, we have stimulatory input from external sources via hearing, vision, touch, taste and smell. In fact the world we inhabit contributes to the development of these cognitive processes, and their subsequent behavioural representations.

Therefore this is about how we perceive the world around us as well as how we assimilate the knowledge and experience we accumulate throughout our lives.

In cognitive behavioural therapy of any kind you would normally work within a structured programme with the individual. Some of the components that may be included are listed below. These have been adapted from various psychologists and behavioural specialists’ programmes which have been part of research studies.

They are obviously only suggestions, and are flexible according to individual requirements.

  • The development of a stable working partnership between you and the individual and you must continually explain the underlying principles of treatment, thus expressing transparency.
  • Identification and assessment of the cognitive problem and associated behaviour patterns which will be a collaborative process.
  • To challenge irrational beliefs and thoughts in order to focus on objectives and positive outcomes.
  • Re-framing suggestions.
  • Allowing the individual to set the goals which should be transparent and achievable.
  • Skills training if necessary.
  • Homework tasks and the practice of new behaviours between sessions.
  • Consistent and regular monitoring of progress and readjustment of goals if necessary.
  • Regular follow ups to ensure continued reinforcement of new behaviour patterns.

This unit explores each of these concepts and relates them to sports science and behaviour.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 7: Competitiveness and cooperation

When we think about the term competition perhaps envisage a contest against ourselves, others or a group; and this would normally relate to some kind of activity where others would be completing the same task in order to provide a standard or benchmark against which to compare our own performance.

There are many ways to view the competitive process but the most holistic way is to view it as a social one, with many contributing factors underpinning it.

Competitiveness and cooperation are complimentary characteristics and usually individuals will fall more into one ‘type’ or the other, In many sporting environments one or other may be established, for example in a school situation a non-competitive strategy may be adopted where everyone’s a winner, therefore this would be termed a cooperative environment.

As a sports psychologist these concepts will feature in assessing personality type and will have a bearing on how you design the programme. Sometimes, for example an individual who has been used to a cooperative environment might find it difficult to perform in a competitive one and may need appropriate assistance in order to develop competitive skills.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 8: Communication

Communication is a cyclical process which relies on interaction and responses creating a flow or exchange of information between individuals or groups. There will be assumed accepted behaviours and boundaries which facilitate this flow, and depth or richness of the communication depends on each individual’s characteristics, personality type and the social and environmental settings that the ‘conversation or communication’ takes place in. If it is a group scenario, the facilitator will be key in how the discourse progresses and therefore perceived attitude and approach are crucial to success.

The cyclical process depends on how we interpret what messages are received and conveyed; therefore this depends on various senses such as hearing, sight, speech, touch and understanding or cognition.

It may be necessary in a professional role as a sports psychologist or trainer, to undertake special training for skills that enable communication with specific groups, for example whose first language is not English, or perhaps team members who have physical impairment such a hearing impairment. The unit will explore some of these issues and present strategies for resolution.

There are many barriers to effective communication and some of these would not seem obvious, for example those things that we subconsciously hold as prejudices or personal beliefs which may influence our attitude and behaviour towards others or in certain circumstances.

The unit ends with exploration of group communication.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 9: Performance dynamics

In this unit we look at improving performance through skills training, arousal regulation and imagery. There will also be discussion about self-confidence and how to address issues within this context, especially building self-confidence in order to improve training etc.

Many performers, whether within sport or another discipline, may have outstanding achievements when training or practicing on their own but these elude them during competitive or public performance and so here we will look at how to cope with fear, nerves and poor confidence levels, turning these negative processes into positive strategies instead.

The unit will explore the concepts of goal setting and bring into these issues of cognitive behaviour – in other words how we can change behaviour in order to promote performance enhancement.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 10: Improving performance

Psychological skills training (PST) is a system by which the following are components:

  • Practice of psychological skills to enhance performance.
  • Increased personal satisfaction and enjoyment.
  • Promoting greater physical activity and achievement.

These skills are acquired through behaviour modification, cognitive therapy, goal setting, relaxation and desensitization, in addition to all the other skills and concepts we have spoken about to date. PST may be related to one skill in particular or a whole raft of them, depending on the issue or problem defined.

For example it may be used in cases of performance nerves in a particular setting, anger or frustration, loss of concentration. It is often attributed to promoting mental toughness or stamina, particularly for endurance sports; therefore it is based on control, commitment and the ability to embrace challenges with confidence.

In order to identify an athlete’s needs you will have to assess these through a skills audit which will take into account their own and others’ opinions and observations.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 11: Introduction to sports nutrition

All living organisms, including humans, need food and water, for the following reasons:

To stay alive and to carry out the key activities of ingestion, digestion, absorption, respiration, movement and co-ordination, circulation, excretion and reproduction.

To control and regulate our metabolic processes.

To build up our resistance to, and fight, illness and disease.

To enable growth, repair and maintenance of our muscles, bones, organs and tissues.

Good nutrition can also protect our bodies against common health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. It provides us with sufficient amounts of the right type of fuel and fluid to enable us, not only to go about our daily lives, but to also take part in regular physical activity. It can also improve our levels of concentration and even our mood!

Without adequate nutrition, we may feel tired and lethargic, short of breath, out of sorts or depressed, our gums may bleed, and our bones may become brittle. So, we can see that a good daily diet is essential. But good nutrition can mean different things to different people. There are those that wish to maintain a healthy weight, those that wish to lose weight, and those that wish to gain weight, and in doing so adopt different types of diet.

The first trigger for our digestive system is when we see or smell something appetising, for example, freshly baked bread. Our mouths start to water, and our stomachs rumble. Our intestinal glands start to secrete the necessary chemicals to turn the food into the nutrients we need to build new tissues and provide us with the energy we need to keep going. Put simply, our digestive system is one long tube that starts at our mouth, goes down our throat to our stomach, then on to our small and large intestines, and past the rectum, finishing at our anus. On its way down, with the help of the liver, pancreas, and gall bladder, the digestible bits of everything we eat are converted into simple chemicals that our body can absorb easily to provide the fuel that we need or to build new tissues

We can define hunger as the natural, protective means of ensuring our body receives the fuel it needs to function well. Whereas appetite is a trained response to food; a reaction (of senses or psychological) that encourages an involuntary physiological response. Basically, the difference is that when you are hungry you grab something to eat, e.g. a piece of cheese out of the fridge. Your appetite, that is, the fact that it looks and smells so good, makes you go back for more.

We can recognise hunger when our stomach starts to rumble, that is, we suffer from “hunger pangs” and we may feel dizzy from lack of food. The hunger pangs are muscle contractions. When we have eaten, these contractions move the food down the length of the intestine, through our digestive tract.

This unit explores all the above and looks briefly at the science of eating as well as gustatory coding.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 12: Dietary nutrients

The nutrients in our food provide energy, promote growth and development and regulate our bodily functions. A variety of these nutrients are needed to keep fit and healthy particularly if you are generally active. Our body depends on these nutrients, as it is unable to produce sufficient amounts on its own.

There are six major groups of nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils (otherwise known as lipids), vitamins, minerals and water.

They all work together in our bodies to provide good nutrition to enable us to achieve optimal health, with each nutrient performing a specific function. If just one of these nutrients is missing from our diet, then, our bodies are at a disadvantage.

Therefore we can see why it is important to have a balanced dietary intake of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, together with vitamins and minerals. Without this balance, homeostasis cannot be maintained, and these deficiencies may result in illness and loss of normal function, such as fatigue. Humans require a mixed diet from different food groups in order to achieve and maintain this balance.

The unit presents explanation of the structure of major food groups and nutrient molecules as well as discussing how nutrient balance contributes to homeostatic maintenance.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 13: Energy expenditure during training

Physical activity contributes 20-30% to our body’s total energy expenditure. The example below shows the amount of energy a person weighing 60kg would use in 30 minutes depending on their chosen activity.

Active people naturally have higher energy needs so the more active you are, the more energy you burn off and as muscles burn more energy than fat, by using and developing them you will burn more energy when using the muscles and when they are resting.

The final thing to look at is the way your body manages the food it receives. The increase in the energy needed to digest food is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF) and is easy to work out. Alternatively, we can use the Harris Benedict Equation, which is a formula that uses your BMR and then applies an energy factor to determine the number of calories you need to eat in order to maintain your weight.

After oxygen, water is a close second on the list of the essential nutrients for life and it makes up 60 – 70 % of our body weight. For example, an average male body contains approximately 45 litres of water, making the chemical H2O the most plentiful chemical in our body. During exercise, when our muscles start working, they produce heat. Indeed, about 75% of the energy we use for exercise is converted into heat, and is then lost. This explains why we feel warmer during physical activity. If our body temperature rises too high, then our normal bodily functions are upset and heat stroke can result. So, the extra heat has to be dissipated to keep our bodies within safe limits, that is, at about 37-38º.

Thermogenesis means heat production. Every time we consume any food, our metabolic rate increases and our body temperature rises a bit. If we enable our body to produce more heat by eating the right ratio of fuels, then more of the calories we consume will be burned off as heat.

Some nutrients have a higher thermic effect than others. Protein has the strongest thermic effect, carbohydrate has a milder effect, but fat only has a small thermic effect.

When we consider athletic performance, lean body tissue is useful weight, whereas fat is not so useful. Body fat percentages for athletes vary according to the particular sport they do and whether they are male or female. For most male athletes, the ideal body fat percentage lies between 6 and 15% and for female athletes it lies between 12 and 18%. Physiologists recommend a minimum of 5% fat for men and 12% fat for women to cover the basic functions we associate with good health. Optimal body fat levels may, however, be a lot higher than these minimum levels. The % body fat linked with the lowest health risk is 13-18% for men and 18-25% for women.

The unit looks at the nutritional requirements of athletes and what happens if deficiencies occur such as dehydration. It also looks at nutritional strategies for optimum energy usage.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 14: Nutrition for different sports

Extracts from some of the sports activities covered in this unit.

A lot of runners find that the typical western diet does not provide enough energy for their sport, particularly marathon running. If you train daily and twice daily, then you need to restore muscle glycogen levels quickly.

Therefore, if you consume carbohydrate straight after one race or training session, you should be able to meet your carbohydrate needs for the next.. Runners, more than other athletes, tend to suffer more from gastrointestinal problems, especially during long, hard runs. As we have discovered, no one really knows why this happen, but it seems to be connected to the stress of competition, the intensity of running and dehydration.

Swimmers, who undertake heavy training sessions and fail to consume sufficient quantities of iron, may suffer from an iron imbalance. Those particularly at risk are female swimmers on weight loss diets. Your iron levels should be checked regularly whilst you are training heavily and you need to consume an abundance of iron-rich foods.

Swimming, more often than not, increases our appetite immediately after exercise and it is very easy to grab something unhealthy from a vending machine. It is much better for swimmers to refuel on low fat high carbohydrate foods like jacket potatoes, toast, and sandwiches if possible, or bananas, breakfast cereal or energy bars, if the venue does not have the facilities to provide other snacks.

Swimmers who do not consume sufficient carbohydrate will not be able to recover fully between training sessions and this will result in fatigue, loss of body weight and poor performance.

In general, cyclists tend to be muscular and lean with low body fat levels. It is worth pointing out that some cyclists consume large amounts of foods when they are in heavy training, but fail to cut back when they are doing less training, which will increase their weight. Whilst carbohydrate intake is important, many recreational cyclists overestimate their carbohydrate needs and consume too many sports drinks, bars, gels and powders.

Pre-season workouts for team sports usually involve weight training, general body conditioning and skill practice. During the season, because of the frequency of matches, often weekly, and sometimes twice weekly, between two and four training sessions are scheduled in between. Team players need to be agile and fast and this can challenge both fuel and fluid stores. It has been estimated that 1-2kg of fluid is lost during a standard football match, and this may be doubled during hot, humid conditions, so it is important to keep these stores topped up.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 15: Sports coaching

Throughout this unit of the Level 5 Sports Science course it will become evident as you progress through this unit that the role of the sports coach is almost indefinable, and can be flexible depending on the requirements of clients and other allied sports professionals. There may be occasions where the sports coach is required to be simply a trainer and there will be others where the total wellbeing of an athlete will be their responsibility; for example within professional sports clubs.

Coaching can be described as a method and technique which can be used for guiding an individual to new or different knowledge or behaviour with in defined time frames or boundaries.  In this unit we will be looking at generic contexts of coaching but at the same time integrating sports coaching into the discussion.

As with any profession there are a set of core skills which you will need to acquire or enhance in order to be able to deliver appropriate and successful coaching. The unit will describe and discuss these skills.

Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma Unit 16: Levels of coaching

Primary level: Cognitive and constructivists approaches (which this material conveys) involve the recognition of maladaptive behaviour patterns and the consequential behaviour, also keeping the programme client-centred; the coaching programme on the initial level aims at replacing these thought and behaviour patterns with more acceptable or realistic ones.

All types of cognitive therapy, no matter in which discipline or profession, is based the premise that cognition, emotion and behaviour interact with each other and through this process determines the outcomes. Therefore negativity can result in psychological problems and associated behaviour or reactions.

In behavioural therapy of any kind the programme needs to be structured. Some of the components that may be included are listed below. These have been adapted from various psychologists and behavioural specialists’ programmes which have been part of research studies.

Secondary level: This level explores deeper issues of motivation, personal beliefs and drivers of behaviour. It attempts to uncover contributing factors from the client’s subconscious that influence their expectations, behaviour and outcomes.

Group level: Coaching within a group setting is a powerful and dynamic process. Whether the clients are part of a team, or part of a group which meets regularly to work on a particular project, performance, individual skills and team dynamics can be radically improved through using coaching programmes, for example listening and questioning skills and leadership abilities.

In addition coaching can help leaders to successfully disseminate top down, and also integrate with other team members so that there is equity and parity.

Coaching in groups is not significantly different from a one to one situation but there are adapted and different skills involved. For example facilitation within a group dynamic focuses on group objectives but there is also the retention of focus on individual objectives, even though they are part of the main group. In other words it is multi-dimensional.


This Level 4+5 Accredited Sports Science Diploma can be used to gain entry to a Level 6 Diploma or Degree course in a related field.

You can view our other Level 5 Diplomas here: