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A Conversation with Peter Smolianov, PhD


Peter Smolianov is a professor in the sport and movement science department and is the program coordinator for the graduate certificate in sport development and management

You have an eclectic background that includes competing and working in sport industries of the former Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, Australia and the United States of America, and now teaching at Salem State. Could you briefly describe your career path and what led you to Salem State?

My love for scientific enquiry and lifelong learning attracted me to Salem State. This love was passed to me by coaches at Spartak and Dynamo sport clubs where I trained in modern pentathlon including shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding and running, as well as by my school teachers in Moscow, USSR. My coaches all had master degrees in the disciplines they coached and taught, and their level of expertise could be compared to university professors’. At school and then at Moscow, Brigham Young and Deakin Universities I took additional classes beyond program requirements and obtained multiple degrees, from coaching and exercise sciences to sport management and economics. This broad education allowed me to work as a coach, sport manager as well as an internal and external business consultant in Australia, Europe and North America for international corporations, global media and sporting organizations. As a sport manager I promoted professional boxing and American football events in the USSR as well as modern pentathlon and other Olympic sports globally, provided marketing research and strategy consulting to an organization developing new sport facilities in North America and Europe, conducted sponsorship evaluation and delivered strategic advice for sport marketing programs of such organizations as Australia Post and National Basketball League. As a professor I am able to share these experiences with my students, taking them on research journeys so that they can explore the sport management profession in full. It is serious fun.

You have written extensively on the subject of ‘high performance management.’ Could you explain what this is and what excites you about the field?

I have had over 80 sport publications and a decade of researching and teaching high performance, including a book which analyzes sport development in the United States in comparison with best practices across the world. The book is based on surveys of over 300 coaches and sport administrators and describes an emerging global model for systematic sport development where elite sport serves as a leading force for mass participation and better health, education and social harmony. These surveys were conducted by students as part of their sport development and management studies at Salem State University. After publishing the U.S. rugby, soccer, tennis, volleyball, ice hockey, and swimming analyses completed by students, we have been continuing to study and advance golf, skiing and snowboarding, track and field as well as other sports in the U.S. I am also excited to provide international students with opportunities to research and further develop their beloved sports across the world: most recently we studied Dutch swimming and Nigerian soccer. As part of my PhD, I described best management and marketing practices analyzing events such as the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, Super Bowl and the Olympic Games, but my later research showed that without systematic sport development, major sporting events do not increase mass participation. In fact, in the U.S. sport participation has been declining at least since the 1984 Olympic Games. Having three children made me think about future generations and how to create better conditions for all to progress from first steps to excellence in sport and in life which is so important in our increasingly inactive and virtual world. As part of our studies, students put their foot in the door of sporting organizations by conducting research which helps these organizations develop sport responsibly and systematically. The most exciting for me is to see our students succeed in this noble endeavor as sport management executives.    

Tell me a little bit about the new certificate in sport development and management. Who is the certificate designed for and what makes the program unique?

The program is designed to help practitioners move into leadership positions at profit or non-profit sport, fitness, and leisure organizations. The core unit–sport development–is a new-to-the-world course which uses an original research monograph based on 470 bibliographic sources and on surveys and interviews of coaches and executives conducted by Salem State students. My ongoing research and consulting allows me to include the most current information in the curriculum. From the first week of the certificate study, students become involved in practical research working closely with their professor to apply what they are learning immediately to their current positions. The survey research and interviews with executives are beneficial for both better understanding of the current industry practices and for making contacts. A number of students went to work for the sport governing bodies and organizations they conducted their research on. The certificate uses a holistic approach, integrating strategies taught for creating the lifelong nurturing of participants for better performance, health, education and social harmony, and connecting physical education and recreation programs with competitive sport to offer participants healthy paths to excellence and for best practices in sport management and athlete services. Fully online, this program considers finance, marketing, event, and facility management as an integral part of a strategic plan for sport development. With my coaching approach, I offer personalized support via Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook messenger any time.

What book are your reading now? Is there a book that has made a particular difference in your life that you would recommend that others read?

 As my research is in how to return our culture from one of watching sports to playing sports, and from simply winning to also achieving important socio-economic benefits, I have been re-reading the classics which teaches me lessons relevant to my own writings. I am particularly inspired by Leo Tolstoy and think that everyone who is tired of the skepticism, distrust and irony of post-modernism should try a well forgotten idealistic, perhaps naïve but happy and energizing paradigm of youth, to enjoy what Leo Tolstoy described in his “Confession” (1878-1882): “My muscles were growing and getting stronger, my memory was being enriched, my ability to think and to comprehend was becoming greater; I was growing and developing. Feeling growth within me, it was natural for me to believe that perfectibility was indeed the law of the universe and that in this idea I would find the answers to the questions of my life.”

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