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Athlete Development Specialization (Prior to Spring 2020)

If you’re interested in working directly with athletes to help them successfully balance the demands of their sport with the demands of living a healthy and productive life off the field, the online masters in sport management with a specialization in Athlete Development is the right fit for you.

Athlete Development is an emerging area of expertise and opportunity. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for positions including director of player engagement, director of player development, director of student-athlete development, and athletic director.

The Athlete Development specialization includes 12 credit hours of designated coursework plus 3 advisor approved credit hours that can be used to satisfy the elective requirement for the M.S. in Sport Management degree program. Courses from this specialization’s curriculum may also be taken as individual electives by students not pursuing a specialization.

Athlete Development is designed to meet the academic requirements for certification through the Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists (PAADS). Drawing from the latest research, you’ll gain a basic understanding of the psychological and physiological aspects of athletic performance and acquire advanced knowledge of how to develop a well-rounded athlete off the field. The specialization includes coursework that addresses these facets of athlete support:

  • Financial Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Professionalism and Behavior
  • Mental and Emotional Health
  • Character Development
  • Career Development
  • Transitions

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Athlete Development courses:

APK 5404: Sport Psychology (3)

The purpose of this course is to provide students with an in-depth examination of various topics in sport psychology that emanate from both the parent discipline of psychology and facets specific to athletics. Of particular importance will be exploration of the theoretical bases of each of the constructs of interest while also critically examining the empirical literature that supports and refutes traditional and contemporary frameworks. Given its science to practice orientation, practical examples of how the sport psychology literature informs applied work with athletes and other performers will also be explored. Students will develop a greater appreciation of the scientific foundations of sport psychology, will be prepared to generate meaningful empirical questions and hypotheses in the area, will become familiar with the typical protocols used in sport psychology research, and will gain a firm understand the conceptual bases that underlie the practice of sport psychology.

APK 6408: Performance Enhancement (3)

This course will intimately connect the theory of sport psychology with the dynamic challenges of the practice of applied sport psychology. Topics include personality, assessment, motivation, emotion, attention, self-confidence, mental imagery, ethics, the injured and over-trained athlete, youth sport, group dynamics, along with the psychological characteristics of elite athletes. The role of the sports psychologist as part of a performance enhancement team will also be addressed along with appropriate referral strategies.

SPM 5936: Sport Science for Athlete Development Specialists (1)

This one-hour course is designed for students to build a strong foundation in sport science and athlete human development as Athlete Development Specialists and Practitioners. Upon completion, students will have a foundational knowledge of how physical training during appropriate stages of human development can maximize athletic performance, how shortcuts in the physical, mental, and emotional development can derail an athlete’s long-term ability to succeed, and how to identify and refer athletes to the appropriate professional specialist when an athlete’s condition is outside of the development specialist’s control.

SPM 6905/SPM 5181: Athlete Development (3)

This course will provide an overview and study of the main skills utilized by athlete development specialists, including how to manage the intersection of elite athletes and sport media, athlete career development, and the fundamentals of athlete personal finance.

  • Demonstrate how effective public relations can establish, maintain, and improve athlete’s relationships with media, fans, sponsors, and the public
  • Design and develop plans for how athletes can promote positive messages through various forms of media
  • Demonstrate how athletes can manage media challenges and opportunities they may face
  • Identify and implement assessment tools used to guide athletes through appropriate career transitions
  • Comprehend how athlete’s interests, education, skills, and abilities provide the foundation for successful career transitions
  • Describe the fundamentals of personal finance to enable athlete financial security
  • Assist athletes in their basic awareness and understanding of the importance of personal finance
  • Conduct action research an aspect of athlete development of their choice and produce a professional research brief on the topic

Advisor approved elective (3)

Advisor approved elective


At least 2 credit hours from the following courses:

SPM 5936: Athlete Development Seminar (Variable Topics) (2)

Athlete Development Seminar (Variable Topics)

Variable topics may include Character Development in Sport, Athlete Centered Coaching and Leadership, and Sport Career Transitions.

SPM 6948: Advanced Practicum in Athlete Development (2)

Advanced Practicum in Athlete Development