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Athlete Development Specialization

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 master’s 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 includes 9 credit hours of designated coursework plus 6 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

Please note that the curriculum for the athlete development specialization prior to Spring 2020 is different. You can see the previous curriculum here.

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Athlete Development Courses (6 credits):

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 understanding of the conceptual bases that underlie the practice of sport psychology.

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

Athlete Development Electives (3 credits)

SPM 5936 Athlete Sexual Health and Wellness (3)

SPM 5936 introduces students to key concepts of sexual health within athletics as it relates to the holistic wellness of athletes across all ages and levels of sport. Athlete Sexual Health and Wellness addresses critical topics such as sexual agency, sexual misconduct, healthcare services, and education for athletes, coaches, sporting organizations, and athlete development specialists. Students will explore the ways in which these topics directly impact holistic athlete wellness and their role in ensuring sexual health and wellness is made a priority alongside physical, psychological, and financial health. Assignments are designed to allow for open discussion with peers and students are expected to critically apply knowledge to practical situations which are presented to them. SPM 5936 is an introductory course to sexual wellness as a new sub-field of athlete development and successful completion will see students who are engaged with the material throughout the duration of the course.

SPM 6905 Coaching Character Literacy in Sport (3)

This course is designed to provide future sport management professionals (SMP’s) and coaches with a proven playbook on character literacy development (CLD) in youth and amateur athletics. This course provides one of the most comprehensive and progressive sports-based character curricula in the country. Course objectives:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the plight of youth and amateur sport today through the current literature on the topic
  • Investigate and articulate why participation in youth sport is declining at a rate of close to 6% each year
  • Take a look back in time at their own amateur athletic experience to compare to youth today
  • Understand how to effectively and consistently identify, promote, develop, and assess for comprehension and retention of the immeasurable value of character literacy development in our youth
  • Identify, analyze, and debate “real” issues in coaching and parenting relative to ethical dilemmas commonly encountered within the competitive amateur sport context (i.e. Does teaching or emphasizing character soften our kids? Can you still win and teach character? Has our culture forgotten how to win?)
  • Demonstrate effective written and verbal communication such as critical thinking, deductive reasoning, decision-making pertaining to the ever evolving field of athletic coaching
  • Understand that character values learned through sport must be taught and emphasized by parents, coaches, and administrators through a systematic building-block approach that is adapted to the level and age of the student-athletes
  • Facilitate real-life application of theory at youth recreation centers as coaches/mentors

​PET 6177 Athlete Centered Coaching and Leadership (3)

Coaching sports is usually viewed from a perspective of the pursuit of performance excellence. However, studies have shown that performance excellence is, actually, dependent upon personal wellbeing. A thriving, happy individual will achieve the best performances. The athlete-centered sport model provides for the creation of best performances by placing equal emphasis on the personal development of the performer.

This course is designed to explore the athlete-centered coaching model, what it is and how to apply its elements in daily coaching and team-building. The model applies to developing a team, a school program, a recreational program or an individual athlete. Leadership in sports is emphasized but correlation is made to business leadership and other high-performing cultures. Assignments are, largely, personally based, allowing the student to create a personal coaching plan that outlines the student’s own values and goals as a coach and a useful, step-by-step model for impacting those they lead.

Students will:

  • Create an athlete-centered model of coaching by analyzing components of the athlete-centered model, prioritizing them, and integrating them into a personalized coaching plan.
  • Argue for justification of inclusion of the elements they chose in their personal plan using research-based supports.
  • Compare and contrast transformational leadership to transactional leadership models and be able to classify leadership they have witnessed and experienced in the past as transactional or transformational.
  • Associate the changes and demands of youth development, findings through research and general culture to the methods and needs of coaching, coaches, and business leaders, past and present.

SPM 6948 Advanced Practicum in Athlete Development (3)

Advanced Practicum in Athlete Development

Advisor Approved Electives (6 credits)