Master’s Degrees to Cultivate Coaching Leadership at APU

by Ben Kissam

Do you see yourself as a leader or want to inspire others to be their best? If so, you may want to consider a career in coaching leadership. Coaches play important roles both on and off the field and can have a positive impact on many areas of a person’s life.

With your undergraduate degree in hand, you may be wondering which master’s degree is the right fit for you. The good news is that Azusa Pacific University offers two excellent programs for future and current coaches: an M.S. in Physical Education and an M.A. in Leadership.

Depending on your career goals, one might be a better fit for you. To help you make a more informed decision for your future, here’s a look at what each program offers.

M.S. in Physical Education

Many students entering the M.S. in Physical Education program at APU want to coach sports after graduation, are already coaching and want to gain advanced knowledge of athletics, or want to access teaching jobs at the college where they coach.

While physical education and coaching aren’t exactly the same, they do share many similarities. For example, coaches and educators must have sports-skill knowledge, be able to disseminate information effectively and efficiently to a group, and possess strong motivational skills. Honing your instructional skills makes you a better leader on the field and also increases your marketability.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 290,000 coaching jobs in 2018. While that number is expected to rise, it’s important to remember that many coaching jobs (especially at the collegiate level) also require or create opportunities for individuals to teach classes. A master’s degree in physical education will prepare you for both roles and help you stand out for higher-level coaching positions, which can be very competitive.

Finally, the coursework provides students with a comprehensive understanding of not just coaching, but kinesiology and movement science. Andrew Alstot, Ph.D., associate professor in the M.S. in Physical Education program at APU, noted that students are exposed to a variety of curricula while working toward their degrees.

“Students in the M.S. in PE program take coursework in sport psychology, principles of athletic conditioning, legal issues related to sports and physical activity settings, sports medicine, leadership in athletic programs, among others,” Alstot said. “Each of these classes helps future or current coaches become better at their craft by exposing them to various perspectives and research related to athletics.”

M.A. in Leadership

Do you feel called to a career in coaching leadership but want to keep your options open outside athletics? If so, the M.A. in Leadership degree might be more up your alley.

“Coaches cannot lead others where they have not gone before,” noted Jillian Gilbert, DSL, CF-LSP, director of APU’s M.A. in Leadership program. “To be a truly effective coach, they must first understand themselves and explore and tune in to their own emotional intelligence.”

In this master’s degree program, students solve complex problems that leaders face not only in athletics but in business and in their personal lives, too. You might very well end up on a sports field or teaching at a college, but your coursework will be introspective and applicable to life outside of sports.

Through a Christ-centered approach, you’ll learn how to lead and care for others using your own unique God-given strengths, abilities, and experiences. Many alumni share stories about how they have used their M.A. in Leadership to advance their current careers in coaching or dive into nonprofit fundraising and church ministry.

The department also hosts training and coaching certifications, most notably through the International Coaching Federation, which is the gold standard certification for personal coaches in the corporate and professional world.

So Which Coaching Leadership Degree Is Right for You?

Both master’s degree coaching leadership programs at APU offer advantages. To decide what option is best for you, consider your long-term goals and professional interests.

If the end goal for you involves a combination of coaching and teaching, the M.S. in Physical Education will increase your marketability and expand your opportunities for work at the collegiate level. The M.S. program often sees applicants with health-related undergraduate degrees, making them a strong fit for the program.

On the other hand, if you’re open to other leadership opportunities or interested in spending time specifically honing your skills as a leader to become a better coach, the M.A. in Leadership might be the choice for you.

Ultimately, both programs will help you better care for others, develop deeper relationships, and equip those under your tutelage with the tools they need to reach their potential. The education you receive at APU can help you succeed in each of these areas.

Looking to learn more about these two graduate degree paths offered at Azusa Pacific University? Explore the M.S. in Physical Education and the M.A. in Leadership program websites.