Positive coaching and athletic leadership

University of Missouri-Columbia
Graduate certificate
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Graduate certificate

The best coaches and leaders never stop learning. Pursue a graduate certificate in positive sports coaching to strengthen your ability to have a lasting impact on the lives of your students. This 100% online program is for athletic coaches and sports coordinators who have earned a bachelor’s degree. These courses allow you to seamlessly transition to a master’s program, if you choose. If you’re involved in any level of sports participation in education, leadership or counseling services to students — and you want to make a difference — this certificate may be the right fit for you.

Your ultimate goal is improving well-being and having an impact on the student athletes you mentor. Build on your mentorship skills, so you can give back. A coaching and athletic administration graduate program unlocks opportunities. The online sports coaching and leadership courses will give you hands-on experience with research-based practices that help students develop life-changing positive approaches to every challenge they face. Learn to lead stronger athletes who are mentally equipped with optimism, grit and resilience on and off the field.

Quick facts

Official name

Graduate certificate in positive coaching and athletic leadership


University of Missouri-Columbia

Program type

Graduate certificate

Academic home

College of Education & Human Development | Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology

Delivery mode

100% online


Higher Learning Commission

Credit hours


Estimated cost


*This cost is for illustrative purposes only. Your hours and costs will differ, depending on your transfer hours, your course choices and your academic progress. See more about tuition and financial aid.

Excited coach and assistant explaining play to basketball player

Career prospects

Potential job titles include:

  • Sports coach or assistant coach (youth, high school, club, collegiate or high performance)
  • Youth sports instructor
  • Athletic performance coach
  • College scout
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • Umpire, referee or other sports official
  • Fitness and wellness coordinator
  • Athletic/fitness trainer
  • Athlete and sports competitor
Burning Glass Technologies. 2022. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
Employment growth
Burning Glass Technologies. 2022. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
Median salary

Program structure

The online graduate certificate in positive coaching and athletic leadership is 100% online: no campus visits are required.

Students typically take one or two classes each semester and finish in one to two years.

Course work includes

  • Sport and applied coaching psychology
  • Positive psychology   
  • Applied positive coaching
  • Coaching for inclusive excellence
  • Positive leadership in sport


100% online

Calendar system


Typical program length

1 year-18 months

Typical course load

1 or 2 classes each semester


University of Missouri-Columbia is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States.

Faculty spotlight

Leigh Neier, PhD

Leigh Neier is chair of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and takes great pride in supporting the “Mizzou Made” vision for Mizzou student-athletes. Dr. Neier also serves as the director of elementary education. She earned her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou).

Her courses focus on best practices and pedagogy in the fields of school health and student wellbeing. Her goal is to foster future K–12 educators who understand the dynamics and outcomes associated with coordinated school health systems. In 2014, Dr. Neier received the distinguished William T. Kemper Teaching Excellence Fellowship.

Leigh Neier, PhD
Professor and Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Chair, Department of Learning, Teaching & Curriculum
Gregory Sullivan, PhD

Prior to academia, Gregory Sullivan spent 20 years in the financial services industry rising to the level of director at an international investment bank. He earned his MBA with a concentration in sport business at Seton Hall University, a doctorate in sport management at The Ohio State University and a master’s in applied positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He started his teaching career at Otterbein University (where he was recognized as Teacher of the Year) before moving on to Ohio University and then to the University of Missouri-Columbia. 

Dr. Sullivan’s research interests include positive psychology, motivation, servant leadership and leader/follower well-being. His book, Servant Leadership in Sport: Theory and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan) was published in 2019. 

Gregory Sullivan, PhD
Positive Coaching and Athletic Leadership Program Director, Professor, Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology
Patrick Rottinghaus, PhD

Patrick Rottinghaus is the author of several career assessments, including the Career Futures Inventory, Kuder Skills Assessment-College and Adult Form and Expanded Skills Confidence Inventory. His research examines career and educational decisions, including interests, personality, self-efficacy and values. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the National Career Development Association, and he received the John Holland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Career or Personality Research from the Society of Counseling Psychology.

Dr. Rottinghaus is involved in editorial boards and has served as a career assessment consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense and other organizations.

Patrick Rottinghaus, PhD
Associate Professor, Program Training Director of Counseling Psychology, Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology

Learn more about this program