Positive coaching and athletic leadership

University of Missouri-Columbia
Master of education in educational, school and counseling psychology
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Master of education

Playing on an athletic team is one of the most rewarding experiences for youths and teens. Winning is only part of it, however. Leadership makes the most impact — an attentive, invested coach, instructor, trainer, educator or administrator harnesses the principles of sport psychology to motivate, encourage and tap each individual’s tenacity. Going beyond drills and game-day plans, you’re someone who instructs them on contending with challenges and persisting in the face of adversity.

The skills acquired through youth and high school sports carry beyond the field. Through a coach’s direction, an individual grows the confidence and mindset to tackle new obstacles, collaborate with others and commit to never giving up, even when the issue at hand seems insurmountable. Considering this lasting impact, coaches and athletic instructors are a keystone of school and community programs, helping identify with and uplift a team through each player.

Thinking about the benefits of team sports, the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Missouri helps cultivate dedicated, resolute instructors with the master of education in educational, school and counseling psychology degree program with an emphasis in positive coaching and athletic leadership. Geared toward coaching, training and administrative professionals currently holding a bachelor’s and seeking to advance their career with a master’s, this fully online program fuses sports, coaching and positive psychology with athletic training to elevate student athletes’ wellbeing. The curriculum and practice-based instruction help you provide stronger, more empathetic instruction, transform into a more resilient leader who guides not through demeaning tactics but earnest, purposeful persistence, and highlight how supportive teamwork fuels achievement and excellence on and off the field.

Developed with input from Mizzou’s Department of Athletics, this master's in education with an emphasis in positive coaching and athletic leadership consists of a 30 credit–hour course sequence, with classes held in eight-week sessions. Attend part-time to complete the program in two and a half years, or expand your credentials after just a year as a full-time online student. Make a deep impact from home to transform your athletes, teach perseverance and improve how you coach through innovative strategies.

Top-ranked programs

Mizzou's online master's in education programs ranked among the nation's finest in U.S. News & World Report 2024.

Quick facts

Official name

Master of education in educational, school and counseling psychology with an emphasis in positive coaching and athletic leadership


University of Missouri-Columbia

Program type

Master's degree

Academic home

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

Delivery mode

100% online


Higher Learning Commission; Teacher Education Accreditation Council

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.

A black male coach works with a black male youth individually

Career prospects

Envision yourself as the mentor and guide all children and teens signing up for your school’s, league’s or organization’s team needs. This innovative master’s in positive coaching and athletic leadership paves the way there, helping you acquire strategies and techniques for improving performance during practice and achieving excellence on the field or court. 

  • Discover a new, bold way to lead by acquiring progressive techniques rooted in sports psychology that encourage student athletes to achieve optimal performance as individuals and team members.
  • Learn to uphold the highest principles of education and athletics while emphasizing team members’ character development.
  • Take your skills back to your school or organization to pioneer a positive coaching and athletic culture that influences institutional persistence and productivity.
  • Develop a scientific foundation for training, encouraging and bringing out team and individual performance while factoring in ethical, legal, administrative, gender and multicultural issues for athletic organizations.
  • Become the force that models the process of success, demonstrating effective usage of communication and leadership skills while expecting progress and performance and upholding the self-worth of all team members.
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. 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. 2021. 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

This degree has potential benefits for

Coaching and administrative professionals across schools, healthcare institutions, community programs, nonprofits and sports organizations catering to children and teens can refine and shape their leadership style and understanding of team athletics with this fully online master of education degree. Course work delivers a boost for:

  • Athletes;
  • Athletic and performance coaches;
  • Club coordinators;
  • Athletic educators and administrators;
  • Fitness and wellness coordinators; and
  • eSports coaches.

Reflecting demand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that through 2029, an increased number of positions for coaches and scouts (12%), health educators and community health workers (13%), athletic trainers (16%), and social and community service managers (17%) will open up—all roles involved in the overseeing or administration of youth-related athletic programs. 

Program structure

Covering this scope, 21 credit hours of core courses help you better identify with students and team members and learn to uplift others and unlock performance through a mix of sports, coaching and positive psychology principles. Through a foundation based on teaching, learning and leading, you’ll be equipped to direct groups and individuals toward fulfillment, happiness and excellence and become a competent, caring and committed coach. In the process, you’ll gain a stronger understanding of human behavior and wellbeing while increasing your confidence as a leader. 

Along with core courses, you’ll expand your knowledge through nine credit hours designed to illuminate niche professional topics and awareness of key issues pertinent to athletic teams. All students then synthesize concepts introduced during the program while illustrating practical applications with a capstone project. 

Course work includes

To accelerate your coaching or administrative career, this master’s program explores:

  • Encouraging performance and identifying with the mental training of athletics through motivation and behavior modeling;
  • The creative and fulfilling sides of human behavior, and how these aspects improve relationships and engagement in a team environment;
  • Strategies for developing your coaching philosophy, leadership style and communication skills;
  • Basic sports nutrition, strength training and conditioning in relation to athletic performance;
  • The role and responsibilities of athletic administrators and sport leaders;
  • Identifying personal bias and understanding intersectional identities, privilege and oppression from individual through structural levels in regards to gender in athletics; and
  • Methods for bridging content knowledge with practical applications as a leader. 

Review the complete list of courses and all descriptions.


100% online

Calendar system


Typical program length

2.5 years

Typical course load

2 classes per semester


The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The College of Education and Human Development is a member of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Maddie Jeffrey, positive coaching and athletic leadership, stands with her diploma in her graduation cap and gown; a sign in her yard reads Mizzou Made, class of 2020.
I always wanted to go to Mizzou ... This program can help you start a completely different path.
M Ed ’20

Learn more about this program