Students learn more than how to practice in Ohio State’s Master of Sports Coaching program
The class offers a path to build a championship program
Carey Fagan is a former women’s gymnastics national coach of the year, two-time Big Ten coach of the year and an assistant athletics director at The Ohio State University. Fagan has played a leading role in building the gymnastics program, hiring coaches and conducting job interviews. She has some important rules for preparing for an interview and one is very simple.
“It drives me nuts if someone shows up in a blue tie here,” Fagan said. “That is 101. School colors matter. It shows you have taken the time to go out and purchase a tie that you could wear coaching your first game at Ohio State.”
Fagan is speaking to a class of students for the Master of Sports Coaching degree program at Ohio State. Students in the class are learning what it takes to be a successful coach, what it means to be an athletic director and how to succeed at building a championship program.
“Our program is about the practice of coaching,” said Phillip Ward, director of the program. “Many other programs are designed to have folks who are sports marketing specialists or exercise science specialists. That’s not what this program is about. This program is about developing the practice of coaches.”
The graduate degree program was started in 2016 in the College of Education and Human Ecology in collaboration with the Department of Athletics and the College of Medicine.
Ward said the program is not about x’s and o’s. He said coaching effectiveness, sport psychology communications skills, ethics, sports medicine and sports law are topics covered in-depth over the course of the program.
Ward has reached across the campus and tapped into faculty experts in each of these fields to teach the curriculum. And he has some of Ohio State’s best coaches putting down their whistles and working with students.
Fagan and lacrosse head coach Nick Myers are instructors in one of Ward’s classes. In one session, they explained to students how to prepare for a job interview, how to build a resume and when to take, or turn down, the next coaching opportunity. Football coach Urban Meyer, track and field coach Karen Dennis and women’s soccer coach Lori Walker have spoken in other classes.
Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director Gene Smith proposed the program to Ward and associate professor Brian Turner, both in the Department of Human Sciences. They spent more than a year looking at programs around the world to see what worked and came up with a curriculum they modeled on executive master of business administration degrees.
Smith said the course uses the best of the athletics program to serve the teaching and learning mission of the university.
“We have some of the best coaches that exist in a number of different sports. Then we have a lot of young people who go through our program and aspire to coach. We really haven’t had an avenue for them to be able to go and get expert teachings in the areas of coaching and for us to be able to take advantage of our talented coaches,” Smith said. “To be a part of the program, and lecture and teach, really benefits a lot of our young people for their future opportunities in the profession.”
Smith said the program prepares the students for the real world. He said coaches may take jobs where they are also responsible for marketing their team and selling tickets, or might need to manage a budget or navigate complex rules for amateur athletes. This master’s degree will prepare students for those tasks.
“Jae’Sean Tate from our basketball program is a perfect example of that. He sat in my office and talked to me about how he wants to be a high school athletic director. So for him, he will understand what a coach goes through. As a high school athletics director, he needs to know what his track coach is doing, what his volleyball coach is doing. He needs to appreciate that. And this will uniquely prepare him for that opportunity.”
So far the program’s first class of students are in their second year of classes and Ward said the enthusiasm is encouraging. So is the support from Ohio State coaches.
“There is just extraordinary stuff to draw on from their experience and legacy,” he said. “And the thing that has surprised me just out of the blue has been their incredible willingness to pay it forward. I haven’t had an Ohio State coach come in to lecture our students, whose primary reason for being there wasn’t to pay it forward.”