Coaching and Performance Science (ACE)

The Coaching and Performance Science program at West Virginia University prepares you to work with a diverse population ranging from high-performing athletes in the athletic or military contexts or to recreational and weekend sport participants.  The College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences at WVU is excited to offer one of the only undergraduate programs in the country specifically focused on coaching and performance sciences.  To further narrow academic focus and align with common specializations within the coaching profession, you will complete an area of emphasis in one of the following topics: Coaching and Leadership, Strength and Conditioning, or Applied Sport Science. 

The Coaching and Leadership area of emphasis is for you if your professional goal is to lead a sport program.  Courses focus on the development of sport-specific expertise, underlying scientific content knowledge as well as the essential interpersonal and intrapersonal skills necessary for quality teaching and leadership within the sport context.  The program will challenge you to focus on your personal professional foundation and on-going development through the integration of applied sport science and hands-on application in coaching. 

If your professional goal is to be a stength coach, then the area of emphasis in Strength and Conditioning is for you!  This concentration of courses focuses on the science of training, designing training prescriptions, and the ability to coach both in and out of a weight room.  You will develop strength and conditioning skills and learn how to teach these skills to peers, as well as how to administer different strength and power tests in our instructional performance lab.

The Applied Sport Science area of emphasis focuses on athlete monitoring and performance assessment using various forms of technology and established sport science strategies.  The sport scientist improves understanding of how athletes are responding to their training, thus helping to steer the training prescription and recovery process.  If you are interested in this area of emphasis you will participate in a variety of hands-on learning opportunities in the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute’s Human Performance Innovation Center; an applied sport science laboratory.

What our alumni have to say:

  • aluminquote-JoshS

    "Just as it is a coach's job, the ACE program and staff put myself and other driven students in a position to be successful by continuing to revolutionize the coaching profession and pioneering the study of leadership."

    Josh S.

    B.S. ACE, 2012
  • Jeff Pierce

    “All of the CPASS faculty helped me out over my four years at WVU,” he said. “Whether it was in the classroom or about my career choice, the faculty gave me advice that I can carry with me throughout life.”

    Jeff P.

    M.S. ACE, 2015
  •  Ethan Brown

    “I was able to take skill techniques and sport specific instruction that I learned in a classroom project and apply them directly to a successful training program at the high school level.”

    Ethan B.

    B.S. ACE, 2015

What you'll study

The Coaching and Performance Science program blends cutting-edge sport/movement science and professional development to best prepare our graduates for the exciting, ever growing field of athletics and sport sciences.

Foundation Coursework

The foundation courses provide you with basic sport/movement science knowledge to better prepare you for your specific area of emphasis. These courses establish a grounded understanding of human structure and movement, human development, learning differentiated instruction, sport pedagogy, training theories and sport movement analysis. These concepts and principles serve as the foundation for designing and delivering developmentally appropriate sport coaching experiences for individuals of any age and ability.

Professional Coursework

All students will complete a series of courses related to career exploration and hands-on learning. During freshman year, you will complete a course providing an in-depth examination into career options and the steps necessary to meet those specific career goals. By junior year, you will take a more robust career exploration course. To meet graduation requirements, all students are required to complete a personalized capstone experience based on their specific career goals. This involvement is intended to ensure that you gain an in-depth understanding of your chosen profession. You will gain practical knowledge thanks to capstone projects, and hands-on learning opportunities, such as an internship or research experience.

Program faculty

Who you'll learn from

  • Image of Guy Hornsby in front of WV flagImage of Guy Hornsby in front of WV flag

    Guy Hornsby

    Professional Highlights

    • Head Coach of West Virginia Weightlifting and Volunteer (throws) Coach for WVU Track and Field  
    • Coaching Science Coordinator at WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, Human Performance Innovation Center  
    • West Virginia State Director for the National Strength and Conditioning Association 
  • Kristen Dieffenbach

    Kristen Dieffenbach

    Professional Highlights

    • United States Center for Coaching Excellence (USCCE) - President
    • International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) - Research Committee
    • Research emphasis on coach development, professionalization of coaching and moral reasoning in coaching
    • Written and managed grants and contracts with USOC, USA Cycling, USA Hockey, USADA and other sport organizations
    • More than 20 years professional coaching experience with athletes from youth through Olympic level, specializing in long term athlete development
  • Portrait of Michael Ryan outside

    Michael J. Ryan

    Professional Highlights

    • Program Coordinator for Athletic Coaching Education, CPASS 
    • 10 years of undergraduate and graduate teaching experience in Exercise Science and Kinesiology
    • National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) State and Mid-East Sectional Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year
    • 20 years of coaching experience at the Division 1 and high school levels
    • Coached seven WVSSAC State Championship Teams in cross country and track
  • Portrait of Peter McGahey

    Peter McGahey

    Professional Highlights

    • Former NCAA Division I and II Women’s Head Coach
    • United State Soccer Federation A Licensed Coach
    • United States Center for Coaching Excellence (USCCE) – Nominating Committee
  • Valerie Wayda

    Valerie Wayda

    Professional Highlights

    • West Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance 2018  Recreation/Leisure Leadership Award
    • National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education 2015 Distinguished Service Award
    • North American Society (NAS) of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport and Dance Professionals Fellow
  • Portrait of Jeremy Yeats

    Jeremy Yeats

    Professional Highlights

    • Program Coordinator for Physical Education and Kinesiology, CPASS
    • Research emphases in education policy, the use of music in sport, physical activity breaks, and social justice
    • Seven years experience as a Teaching Assistant Professor or Assistant Professor
Beyond The Classroom

Field Experiences and Research

Students participate in a variety of hands-on coaching and research opportunities. This allows them to work with athletes across different developmental levels, expose themselves to engaging research initiatives and take advantage of valuable professional networking opportunities.

Hands on coaching opportunities

Student can work with athletes performing at a variety of levels. Recent graduates and current students have completed coaching internships in the following settings:

  • Youth sport organizations
  • Collegiate sport programs
  • Middle and high school athletics
  • Special Olympics or other programs for persons with disabilities
  • Health, wellness and fitness facilities
  • Campus recreation
  • Intramural and club sports
  • Strength and conditioning programs
  • US Military bases as part of their Performance Teams

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Students have opportunities to get involved with research within the college or the larger university community. At the end of each spring semester, the college hosts an annual research day. Students and faculty from within the college present their research to members of the university community, alumni and beyond. Students also have the opportunity to work under the mentorship of a college faculty member through the  Research Apprenticeship Program (RAP) and  Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). 

Students can apply what they are learning in the classroom in innovative, internationally recognized research centers located here at WVU. Research centers and research initiatives are directed by faculty members within the college. 

Human Performance Innovation Center

The Human Performance Innovation Center (HPIC) located within WVU's Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) is a cutting edge  applied performance laboratory aimed at enhancing performance and reducing overtraining potential in competitive athletes and active military. The HPIC is equipped with a state of the art sport science laboratory and recovery center and is equipped with technology (e.g. wearable) that can be brought to the field (e.g. practice, weight room) to asses training sessions and competitions. HPIC’s research is aimed at better understanding various aspects of training, recovery, and performance.

Center for Applied Coaching and Sport Sciences

The center's mission is to generate original research and materials that will fill the gap between cutting edge sport science knowledge and technology, best teaching practices and applied coaching across all levels of sport. Graduate and undergraduate students interested in gaining research and research to application experiences may apply for an independent study opportunity with the Center for Applied Coaching and Sport Sciences project. 

Career Preparation

After Graduation

Career Pathways

Applied Sport Scientist

Sport scientists can work in various settings, including collegiate athletics, professional or Olympic sport, and the Department of Defense. These individuals apply their background in athlete monitoring / performance assessment, their understanding of the overall training process and the ability to communicate with other members of the sport performance enhancement team (coaches, strength coaches, athletic trainer, etc.). In addition to being a full time sport scientist developing coaches and strength coaches may be interested in increasing their sport science knowledge / abilities due to the rapidly increasing sport science expectation for these professionals. For example, at many major D1 universities strength and conditioning coaches lead athlete monitoring programs utilizing various laboratory and field based measures.

Areas of emphasis:

Applied Sport Science

Resume builders:

Fitness center, High School or College weight rooms


Certified Strength Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), National Nutrition Certification Program (NNCP)

Equipment/Facilities Manager

Sport equipment and facilities managers provide critical support to collegiate and professional athletic programs. Typically, equipment managers are responsible for maintaining, procuring, coordinating travel of and managing the inventory of all gear and equipment for all practices and games. Facilities managers wear many hats while overseeing the coordination of athletic facilities for games and practices, which involves extensive schedule management, effective communication skills, and proper planning.

Areas of emphasis:

Coaching and Leadership

Resume builders:

equipment manager for athletic program


Athletic Equipment Managers Association (AEMA)

Recreation/Sports Director

Recreation directors work in a variety of settings, including community organizations, local parks and recreation departments, campus recreation (colleges/universities), federal and state prisons and in corporate settings. These individuals oversee, organize, and direct the operations of fitness and/or sport programming, which can involve planning activities, schedule management, publicity and event promotion, budget management, and/or personnel management. 

Areas of emphasis:

Coaching and Leadership

Resume builders:

Referee for WVU intramurals, employment with WVU student recreation center or any community recreation program, Coach for any local sport organization (paid or unpaid)


Certified Adaptive Recreation & Sports Specialist (CARSS); Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO)

Scouting and Videography

Individuals with a coaching background are also well-prepared for a career in scouting and/or videography.  Sport videographers are responsible for coordinating all aspects of video efforts for athletic programs (usually in collegiate or professional settings), including day-to-day video operations for practices and games, maintaining internal video networks, contributing to film breakdown, assisting with instant replay, and producing highlight films. Scouts (professional athletics) and recruitment staff (collegiate athletics) specialize in managing player personnel.

Areas of emphasis:

Coaching and Leadership

Resume builders:

Student manager for athletics using computer and video system or keeping stats, experience with Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects



Sport Coach

A sport coach is involved in the direction, instruction and training of a sports team or of individual athletes. Sport coaches may be employed by colleges/universities, community organizations (YMCA, Special Olympics, local parks and recreation departments) or private companies (UK Elite, D1 Training, Orange Theory, F45, etc.). Alternatively, sport coaches are found in private practice working with master level athletes, as well as working with individual or small groups of athletes on the development of specific skills through skill clinics or training sessions. 

Resume builders:

Student Manager for WVU teams, volunteer coach with WVU club sports, Coach for any local sport organization (paid or unpaid)


WVSSAC coaching certification (any WV public school coaching position)

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Strength and conditioning coaches design and implement strength and conditioning programs for athletes of all levels and in different contexts. Strength and conditioning coaches are charged with improving athletic performance, reducing athletic injuries, instilling a sense of lifelong fitness, and readiness in their athletes. These individuals can work in a variety of settings, including private sport organizations and fitness clubs, as well as high school, collegiate and professional athletics, and the US Military. 

Areas of emphasis:

Strength and Conditioning

Resume builders:

Fitness center, High School or College weight rooms


Certified Strength Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

Graduate School Pathways

Sport Coaching (MS)

Sport Coaching advances one’s knowledge, skills, and philosophies of practicing sport coaches. Areas of study typically include mental preparation and performance in sport, nutrition and conditioning for athletes, sport ethics, skill development and analysis, administration, and critical reflection.

Resume builders:

Student manager for WVU teams, volunteer coach with WVU club sports,  coach for local sport organization or school


Sport Management (MS)

Sport management involves any combination of skills related to planning, organizing, directing, controlling, budgeting, leading, and evaluating within the context of an organization or department whose primary product or service is related to sport or physical activity

Areas of emphasis:

Coaching and Leadership

Resume builders:

Intern with WVU Athletics, complete a summer internship with a professional sport organization, take a leadership position in a sport-based student organization such as Mountaineer Maniacs

Exercise Science/Exercise Physiology (MS)

Exercise physiology is a discipline which studies the body's responses to physical activity as well as how the body adapts to physical activity over time. Exercise physiologists are responsible for conditioning clients to higher levels of physical fitness and improved health, while staying tuned into safety issues that can be associated with single session exercise.

Areas of emphasis:

Applied Sport Science

Resume builders:

Collaborate with a faculty member or doctoral student on a research project, get involved with undergraduate student opportunities at the RNI Innovation Lab

Kinesiology (MS)

Kinesiology focuses on the biological, developmental, social and behavioral bases of physical activity, recreation, sport and human performance. People with degrees in kinesiology typically specialize in one of several fields, including exercise physiology; sport and exercise psychology; motor behavior and control; history and philosophy of sport and exercise; biomechanics; sports and exercise sociology; physical education; recreation and leisure studies; and ergonomics.

Areas of emphasis:

Applied Sport Science

Resume builders:

Collaborate with a faculty member or doctoral student on a research project, get involved with undergraduate student opportunities at the RNI Innovation Lab

Data Analytics (MS)

Data analytics is the process of examining data sets to draw conclusions about the information they contain, increasingly with the aid of specialized systems and software. Data analysis establishes the goal of discovering useful material, supporting conclusions and decision-making within the sports industry. 

Areas of emphasis:

Applied Sport Science

Suggested minors:

Statistics, Business Data Analytics

Resume builders:

Intern with a sport information director, volunteer with a WVU sports team to help track statistics

Sport and Exercise Psychology (MS)

The Sport and Exercise Psychology master's program focuses on the study of how psychological training and wellness are critical components to an athlete's success. The program combines research and real-life practice to train future sport psychology professionals and represents the science-practice model of psychology. 

Areas of emphasis:

Coaching and Leadership

Resume builders:

Intern with WellWVU, collaborate with Sport and Exercise Psychology faculty members on potential research opportunities, work as a student tutor for WVU Athletics


The number of credits and courses required for admission into specific “Professional Preparation” areas can vary and will depend on the specific graduate program the student is working toward. Each profession and graduate program can have different required undergraduate courses. Your academic and faculty advisors will assist you with choosing the correct classes each semester so that you are ready to apply to the graduate program of your choice. To be sure that you are taking the correct list of elective courses, students are encouraged to identify the specific program(s) into which they would like to apply.

How To Apply

The Admission Process

How to apply

  • Apply to WVU: WVU Admissions Application
  • On your WVU Admissions materials indicate Coaching and Performance Sciences (CPS) as your major of interest.

Prerequisites and requirements

Incoming freshman and transfer students are directly admitted into the Coaching and Performance Sciences major upon meeting the University admission requirements.

To meet graduation requirements, students must remain in good academic standing at West Virginia University and earn the minimum grades necessary in each of their major requirement courses. Students must complete a graduation application by the deadline during the term in which they plan to graduate. For more information, students can contact their assigned academic advisor.

Additional program admission information

Admission application form deadline:

Students not granted admission may reapply the following semester with the same procedure in effect.

Learn more

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Reach out

Portrait of Lindsay Augustine
Lindsay Augustine
Assistant Dean for Student and Enrollment Services
Portrait of Michael Ryan outside
Michael J. Ryan
Teaching Assistant Professor

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