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Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology (SEP)

The Ph.D. program in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology is recognized as one of the premier training programs in the world. The SEP doctoral program combines academic rigor and real-life practice to train future sport psychology professionals. The comprehensive curriculum represents the science-practice model of psychology.

This Ph.D. program, which includes a concurrent Master's program in Community Counseling, is designed to train students to become academic professionals who excel in teaching and research. As important as physical training is for an athlete, psychological training and wellness are critical components to their success. Elite sport organizations and athletes use consultants to help with this training. The doctoral degree in sport, exercise and performance psychology at WVU prepares students for this role. The program provides a comprehensive curriculum delivered by highly qualified faculty. 

Students initiate their own line of research and work with faculty to produce publishable manuscripts. With a combination of research and applied aspects of sport, exercise and performance psychology, the program prepares sport psychology consultants, researchers and future faculty members.

Because graduates will be license-eligible they may pursue a counseling or consulting career with full-time applied work. Students can apply for and be accepted into this program straight from a bachelor’s degree or after the completion of a master’s degree. Those students coming straight from a bachelor’s degree will complete a master’s degree in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology and another master’s degree in Community Counseling along the way to finishing their Ph.D. Students complete three research benchmarks and take part in multiple supervised internships working with athletic teams or in applied health settings during the program. These experiences allow students to gain the experiences necessary to be successful upon graduation. Many students work 20 hours/week during the semester as a graduate assistant either teaching, providing, service or conducting research. In return for these contributions, graduate assistants receive a tuition waiver and stipend.

What our alumni have to say:

  • John Lubker

    "WVU provided me with the opportunity to develop both as a professional and as an academic. My success is a direct result of the training and guidance I received while a student in the SEP program."

    John L.

    PH.D. SEP, 2006
  • Amanda V

    "The education and training I was fortunate to receive in my doctoral sport and exercise psychology program was exceptional. Moreover, the mentorship provided to me by the faculty then, and even now, remains unmatched."

    Amanda V.

    PH.D. SEP, 2004
  • Lindsay Blom

    "The SEP faculty helped me develop holistically as a scholar and person, with high expectations and a strong desire to achieve. Dr. Jack Watson provided mentorship with autonomy and independence, and support through challenges. While at WVU, I was offered a strong classroom education, mentored practicum, research training and teaching experience."

    Lindsey B.

    PH.D. SEP, 2005

What you'll study

The SEP doctoral program combines academic rigor and real-life practice to train future sport psychology professionals. The comprehensive curriculum represents the science-practice model of psychology.

Foundational Courses

Students will plan of studies committee to finalize their doctoral curriculum with all courses needed to complete the requirements for the SEP doctoral degree and the master’s degree in counseling. For students entering the PhD program with a Bachelor’s degree, they will be required to complete a thesis-equivalent data-based research project for submission to a peer-reviewed journal by their fifth semester. This is required before moving into the doctoral degree coursework. In all, students complete 65-75 credit hours that cover traditional SEP coursework, professional practice courses and research methods. 

Professional Courses

Internship and practicum opportunities in the SEP doctoral program are founded on the scientist-practitioner model of education and training. This approach provides experiences that extend classroom learning to the real world of sport psychology. Because the practice of sport psychology involves functioning in a variety of work environments, opportunities are provided for students to work in a range of academic and applied settings.


Throughout the program students select a line of research that coincides with their area of interest. The SEP doctoral degree program culminates with a dissertation research project, digging into an important topic in sport psychology and kinesiology. The dissertation will be in the form of two or three publishable papers researching the chosen topic. Students will present their dissertation in a public forum. The dissertation committee (of five faculty members) must approve of the dissertation to be fully accepted.

Earn a dual degree in counseling

Once admitted into this program, students are dual enrolled into the master's degree program in community counseling. Courses for these two programs are completed simultaneously. Upon completion students are eligible to sit for licensure as a a licensed professional counselor in most states. 

Program faculty

Who you'll learn from

The WVU SEP program boasts a large faculty dedicated to the profession of sport psychology. Program faculty feature diverse backgrounds and experiences within teaching, research and applied practice.

  • Clement

    Damien Clement

    Professional Highlights

    • Assistant Dean, WVU Honors College (July 2017 – Present)
    • Resident Faculty Leader, Summit Hall (2015-16)
    • Recipient West Virginia University Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching (2015)
    • Recipient Association for Applied Sport Psychology Dorothy V. Harris Award (2014)
  • brookes 

    Dana Brooks

    Professional Highlights

    • Past-president of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (now Society of Health and Physical Educators).
    • Past-president of Midwest District AAHPERD and West VirginiaAAHPERD
    • Fellow in the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • voelker

    Dana Voelker

    Professional Highlights

    • Studies body image, eating, and exercise behaviors in athletes
    • Teaches sport and exercise psychology and research methods
    • Certified Consultant of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology
  • Ed Etzel

    Edward Etzel

    Professional Highlights

    • Certified Consultant, Association for Applied Sport Psychology
    • Fellow, Association of Applied Sport Psychology
    • Listed on US Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry
    • Olympic Gold Medalist, Shooting 1984
    • WVU Athletics Sport Hall of Fame
  • Watson

    Jack Watson

    Professional Highlights

    • Licensed Psychologist
    • Past-President, Association for Applied Sport Psychology
    • Fellow, Association for Applied sport Psychology and American Psychological Association, Divison 47
  • giacobbi 

    Peter Giacobbi

    Professional Highlights

    • H-Index of scientific productivity of 23
    • Active advocate of science education, and public health.
  • Sam Zizzi

    Sam Zizzi

    Professional Highlights

    • Twice recognized as Most Outstanding Teacher in CPASS
    • Recognized as the Dr. Pat Fehl Endowed Professor to focus efforts on the health and wellness of WV citizens
    • Published one of the first books on Mindfulness in Sport and Exercise Psychology (2017) with friend and colleague Mark Andersen
    • Scott Barnicle Profile Photo

      Scott Barnicle

      Professional Highlights

      • Conducted research on the results of a long-term applied mental training program with basic training soldiers in the United States Army.
      • Served in applied sport psychology roles with Boston College, University of Idaho, University of South Carolina.
      • Dissertation evaluated a sport enjoyment-focused mental training program within Division I women's soccer.
    Beyond The Classroom

    Field Experiences and Research

    Collaborate with seven faculty members

    The program boasts seven faculty members all of whom are trained in sport, exercise and percormancepsychology. These faculty members have different training backgrounds and research specialties allowing them to supervise the various research and applied interests of the students. 

    Conduct personalized research

    Instead of being required to pursue research that aligns with faculty research, students may choose topics that mesh with their goals and passions. Students are encouraged to identify topics that will help them reach their professional goals.

    Common alumni research focuses include: 

    • Performance enhancement of athletes
    • Physical activity and wellness promotion
    • Athlete career development and life transitions
    • Psychology of injury
    • Body image in sport
    • Youth sport

    Field Experiences

    • Internships for students at Division I, II, III schools
    • Work with youth sport programs
    • Experience in sport-based psychoeducational programming and group facilitation
      • Running groups related to body image
      • Work in counseling center doing counseling and neurofeedback
      • Other counseling facilities

    Internship and Practica Opportunities

    Internship and practica opportunities are founded on the scientist-practitioner model of education and training. Students are involved in applied practica and internship activities throughout their program of study. The purpose of this approach is to provide experiences that extend classroom learning (science) to the real world of sport psychology (practice). Because the practice of sport psychology involves functioning in a variety of work environments, opportunities are provided for students to work in a range of applied settings. Students are supervised on-campus by one or more licensed psychologists or certified consultants in the program and by other professionals off-campus. 

    Applied experiences available to students 

    University Athletic Teams

    Method of contact:  Direct or indirect contact with/from coach
    Nature of experience:  Needs assessment, psycho-educational workshops, team building, individual consultations 
    Experience with groups?  Yes
    Experience with individuals?  Yes

    High School Athletic Teams

    Method of contact:  Direct contact with coach
    Nature of experience:  Needs assessment, psychoeducational workshops, team building, coach and athlete consultations
    Experience with groups?  Yes
    Experience with individuals? Yes

    Applied Exercise Psychology Experiences

    Method of contact:  Within the PEIA weight management program.   View additional details       
    Nature of experience:  Phone-based (and sometimes in person) consultations with adults trying to lose weight and increase their physical activity levels
    Experience with groups?  No  
    Experience with individuals?  Yes

    Student Assistance Program

    Method of contact:  Direct contact with supervisor (counseling)  
    Nature of experience: Individual counseling with athletes on drug/alcohol issues and anger management
    Experience with groups? Yes  
    Experience with individuals? Yes

    Community Counseling/Mental Health Center

    Method of contact:  Direct contact with counseling center  
    Nature of experience:  Individual psychotherapy, group exercise therapy   
    Experience with groups?  Yes  
    Experience with individuals?  Yes

    University Learning Centers

    Method of contact:  Graduate assistantships  
    Nature of experience:  Peer advising, stress and time management, study skills workshops, athletic and general student population       
    Experience with groups?  Yes
    Experience with individuals?  Yes

    Career Preparation

    After Graduation

    Increased professional marketability

    Graduates leave the program with advanced skills in the areas of research, practice and teaching. Students are exposed to each of these areas throughout the curriculum. In addition, students are dual enrolled in a master's degree in community counseling which allows them to sit for counseling licensure upon graduation. 

    Leave the program as a practitioner

    While this is a PhD program which must have a research focus, students gain a large number of applied experiences working with a diverse group of athletes at the youth, collegiate and professional levels. As a result, most students accrue more than 400 hours of applied experiences allowing them to meet the requirements for AASP certification (CC-AASP) upon graduation. 

    Expanded networks

    WVU boasts one of the largest SEP alumni networks in the nation with former students working in most areas of the sport, exercise and performance psychology profession. Alumni take a genuine interest in current students and their future success. 

    Example employers and job titles of graduates

    • Ian Connole, Head of Sport Psychology, Kansas State University
    • Adrian Ferrera, practitioner with special forces soldiers, Fort Bragg
    • Michelle McAlarnen, assistant professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato
    • Raymond Prior, private practitioner, Springfield, Missouri
    • Olivier Schmid, faculty member, University of Bern, Switzerland
    How To Apply

    The Admission Process

    How to apply

    • Create an account and apply online through  WVU Graduate Admissions
    • Submit application along with all content listed below in the supplemental information tab by December 15
    • Pay the $60 application fee
    • An opportunity for an on-campus or Skype interview will be extended to a select group of students. Interviews normally take place in February

    Students should NOT apply to the master's program in counseling at this time. They should wait to apply once they are accepted into the Ph.D. program. Admission fees to the counseling program will be waived. 

    Prerequisites and requirements

    Applicants can seek admission to the Ph.D. program with either a baccalaureate degree or master’s degree. In addition to the WVU graduate admission criteria, the program specific materials and supplemental requirements are as follows:

    Admission Criteria:

        • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (4-point scale)
        • Minimum master’s degree GPA of 3.5 (4-point scale)
        • Current resume or curriculum vitae
        • Three letters of recommendation
        • GRE scores: preferred percentiles at or above 50th percentile for verbal and quantitative, at or above the 60th percentile for analytical writing
        • Professional goal statement: 1-2 written pages on professional background, goals, and reasons for seeking admission to the doctoral program in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, along with concurrent admission to the master’s degree program in Counseling
        • On-campus or online interview for those invited

    The previously listed materials are submitted online as part of the WVU Graduate Admission Application. Applicants must submit their official copies of transcripts and test scores directly to the WVU Office of Admissions, PO Box 6009, Morgantown, WV 26506.

    All graduate students must achieve and maintain a 3.0 GPA or better (4-point scale) prior to graduation.

    Applicants whose first language is not English must provide proof of English language proficiency. WVU accepts either the TOEFL or the IELTS for this purpose. Learn more about our English language proficiency requirements.

    Additional program admission information

    Admission application form deadline: December 15

    Review process

    In mid-January, an admissions committee will evaluate applicant credentials. Based upon review, a limited number of applicants will be invited to the WVU campus for a personal interview with the admissions committee and current students. Applicants who are unable to attend will be asked to participate in an online interview. Generally, 2-4 applicants are admitted each academic year.