For junior high and high school athletic coach and educator Wes Padilla, sports are more than a leisure activity or learning experience, they are a way of life. They were a core tenant of Padilla’s life growing up in southwest Wyoming. From Little Leagues and pick-up games to varsity sports and athletics, Padilla excelled on the field; however, during his freshmen year of college, an injury put him on the sidelines where, for the first time, he was able to watch and observe a different side of the game: the coaching.

This experience reshaped Padilla’s perspective and athletic coaching became his new central focus. Upon graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, Padilla pursued this passion with coaching positions in Rock Springs, WY, and later in Ogden, UT. Padilla, however, was not satisfied to remain stagnant in his experience and wanted to deliver a more consistent and dependent athletic program to his students and athletes.

“I saw a lot of coaches who were doing the same thing every year and getting stale. I wanted to increase my knowledge, get better, and earn more credibility.”

He, therefore, decided to pursue an online master’s degree in athletic coaching. Padilla researched schools to find the right one for him. He narrowed his list down to a few select schools, one of which was Ball State University. He liked what he learned about the school and its master’s degree program in athletic coaching education, specifically the people noting, “The professors and academic advisors [were] willing to communicate and help me out in the application process. I found it very relieving that there was a lot of support.”

One such professor was Dr. Larry Judge, coordinator of the Graduate Athletic Coaching Education Program. Through their conversations, Padilla discovered a connection to Judge that assured him Ball State was the right choice for an online master’s program.

“Wyoming is a rural state and it is uncommon to find others who are passionate or have connections with it. Dr. Judge was a former University of Wyoming coach and were able to talk about Wyoming and share some common ground. I had a great feeling after that conversation and felt like it was all meant to be.”

Backed by a great experience interacting with and learning from the faculty and advisors, Padilla officially enrolled in online courses at Ball State. He soon discovered what he was learning was directly applicable to his current position.

“I have been able to directly use the information [in this program] on a day-to day-basis. The knowledge I have gained has made me a more effective coach and educator.”

Padilla continued to take courses and went on to earn his master’s in athletic coaching education in December 2017. He hopes to be an example to his student athletes on the importance of the continuous support of growth and learning.

“No matter where you are in respect to experience, you are always capable of growing and developing a deeper understanding in your profession.”

The master’s degree in athletic coaching education offered at Ball State Online is designed for coaches and athletic instructors who want to become better, more effective coaches and educators. It was the first such program to go online in the country and continues to break ground on innovative teaching methods and licensure.