Coaching Education Program Was Part of Hargitt’s Playbook

Having coached high school football for 14 years, Rich Hargitt knows about the Friday night lights.

During the season, a typical Friday has him rising at 6 a.m. and teaching history classes throughout the day, followed by an evening schedule that includes not just the game but a team meal, a pre-game regimen, and post-game activities. For Coach Hargitt, the Friday night lights don’t go dim until around 2 a.m., following a careful review of game film.

That Friday night schedule—plus daily practices and weekend coaching meetings, not to mention summer leagues—is normal for coaches at the high school level, says Hargitt, who has worked as both head coach and offensive coordinator for schools in Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, producing school record holders in rushing and passing along the way.

“I now network through the Internet with coaches around the country on a myriad of topics that help me improve my coaching.”

Today, Hargitt is passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, South Carolina. During his first season with the Falcons in 2011, his team advanced to the state’s AAA playoffs for the first time. His quarterbacks put up some of the best numbers in the state.

During his coaching stint at a North Carolina high school, Hargitt pursued Ball State University’s online master’s degree with a coaching education specialization, graduating in 2010.

“I wanted something to help me advance in the coaching world,” says Hargitt of his search for a master’s program.

Hargitt was a grad student when his professor, Dr. Kimberley Bodey, advised him to revise a paper and submit it for publication. The article eventually appeared in a physical education journal with Hargitt and his professor as co-author.

Hargitt credits Ball State faculty with giving him the drive to publish. Since graduation, he has contributed to coaching journals and produced a six-part DVD series, The Spread Wing-T Offense. He is co-author of a manual which details the spread wing-T. A second book, 101 Air Raid Plays, and four more videos are scheduled for release in the summer of 2012.

Having become an authority on the high school passing game, Hargitt joined some of the top college and high school coaches in the nation as a guest speaker at a 2012 Nike Coach of the Year Clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina. His presentation is included in the 2012 Nike Coach of the Year Clinic Notes.

“For all of this, I thank Ball State and Dr. Bodey and [program coordinator] Dr. Larry Judge for suggesting that I publish that first journal article,” he says. “I am not sure any of that would have happened without the encouragement that I received from the program.”

Hargitt also liked the fact that professors required students to collaborate with their online classmates. He says the interaction with coaching peers brought class material to life and put him in the habit of networking.

“I now network through the Internet with coaches around the country on a myriad of topics that help me improve my coaching,” he says.

Hargitt, who earned his bachelor’s in history education degree at Illinois State University, says the online format made it possible for him to pursue graduate education.

“It was not an option to drive to a campus and sit there for class,” says Hargitt, who, at the time, was teaching a full load of U.S. history classes, coaching football as well as track and field, and fulfilling the roles of husband and father.

And seeing his share of weeknight lights, too.

Olympic-Class Athlete Succeeds with World-Class Degree

When Erin Gilreath, a 2004 U.S. Olympian in the hammer throw, began to consider life after world competition, she wasn’t just looking for a “good” graduate program in coaching education. She wanted a master’s degree that carried the description of “world class.”

“Their (professors’) experience at some of the highest levels of the sport give students an insider’s perspective that they might not otherwise have.”

“The biggest draw for me to Ball State was Dr. Larry Judge,” says Gilreath, praising the coordinator of master’s in coaching education program at Ball State. “His reputation drew me to Ball State. He’s an outstanding teacher and a tireless researcher, and he sets high standards of performance for his students.”

Judge coached Division I schools for nearly 20 years and is considered the country’s premier coach in track and field throwing events. And he’s just one of a number of Ball State professors who have won national and international recognition in the field of coaching education.

“Their experience at some of the highest levels of the sport give students an insider’s perspective that they might not otherwise have,” says Gilreath, who today is assistant track and field coach at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana.

She liked the fact that the program, delivered 100 percent online, covered everything from physical preparation and conditioning to philosophy and ethics.

“Ball State has designed the curriculum to be thorough, covering the eight domains of coaching,” says Gilreath.

The eight domains are critical areas of coaching competency identified by the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).

Gilreath says faculty members are attentive to student needs.

“They provided a ton of feedback on my assignments,” she says, “and if I had a question, they responded within 24 hours.”

She also had the opportunity to coauthor articles for publication with Judge.

“The résumé I built up with Dr. Judge during my tenure in the coaching program exceeded all of my expectations,” says Gilreath. “The research projects I worked on really helped me understand the science behind coaching.”

When Gilreath enrolled in the program in 2009, online study was ideal, since she was still training full time, coaching track part time at another university, and working at track camps during the summers.

Gilreath earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida with a major in Spanish and a minor in linguistics. As a Gator track and field star, she won a national title, winning the weight throw with the third best throw in collegiate history.

After college, Gilreath climbed in world rankings as a three-time USA indoor champion, two-time USA outdoor champion, 2004 U.S. Olympian, 2006 World Cup team member, and World Championship team member in 2005 and 2009. She established several world records in the indoor 20-pound weight throw and still holds the American record in the hammer throw.

Gilreath graduated with her master’s in coaching education in the spring of 2011. Just a few months later, she received her first full-time coaching offer from Indiana State.

“The Ball State experience has absolutely helped me achieve my coaching goals,” she says. “In terms of my coaching and my expectations, I feel like I’m giving my athletes a real Division I experience.”

With Coaching Ed Degree, Athletic Trainer Finds Common Ground on Sidelines

Michelle Lamb, a 2012 graduate of Ball State’s online master’s in coaching education program, insists she was a nerd as an undergraduate. She claims to have never missed a lecture or a study session. Skipping class? Out of the question.

So returning to school without setting foot on campus was a major adjustment for Lamb, whose determination had led to two bachelor’s degrees from Purdue—one in athletic training and another in physical education, and both with honors.

“I’m a ‘need to hear it, need to see it, need to write it down’ kind of learner,” says Lamb, head athletic trainer at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Indiana. But here she was, embarking on a program that she feared would be a lonely experience.

She questioned whether there would be as much collegiality in the online classroom as she found in the on-site classroom of her bachelor’s degree days.

Then there were all those papers assigned by instructors she’d never met. “How much are they really reading?” she wondered. “Am I doing this just to be doing it? Do these professors even care?”

Answers came quickly for Lamb, who says she and her classmates were soon relying on each other’s expertise, calling, texting, and “Facebooking” to discuss projects, papers, and deadlines.

Meanwhile, professors were responding to her writing through discussion boards. Eventually she heard from Dr. Larry Judge, coordinator of the graduate athletic coaching education program and associate professor, who wanted to co-author a paper with her.

“I really felt like I was getting more one-on-one attention than I was back in those big lecture halls,” says Lamb.

Discovering Ball State’s online MA with a coaching specialization was providential for Lamb. She wanted a premier program and, because her position involves evenings and most weekends, she was thrilled to hear that this world-class program was offered 100 percent online.

For her northern Indiana high school, Lamb evaluates, treats, and rehabilitates the injuries for 600 student athletes, working with a dozen coaches and 16 student athletic trainers at 18 athletic events. She’s on duty for all home games and travels with some teams to away games.

While working on her master’s, Lamb could be found reading textbooks during down times at practices. Although most students take two classes each semester, one summer she took three classes—and worked two jobs—to make up for a semester when she enrolled in one.

“There were times when I had lots of balls in the air,” she says. “I didn’t always catch all of them but I tried.”

Lamb says the coaching education program has helped her relate to her coaches.

“It’s important for me to be on the same page as my coaches for strength and conditioning and injury prevention programs,” she says.

For Lamb, classmate interaction has continued since graduation. She still gets calls from fellow grads that are coaches and need a cell phone assessment of their players’ injuries.

Professional Violinist Re-tools for a Lost Love – Baseball

Carol Laube
Master’s in Athletic Coaching Education

A career violinist, Carol Laube never planned to put down the bow. But when 35 years of playing professionally led to a debilitating nerve injury in her right arm and shoulder, Laube underwent months of physical therapy and had to reconsider her future as a musician.

“I knew that I loved teaching and ‘coaching’ my violin students, and I wanted to do something I loved as much as music—and that was baseball,” says Laube, who today is an assistant baseball coach at Galena High School in Reno, Nevada.

Hoping to coach the sport she loved, she began looking for an athletic coaching education program and chose Ball State University’s because other schools did not require an internship. Laube needed real experience.

Given a new base of knowledge

“Not having an athletic background where my degrees are concerned, it has given me a wonderful base of knowledge to draw from on a variety of subjects from motor function to marketing,” says Laube, who earned violin performance degrees from Rice University, DePaul University, and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Her musical résumé includes a three-year tour of the U.S. and Asia with the Mantovani Orchestra and six years with the Lawrence Welk Show in Branson, Missouri.

Laube added a master’s degree in athletic coaching education to her violin performance degrees in the summer of 2018. Because she has continued to work as associate concertmaster in the Reno Philharmonic and principal second in the Reno Chamber Orchestra, the program’s online format was ideal for her schedule.

Because she also conducts two youth orchestras and teaches students in her own private studio, she appreciated the fact that assignments, exams, and professors were accessible at all hours.

Class projects were “useful”

Laube says she benefited from uncompromising course work that encompassed aspects of coaching on and off the field, including marketing and administration.

“I enjoyed the rigor of the classes—and I liked the discipline that online study brings,” she says.

Assigned projects, such as writing an annual plan for baseball, drafting a personal coaching philosophy, and designing a baseball strength and conditioning program “have been incredibly useful,” says Laube.

In her current position, she coaches Galena High School’s outfielders. “I particularly enjoy creating great defenders that back one another up and manage themselves mentally during the game,” she says. “Coaching allows me to immerse myself in the details, the ‘little things’ that change good players into great players and good teams into great teams.”

Inspired by Coach Dad

Laube calls her dad her first “coach.” In 1950, Don Laube hitchhiked 45 miles away, to and from a major league tryout, three days in a row. As a 17-year-old, he was signed to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Browns.

All the same, his daughter is a lifetime Chicago Cubs fan, having grown up just outside of Chicago. “Though I left baseball behind as a kid, it was never far from my heart – ever,” she claims.

Laube hopes to eventually coach at a community college. “My long-term goal is to coach at a Division II university—and beyond.”

Wrigley Field, maybe?

Coach Continues to Learn and Grow with Master’s Degree in Athletic Coaching Education

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.

Judge Says London and Rio Olympics Were Pinnacle

Students in Larry Judge’s coaching education classes aren’t surprised when he tells stories from ground zero of a past Olympics. Judge, coordinator of Ball State’s graduate athletic coaching education program and professor of kinesiology, has coached at every Olympics or Paralympics since the Atlanta Games in 1996. In 2016 in Rio he had the privilege of coaching both Olympic and Paralympic athletes, including his second gold medal winner.

Judge recently shared what he’s learned from the Olympic stage and the satisfaction he’s gained from seeing his athletes succeed.

“I think students want instructors who have been in the trenches—actively coaching elite athletes, working at Olympic training camps, coaching internationally.”

Q: What are your greatest memories from the Olympics?

Certainly my first Games in Atlanta are the most memorable. I remember seeing the stadium completely full for the morning session of the first day of competition. I got goose bumps walking up to the stadium to meet my shot putter at the warm-up track. There is no comparison when it comes to the overall scope and size of the Olympics. It is the mecca of sport. With so many different sports going on at so many different venues simultaneously, it is true sports overload. But for a coach, it’s hard to beat.

The opportunity to serve as an assistant coach the second time in eight years for the United States Paralympic track and field team was also a great honor. Being able to assist a gold medalist, Jeremy Campbell, and the Paralympic Games record holder, David Blair, at the last two Games will forever remain a highlight and possibly the pinnacle of my Paralympic coaching career.

I think students want instructors who have been in the trenches—actively coaching elite athletes, working at Olympic training camps, coaching internationally,” says Larry Judge.

Q: How do you compare coaching Olympic to coaching Paralympic events?

In being part of two Paralympic Games coaching staffs, I have never worked with a more professional or committed group of coaches, managers, sports science, and medical staff and support team than we had in Rio for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I have often tried to clearly define what it means to be “athlete-centered.” I now have a visible example of the level of support that an athlete-centered system entails. The USOC [United States Olympic Committee], USATF [USA Track & Field], and every single person in the offices and on the ground were committed fully to providing every level of support that they could for Team USA.

There are probably more similarities than differences between the Paralympic and Olympic Games. The average American understands the magnitude of the Olympic Games. The Paralympic Games are the biggest stage in disabled sports. These athletes will have spent considerable time and resources to get to this place, the crowds are the biggest ever, and much is at stake.

One area where the Paralympic athletes—and really the Paralympic experience—is like the experience of Olympic athletes is the Paralympic Village. The Games present a “once in a lifetime performance” opportunity, making it challenging to stay focused amid a plethora of distractions while trying to perform to one’s capability. Staying focused on this highly charged competitive environment requires a set of mental abilities such as mental endurance, confidence, concentration, composure, and commitment. On an individual level, this requires the coach to get as much of an understanding of the complete individual, their individual story, the role the disability plays in their lives, and their performance history as possible.

Q: What was it like to coach two Gold medalists?

The level of professionalism and planning was astounding. I worked with two athletes that “cracked the code” and won the gold in the last two Games.

I think when anybody wins a gold medal or has extraordinary performance you trace it back and look at what led up to it. I look at Jeremy Campbell. In 2012 he was undefeated. When he came into the competition at London, he was able to withstand the British crowd and he made it his vision to beat the British thrower [Dan Greaves] to win that gold medal.

At the Pan American Games in 2015, when David Blair and Jeremy went against a newcomer on the scene from Trinidad and Tobago [Akeem Stuart], Jeremy finished second, David third. Then we started preparing for world championships in October 2015, which Jeremy won and David finished second. But from that point on, I saw very good training by Jeremy but I saw David making faster progress. This is what I mean by “cracking the code”—David giving attention to every detail, leaving nothing to chance, and having 100 percent commitment. I saw David doing what Jeremy was doing in 2012. He put on 20 pounds of body weight, managed his injuries, improved his technique, had full support of his family, he had a massage therapist set up after the World Championships, a chiropractor as personal coach, and he created a village around him. When we went to our last training camp, I could see David’s throwing fitness and speed in the ring was much better than Jeremy’s. Jeremy could see it too. The bitter side was Jeremy didn’t get a medal. He had some minor set-backs along the way and at the Games simply underperformed.

You look at David’s performance—setting a Paralympic record—and you say the guy cracked the code.

Q: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your participation at the Games?

Each season and every Games is different. You have to know your athletes enough to make sure that you’re not over reaching with expectations. At this level, it’s up to the individual. The coach can’t want it more than the athlete.

Q: How do students in your classroom benefit from your experiences?

This is a part of coaching you cannot learn in the textbooks. You can only teach this type of experience to students by being there. I think students want instructors who have been in the trenches—actively coaching elite athletes, working at Olympic training camps, coaching internationally. This is definitely a point of distinction for our online athletic coaching education master’s degree program. For some of our students, my experiences would be a fantasy camp. For example, as I worked with shot putter Felisha Johnson, who was just 2 ¾ inches short of making the Olympic finals, I got to see some of the other gold medalists and world-record holders prepare. And sometimes it wasn’t all that impressive. But if you want to win the gold, you have to be good enough even on your second best day. You have to be over prepared.

When you get up close and personal with these athletes, you see a common theme—purposeful dedication on the part of everyone involved in elite performance and preparation.

At the Olympic level, one thing you learn is how to take advantage of your support staff, whether medical, physiological, or psychological support. That is all factored into your program. We teach that in our athletic coaching education program—how to use your athletic trainers, chiropractors, therapists. The coach is the first line of defense. They have to observe everything: Are their hips out of line? Do the hamstrings look tight? Do you hear a cough? The coach is the one who has to have eyes and ears to the ground to make sure the right people are getting involved at the right time.

Q: What are your hopes for the 2020 Olympics?

I am going to continue to work with my Olympic and Paralympic Athletes. My passion for coaching keeps me involved. I will do my best to prepare athletes to be the best they can be and serve my profession as needed. It would be great to be in Tokyo coaching and preparing a group of athletes for the Podium. But, the experience I had in Rio—having athletes compete in both Games—will always be remembered. It was a unique, magical and life-altering exposure to sport at the highest level and afforded me some incredible perspectives on sport and my profession.

Maryland High School Coach Learns How to Get the Most Out of Her Teams

While scouting out master’s degrees in athletic coaching education a few years ago, Kristin Werdann, a high school coach in Silver Spring, Maryland, was intent on finding the program that would help her “get the most out of my teams.”

When she located that program through Ball State University’s online degree offerings, it didn’t disappoint.

After graduating from Ball State’s master’s degree with a coaching education specialization in 2009, Werdann was named the 2010 Gazette coach of the year by Maryland Community Newspapers for leading the John F. Kennedy High boys’ soccer team to its first division title in 25 years. According to that news organization, she turned the program into “a perennial contender.”

“The program taught me the importance of all aspects of athletics and how a coach who teaches not only the tactical skills, but also the mental skills, the strength and conditioning skills, and the leadership skills, will build strong athletes both on and off the field.” —Kristin Werdann, 2009 Ball State coaching education alum and a top high school coach in Maryland

“The knowledge I gained through Ball State helped me compete confidently with the veteran coaches in the county, and I truly earned their respect,” says Werdann, who teaches high school math when she’s not pacing the soccer sidelines. She has been the only female coach for boys’ soccer in the area for nine years.

Then in 2011, the Montgomery Blair High School girls’ softball team, where Werdann served as varsity assistant and pitching, outfield, and bunting coach, advanced to the state semifinals, after becoming regional champions for the first time in school history.

Plus, her 16 and up traveling summer softball team won a bid to the nationals.

Not only is she getting the most out of her teams, the Ball State coaching education master’s program, she believes, has helped make her a more well-rounded coach.

“The program taught me the importance of all aspects of athletics and how a coach who teaches not only the tactical skills, but also the mental skills, the strength and conditioning skills, and the leadership skills, will build strong athletes both on and off the field,” she says.

One of the biggest draws for Werdann was that she could do her graduate work without leaving her position on the sidelines—or the dugout—or the bench.

The 33-credit coaching education program is designed so that students can pursue a fast track, taking two classes each semester, and finish in two years. Werdann took that path and, between online classes, taught full time and coached junior varsity girls’ basketball, varsity girls’ softball, varsity boys’ soccer, and her summer softball squad.

Werdann says she has a passion for coaching and it was that interest that led her into teaching.

She grew up not far from Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and was a star athlete at Oneonta (New York) High School, playing soccer, softball and basketball. After high school, she earned her bachelor’s in mathematics-secondary education at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where she played basketball and softball.

Teaching credentials secured, Werdann moved to Silver Spring to launch her classroom and coaching career.

“As coaches we’re always being watched and imitated by our athletes,” says Werdann, who teaches clinics year-round.

She thinks Ball State’s coaching education program has also helped make her a role model for her coaching colleagues.

“I’ve shared my experience and knowledge with many coaches, and I hope to help others,” she says. “I like to stress the importance of organization, discipline, mental strength, ethics—all the underrated aspects of the game.”

Ball State is nationally recognized for our educator preparation programs, many of which are online. Learn more about all of Ball State’s online graduate program offerings in education, counseling, and psychology.

Re-thinking Physical Education

Junior high teacher Andrea McMurtry put her focus on everyday wellness and lifelong fitness and won a National Association of Sports and Physical Education teaching award in the process. Ball State’s online master’s in coaching education helped her achieve her goals.

“I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to share my passion for health and physical education with young people.”

MAKING COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Accustomed to running the four and a half miles home after her school day and throughout the neighborhood on weekends, Andrea McMurtry, a physical education teacher at Fishers Junior High in Fishers, Indiana, has always enjoyed a level of visibility in her community.

So when McMurtry won National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) Teacher of the Year for its Midwest district in 2013, she began using her visibility with educators at workshops all over the country as well as teachers in her own building and district.

“I wanted something that would make a difference in my program,” she says. In fact, the master’s degree, offered 100 percent online, helped her rethink her approach to physical education instruction.

LIFELONG HEALTH AND WELLNESS

McMurtry redesigned her district’s health and physical education curriculum so that junior high schoolers take a year-long wellness class that includes three days of 45 minutes of strenuous activity
and two days of classroom content emphasizing lifelong health and wellness.

“I want my students to enjoy being at the gym and learn to set their own fitness goals,” says McMurtry. Based on assessments recorded in their wellness books, Fishers’ students work daily to improve their levels of fitness.

VALUABLE RESOURCES

The master’s program also altered her coaching philosophy, thanks to texts such as Double Goal Coaching and a web resource known as Positive Coaching Alliance, both of which promote the best practices of elite coaches and the latest research in sports psychology.

“I took those resources to heart and used them with my staff, my own teams, my son’s first grade baseball team, even with my relatives who coach,” says McMurtry, with a laugh. She was coaching three sports and teaching full time while enrolled in Ball State’s program.

The coaching education degree also made her a believer in online education. In addition to her position at Fishers Junior High, she is a lead teacher for health classes with the Indiana Online Academy. The academy provides high school classes that are developed and taught by licensed Indiana teachers for partnering schools.