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Department of Sport, Exercise, Recreation, and Kinesiology

College of Education

Sport Physiology and Sport Performance PhD

PURPOSE (Goals and Objectives): This doctoral program is designed to produce leaders in sport science research and research-driven coach education. 

Mike Stone Ph.D.
Graduate Program Coordinator for Sport Physiology & Performance Ph.D.
Phone: 423-439-5796
Office: E113 MSHA Athletic Center
More information about what we do can be found on the Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education webpage

Specific objectives for the program are to:

  • Produce transformational sport science research and coach education/research;
  • Produce pioneering research applied to coaching;
  • Provide a background of knowledge of sport physiology that translates into quality coaching;
  • Advocate for using a scientific approach to address issues surrounding athletics performance;
  • Emphasize that a coach's primary responsibilities are for athletes' well-being and achievement, becoming the best that he or she can be;
  • Reorganize perceptions to understand that research is a part of coaching; and
  • Elevate the academic status of coaches in the educated community.

IMPACT:  This Ph.D. program is ground-breaking and distinctive in the US and will impact education and research for two professions:  sport scientists and coaches.   ETSU expects that this program will contribute to national interest and awareness of the need to academically educate sport scientists and coaches and to target athletic performance rather than participation.  This single refocus is expected to lower the incident of sport injuries and increase levels of performance achievement for athletes, thereby supporting sport through research and education. 

The doctoral program is integrated with the ETSU Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education (CESSCE).  The students will have the opportunity to be involved in clinics for coaches, continuing education programs, and activities that permeate the sports community, from the elite athlete to the grade-school child who participates in school or recreational sports.  Objectives of the CESSCE include improvement of athlete performance as well as how to better understand the role of sport and sport performance in the health and well being of the nation as a whole and the impact of disability, injury and disease on sport participation and performance.   The specialized research possibilities could easily yield findings that would impact quality of life of athletes and the general public.

CURRICULUM: The program requires a minimum of 72 semester hours, distributed as follows:

Curriculum Component
Hours Required

Major Field Core


Guided Electives


Total (minimum)

Concentrations(s) and Associated Electives:  There are two concentrations:  Sport Physiology and Sport Performance.

  • The Sport Physiology concentration has 15 required semester credit hours and a minimum of 9 credit hours of guided electives
  • The Sport Performance concentration has 15 required semester credit hours and a minimum of 9 credit hours of guided electives.

Sport physiology is concerned primarily with how underlying mechanisms can be manipulated by variations in training to produce specific performance enhancements.  For example, testosterone (an anabolic hormone) and cortisol (a catabolic hormone) are known to impact physiological variables such as lean body mass and body composition, strength, explosiveness, and psychological variables such as arousal.  A student may investigate the effects of manipulating training variables (e.g., volume of work and intensity of work) so that the T:C ratio is maximized at appropriate time, such as a conference or national championship. 

Sport performance is concerned primarily with ways in which individuals and teams can enhance competitive performance that may include nutrition, technique analysis, sport psychology, strength and conditioning training, and long-term athlete monitoring.  For example, a student in the Sport Performance concentration might investigate the acute and chronic effects of whole body vibration on the flexibility and competitive performance of elite gymnasts.

Credit Hour Distribution Summary:

Discipline Specific Knowledge

Research Tools


Research and Dissertation



All Students are required to take these Core courses.  

Rubric/Number Core Course Titles

Credit Hours

PEXS 6520 Instrumentation in Exercise and Sport Science 3
PEXS 6600 Sport Conditioning I 3
PEXS 6610 Sport Physiology I: Muscle Metabolism and Hormonal Control 3
PEXS 6620 Sport Physiology II: Cardiovascular and Respiratory Physiology 3
PEXS 7000 Research Design and Statistics for Sport Science 3
PEXS 7010 Advanced Sport Nutrition and Ergogenic Aids 3
PEXS 7030 Seminar in Sport Science and Performance I 3
PEXS 7430 Seminar in Sport Science and Performance II 3
PEXS 7600 Sport Conditioning II 3
PEXS 7830 Seminar in Sport Science and Performance III 3
MDED 6010 Biometry and Biomedical Computing I 3
  Total Core Hours 33

The following tables identify the required courses and potential guided electives for each concentration.

Sport Physiology

Rubric/Number Course Title Credit Hours
PEXS 6270 Sport Biomechanics 3
PEXS 7020 Research in Sport Physiology I 3
PEXS 7420 Research in Sport Physiology II 3
PHYT 6630 Neuromotor Control 6
  Required Concentration Hours 15

Guided Elective(s) Based on the needs of the student (examples)

Rubric/Number Course Title Credit Hours
PEXS 5040 Motor Control and Learning 3
PEXS 6280 Sport Skills and Tactics 3
MDED 6020 Biometry and Biomedical Computing II 3
PHYT 6103 Biomechanics 3
PHYT 6405 Pharmacology I for Physical Therapy 2
PHYT 7706 Pharmacology II for Physical Therapy 1
SALM 6235 Sport Psychology 3
BIOM 6010 Biomedical Science I Molecular Organization of Cells 3
BIOM 6020 Biomedical Science II Gene Expression and Regulation 3
BIOM 6030 Biomedical Science III- Cellular Anatomy and Physiology 3
BIOM 6040 Biomedical Science IV Cell and Organ Interactions 3
BIOM 6210 Scientific Communication I 1
BIOM 6220 Scientific Communication II 1
BIOM 6300 Scientific Ethics 1
  Minimum Elective Hours 9

Sport Performance

Rubric/Number Course Title Credit Hours
PEXS 6680 Management Skills for Coaching 3
PEXS 7120 Research in Sport Performance 3
PEXS 7400 Internship in Sport Physiology and Performance 3-9
  Required Concentration Hours 15


Rubric/Number Course Title Credit Hours
PEXS 7960 Dissertation 3-6
  Minimum Dissertation Hours 15


The focus of a dissertation for the Ph.D. in Sport Physiology and Performance depends on the concentration: Sport Physiology or Sport Performance. Students in both concentrations use knowledge of physiology and research to better understand and enhance sport performance. However, students in the Sport Physiology concentration focus on translational research concerning how alterations in physiology impact sport performance, whereas the students in the Sport Performance concentration studies primarily how to maximally enhance performance using a research-based approach.

Admission Requirements:

Applicants, including international students, seeking admission to the Ph.D. in Sport Physiology and Performance degree program must fulfill all the requirements for admission to the ETSU School of Graduate Studies and adhere to other school processes, procedures, and requirements as delineated in the catalog. Presented in the Table PS1 are the School of Graduate Studies admission requirements and the additional requirements for the Ph.D. in Sport Physiology and Performance program.

School of Graduate Studies Admission Requirements and Additional Requirements for the Ph.D. in Sport Physiology and Performance

Program Admission Requirements

Admission to the Ph.D. degree program in Sport Physiology and Performance is competitive and based on scholarship, letters of recommendation, and evidence of potential success. Students seeking admission to the program must meet the general admission requirements of the Graduate School. In addition, the following specific admissions criteria apply:

  1. Vita or resume
  2. Personal essay detailing career and educational goals and potential area of interest for the dissertation.
  3. Official scores on the general test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  Preferred scores are above the 50% percentile for verbal and quantitative sections.
  4. Four letters of recommendation from individuals who can address the applicants academic and professional achievements.  At least two recommendations must be from former college instructors.
  5. Masters degree (thesis preferred) or bachelors degree (strong research component) in Biology, Exercise Science, or related discipline from an accredited university with an overall GPA of 3.4 for applicants with a masters degree or 3.0 for applicants with a bachelors degree on a 4.0 scale. It is recommended that entering students have an undergraduate background in statistics, general chemistry, general biology, human anatomy and physiology. Students admitted with a B.S. or M.S. degree are expected to meet all doctoral requirements, including course prerequisites or equivalencies.* Thus, the program of study for a student entering with a B.S. degree will exceed the 72 credit hour minimum and extend the program of study.
  6. A personal or phone interview with members of the admission committee. Factors to be considered in the interview include academic success, evidence of leadership skills, writing skills, computer skills, and oral communication skills.

*Course prerequisites or equivalencies needed for the Ph.D. in Sport Physiology and Performance are:

  • PEXS 3610 Exercise Physiology I,
  • PEXS 4620 Exercise Physiology II,
  • PEXS 5655 Sports Nutrition and Ergogenic Aids
  • PEXS 5670 Research Design and Analysis.

Once all pertinent application materials are complete, the School of Graduate Studies forwards the application package to the program. Applications are not evaluated until all materials have been received. The program admissions committee reviews the materials, interviews the student, and completes an overall evaluation of the applicants ability to complete advanced study. Recommendations regarding admissions to the program are made to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies who makes final decisions on admissions. The program can recommend conditional admission to promising applicants not meeting minimum requirements for GPA and prerequisites.

For students seeking a funded doctoral fellowship, completed applications should be submitted by February 15 for competitive review.  The program decisions for financial support are usually made in March or April.  Students not seeking funding need to apply by June 1 for admission for the fall semester.  Applications can be made electronically via the Web at

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