While the physical nature of sport appeals to many people, there are underlying aspects of the science and preparation that most people never consider. As the newly announced assistant athletic director for applied health and performance science for Penn State Athletics department, Josh Nelson knows the power and importance of science in sport first-hand. Hailing from Independence, Va., Nelson has had a long journey within the field of health and sport sciences in preparation for this role.
Nelson, Ed.D. (2017) Coaching and Teaching Studies, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, served as a graduate teaching assistant for West Virginia University from 2009-2012. In between his time in Morgantown, he worked in athletics at multiple institutions, including Emory & Henry College and Baylor University.
In the multidisciplinary performance field, Nelson uses data to optimize the highest quality of health, well-being and performance for student-athletes. Nelson leads and develops novel and innovative training and monitoring methods to ensure maximum success for these individuals, on and off the field.
Nelson credits Kristen Dieffenbach, associate professor and director of the Center for Applied Coaching and Sport Science, as his mentor and reason he chose to continue his education at WVU. “When I was exploring options for a doctoral degree in coaching, I continued to find Dr. Dieffenbach’s name everywhere I looked. I was so fortunate to study under her during my time at West Virginia,” he said.
Nelson says Dieffenbach’s guidance has made a huge difference in preparing and supporting him in his ultimate career goals. “Dr. D has been such a tremendous influence on me as a coach and as a professional. She always made time for me and provided support in things in and outside of school. I truly look up to her as a coach and an educator, but also appreciate her friendship and the time she invested in me as a person,” he adds.
According to Nelson, CPASS was instrumental in his success. His favorite thing about Morgantown was the ‘quality’ people within CPASS and WVU that push him to succeed. He says that the faculty and staff care for the student as individuals.
As a professional in the sport field, Nelson has worked his way up through various positions. This is common for anyone who has dreams of working in the sport industry. "It is essential to start small and grow over time,” he said.
Dieffenbach says that as a student, Nelson had a passion for learning, helping others and exploring challenges from different angles. "His incredible work ethic, sense of professionalism and natural gifts as a teacher and leader make him the perfect hire for Penn State’s program," she said.
Nelson advises current students who want to get into athletic coaching and strength and conditioning to establish a foundation in many areas early on. “This multidisciplinary approach will allow you to understand different segments of development including the physical, mental, technical and social,” he added.
Personally, Nelson credits his wife and son for their important support. “I have an incredible wife, Rachel, who is a park ranger with the National Park Service and a little boy who is a firecracker. I could not do what I do without them,” he said.