A coach organizes amateur and professional athletes and teaches them the fundamentals of a sport. He or she trains them to compete as a team or individually. Some coaches recruit new players for college and professional teams. This is known as scouting.
Coaches and scouts held approximately 243,000 jobs in 2010.* Most work for educational institutions, including high schools and colleges. Others work for community organizations. Professional teams also employ coaches.
Since games are often on evenings, weekends and holidays, coaches can expect to work during hours that many other people do not. Those whose work involves outdoor sports may have to deal with exposure to inclement weather.
Coaches who work in high schools are usually teachers and therefore must meet all the qualifications for that occupation, including having a bachelor's degree. To learn more, please read How to Become a Teacher. Those who work in a college usually need a bachelor's degree too. Degree programs specifically related to coaching include exercise and sports science, physiology, kinesiology, nutrition and fitness, physical education, and sports medicine.
Most employers expect those they hire to have participated in the sport they want to coach. High school coaches, particular those who work in public schools, usually need to be certified. This typically requires training in CPR and first aid and sometimes in sports safety and coaching fundamentals. Some private schools do not require certification.
In addition to knowledge about the sport and certification, coaches also need certain soft skills. Most importantly they must be strong leaders who can influence their players. Excellent communication skills allow them to effectively teach and convey information to their team. During games, coaches must be able to quickly make decisions. Good interpersonal skills will allow them to relate to their players.
Many coaches begin their careers as assistant coaches to gain the necessary knowledge and experience needed to become a head coach. Head coaches at larger schools that strive to compete at the highest levels of a sport require substantial experience as a head coach at another school or as an assistant coach. To reach the ranks of professional coaching, it usually takes years of coaching experience and a winning record in the lower ranks.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment of coaches to increase much faster than the average for all occupations through 2022. There will be a lot of competition for college and professional coaching jobs however.
Athletic coaches earned a median annual salary of $28,360 in 2012 (US)*.
A Day in an Athletic Coach's Life:
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for coaching positions found on Indeed.com:
- Initiate problem resolution
- Assist in scouting and recruiting activities.
- Monitor individual student athlete progress to ensure academic eligibility.
- Teach and instruct all aspects of game.
- Promote sportsmanship and foster good character in student athletes.
- Supervise students in practice areas, locker rooms and on buses.
- Encourage student participation and establish rapport.
- Maintain equipment and uniforms.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Athletes, Coaches, Umpires, and Related Workers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/coaches-and-scouts.htm (visited January 16, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Coaches and Scouts, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/27-2022.00 (visited January 16, 2014).
*Note: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics combines wage and employment data for Coaches and Scouts.