Career ProfileAthletic Coach

What They Do

Athletic coaches give athletes the skills and abilities they need to excel at their specific sport. Regardless of whether they’re coaching a team or individual sport, coaches teach fundamentals, and then hone their abilities to help athletes succeed. They organize and facilitate practice and use each session to focus on an athlete’s form, technique and stamina. Coaches are also tasked with teaching their charges the value of sportsmanship and teamwork, and help fuel an athlete’s competitive drive.

Successful coaches track and assess the strategies of opposing teams/athletes. This way, they’re able to teach their team/individual athlete techniques to counteract their opposition. Coaches will also create plays for their team to practice; then, during practice or a game, a coach will call the correct play needed to for the situation.
Other specific job duties for athletic coaches include:
• Planning tactics for each player
• Supplying advice and motivation
• Planning and implementing strength and conditioning programs
• Keeping track of athletes’ and opposing teams’ performance
• Recruiting possible additions to the team and arranging incentives for them to join

Expectations: Salary and Career Advancement

While salaries will vary based on experience, location, the size of the school and other factors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in May 2012, the median annual wage for coaches and athletic scouts was $28,360. This career is projected to grow 15 percent by the year 2022. The above-average growth can be attributed to the growing interest students have in participating in high school and college athletics.

Typically, coaches begin their careers as assistant coaches in order to gain the skills and experience of a head coach. Successful schools with extensive athletic programs typically list this as a requirement. To become a coach for a professional athletic team, it usually takes years of experience and a successful record of wins. It also helps if a candidate was particularly successful as an athlete in the sport for which he or she would like to coach.

Work Environment

According to the BLS, the majority of all coaches worked for elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges, universities and professional schools at the state, local and private levels in 2012. The rest of employed coaches worked in the amusement, gambling, religious and grant making industries.

Obviously, coaches are many times required to work outside and are exposed to all types of weather conditions. They are often away from their families, as they must travel to attend ‘away’ games. This is especially the case for those who coach professional teams or athletes. Given this, coaches find themselves working irregular hours – evenings, holidays and weekends are common. A coach may work more than 40 hours per week when his or her sport is in season.

Education, Special Skills and Other Qualifications

It is common for coaches to be required to have a bachelor’s degree and extensive knowledge of their sport. Degrees can usually be in any subject, but a B.A. or M.S. in Exercise Science will take a potential coach far in finding lucrative employment opportunities.

High schools typically hire teachers within their school to fulfill coaching jobs, but sometimes they are hired from the outside. The majority of high school athletic associations require coaches to be certified – this means coaches must be at least 18 and be trained in CPR. Some states also require coaches to be educated in sports safety and coaching fundamentals. College and professional coaches are required to have experience playing the sport they coach, usually at a high level.