How to Become a Sports Coach

Four Methods:Coaching Children’s SportsBecoming a Middle School or High School CoachCoaching College SportsCoaching Professional Sports

If you love sports, coaching a team can be a fun and rewarding way to be involved. From working with children as a volunteer to the professionals at the highest levels of the sport, coaching requires someone with a love of the game and working with people of various ages. Think about the level of sport you want to coach, and take the first steps toward your coaching career with these suggestions.

Method 1
Coaching Children’s Sports

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    Contact the league in which you want to coach. Whether it’s soccer, basketball, baseball, or some other children’s sport, you will need to be vetted by the league’s administration. Coaches will need to be able to pass a background check, have an interview with the administration, and be willing to have the administration interview others about your qualifications and interest.[1]
    • You’ll need reliable transportation so you can be sure to get to games.
    • You should have some basic knowledge of the sport and its rules.
    • Think carefully about whether you want to coach your own children, or whether it would be better to be in a position of authority over children you don’t know.
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    Be good with children. If you are not comfortable with children, this is not the job for you. But if you love working with kids and like sports, this could be a wonderful position for you. Having rapport with children is even more important than any sports or coaching knowledge you may have.[2]
    • Be able to communicate well with children -- you’re going to need to keep them under control and direct them.
    • Be patient. Children often need a lot of practice and explanation to get to a point where they can play a sport adequately. Be ready to explain things over and over.
    • Have a sense of humor. Anything involving children requires an ability to be flexible and find the humor in a situation. Kids also tend to respond well to jokes and humor.
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    Make it fun. Coaching children is about introducing them to the sport, helping them make exercise a habit, learning teamwork, and having fun doing all of it. If you’re a person who loves to win, coaching children is probably not a good fit. With kids, it’s about the journey toward becoming a team and playing the game, not the final results.[3]
    • Drills should be structured to be fun, challenging, and teach the children a skill
    • Team bonding should be an important part of your work -- have a snack and drink rotation, and a party planned for the end regardless of how the games go.

Method 2
Becoming a Middle School or High School Coach

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    Get the education to become a teacher. Most middle and high school coaches are also teachers at the school. To become a teacher, you will need a Bachelor’s degree and teaching certification. If you want to focus particularly on sports and exercise, getting a degree in Physical Education might be a good choice for you. This would set you up to coach and to teach any of the health courses your school might have.[4]
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    Choose the sport or sports that you want to coach. It doesn't have to be a sport you're especially good at, but it should definitely be a sport you are very passionate about. You need to have a strong command of the techniques necessary to succeed in the sport, the rules of the game, and a capacity to design drills and exercises that can help your team advance.
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    Get certified. Most sports have a governing body that will issue certifications to coaches. Check on the sport or sports of your choice to see what the specifics are. All certifications, however, will include a background check, questions about your experience playing or coaching your sport or sports, and knowledge of the sport or sports.[5]
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    Volunteer. It's best to become an assistant coach before you do the real thing, so that you will have experience and know what to expect as a coach. Try to volunteer for the sport and the level that you hope to coach. As school budgets decline, many schools are in desperate need of volunteer coaches and assistants.[6]
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    Hone your coaching skills. Observe coaches around you to see what their technique is. Learn the best ways to model and explain how you want your players to perform. Work on your responses to typical player issues, including technique, performance anxiety, or teamwork. Consider supplementing what you already know with online courses from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which offers classes specifically for coaches here:
    • How do you want to talk to and treat your team to get them to perform their best?
    • What kinds of drills work best to get your team to play the way you want them to?
    • Think about a coach that has inspired you. How did he or she act to inspire you to be a better player?
    • Are you going to be a hands-on coach, and model the techniques you want, or will you be on the sidelines, explaining what you want to your team?
    • What is your philosophy of coaching?
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    Get a job as a coach. Hopefully you will be able to get a job as a teacher and be able to coach the team of your choice. Keep in mind, however, that it might take a while. You could end up with a teaching job and no coaching job. This would mean that you should continue to volunteer to keep up your coaching skills.

Method 3
Coaching College Sports

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    Get a degree. Any college coaching job is going to require a Bachelor’s degree at minimum. Many coaches have degrees in P.E. or Leisure Studies. Within the structure of college sports, the top-tier sports schools are probably only going to require a B.A., but with lots of coaching and playing experience. The lower-tier schools are going to require more education -- typically at least a Master’s degree, sometimes even a Ph.D. -- because you will be asked to teach college-level courses in addition to coaching. At the top level, you will just be coaching, so the educational requirements are less, but the other parts of your resume are more important.[7]
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    Get experience. To be a top college coach, you need to have experience as a player and as a coach. It would be best if you had college playing experience, which shows that you were competitive on a high level. To get experience coaching, you might have to start out volunteering (as was the case with middle and high school). If becoming a college coach is your goal, start working on your coaching skills early -- volunteer to coach elementary school children while in high school or college, work as an assistant to a high school coach while in college, etc. Many coaches also volunteer at their own program after they have graduated so that they can gain experience at the college level.[8]
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    Network. A big part of getting a job as a college coach is who you know. Go to camps, introduce yourself to people, reach out to people you want to know on email -- create your own network. People are going to be more likely to hire someone they know and have seen over the years than someone who is unknown to them. You need to promote yourself, but in a way that doesn’t come off as obnoxious. Show that you really know your stuff, and make sure people know. Each sport has a governing body that hosts events around the country, including games, clinics, camps, and conventions. Make sure that you are a member of your sports organization and plan to attend a few national or regional events a year to meet people.[9]
    • Introduce yourself to people you admire. Tell them how much you like their work -- you might want to use a specific example: “I have been a fan of yours for years. The way your team came back from half time in that qualifying match in 2005 was nothing short of amazing!”
    • Get groups together for meals. Sometimes the best interactions at a conference or clinic come over meals. Invite people that you know and people you meet there to join you for lunch or dinner to have more in-depth conversations and help them network as well. It’s going to be for everyone’s benefit.
    • Make your information readily available to those you meet -- you might want to have business cards, or become part of an online business network.
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    Apply for any jobs. Getting a job as a college coach is incredibly competitive. It might be years and years before you’re actually hired, so be ready for a long-term job hunt. Make sure that you are coaching (even if in a volunteer capacity) at the college level while you work at a non-coaching job and search for coaching work. Keep coaching, applying, and networking, and eventually you’ll find a job.

Method 4
Coaching Professional Sports

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    Get college coaching experience. Follow the steps to work as a college coach. Get the education, experience (both coaching and playing) that make it possible to coach at the highest levels. Making it to the professional level can often be a question of luck.[10]
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    Keep networking. If you want to work on the professional level, do the same kind of work you did to get a college job, but with the pros. Focus on the events held by the national professional organization. Go to events, introduce yourself to people in professional teams and organizations, and keep up your skills. When an opening appears in the organization where you want to work, make sure that all the relevant people know you -- this means doing the hard networking before a job even appears. Go to meetings of the coaches’ association of your particular sport.[11]
    • Go to more experienced coaches for advice. Most of us like giving advice, and it’s a good way to have a positive interaction with other coaches. Introduce yourself to the coach (if you don’t already know him or her) and ask for a piece of advice: “How were you able to get your players’ serves over 100 mph? I am having trouble getting them above 90, and I wondered if there was a conditioning drill that might help.”
    • Congratulate a coach that is doing well. “I am so impressed with your team this year -- they are so young but you have really brought out the best in them. What is your secret?”
    • Talk about sports. Ask them what they think about the college level of the sport they coach. “Who do you think will win the Rose Bowl this year? I don’t know if Alabama or Stanford is the better team.”
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    Keep learning and coaching. Coaching an outstanding college team can be a great way to get the attention of professional organizations. Show that you are able to help your team to perform at the highest levels year after year. By being the best coach you can be, you can show the professional organizations your potential.

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Categories: Sports Leadership