How to Become an Athletic Coach
How to Become an Athletic Coach
How to Become an Athletic Coach

Athletic coaches are the backbone of sports organizations. In addition to recruiting and training athletes, they study opposing teams and develop game plans to help players succeed. Individuals interested in pursuing this career path have a wide variety of jobs to choose from, with numerous positions available each year at the youth, high school, and collegiate levels.

Aspiring athletic coaches can begin their career journeys by developing the right knowledge and experience. Completing a bachelor’s degree in an athletic or business field, such as an online bachelor’s in sport business management, can help prepare graduates with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the role.

Athletic Coach Job Description

Work schedules for athletic coaches depend on the sport. Whereas rowing coaches tend to conduct practices between 5 and 7 a.m., football, basketball, and baseball coaches usually hold practice in the afternoon or early evening. Coaches in all sports may need to work weekends, evenings, and holidays, depending on the team’s competition schedule. Although the exact duties of an athletic coach vary widely based on their sport and the organization they work for, common duties include the following:

  • Planning and coordinating practice schedules
  • Analyzing athletes’ performance to determine their strengths and weaknesses
  • Developing strategies for each game or meet based on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team
  • Recruiting new athletes
  • Planning and conducting physical and strength conditioning sessions
  • Instructing athletes about game strategies and proper techniques
  • Making decisions about player substitutions during games or meets
A soccer coach talks to a group of players.

Essential Skills for Athletic Coaches

Students interested in becoming coaches should develop a variety of skills, including communication, decision-making, interpersonal skills, and leadership.

  • Communication: Athletic coaches should be able to communicate effectively with athletes of various ages and backgrounds. Good communicators are likely to be most successful in coaching.
  • Decision-making: Individuals who choose this career path need to think quickly on their feet, especially when developing strategies during a match. High-level decision-making skills help coaches navigate stressful situations.
  • Interpersonal relations: Coaches not only work with athletes but also collaborate with team managers, athletic trainers, administrative staff, and team owners; in some instances, they may communicate closely with athletes’ parents. Therefore, strong interpersonal skills are required to excel in this role.
  • Leadership: Athletes must feel their coach consistently has their best interests in mind — on the field, off the field, and during games and tournaments. Athletic coaches with good leadership skills can get the most from their teams.

Steps to Become an Athletic Coach

The first step toward becoming an athletic coach is to gain extensive knowledge about the sport one wishes to coach. For example, successful high school and college athletes may find they’re prepared to pursue coaching opportunities in their sport of preference.

Most athletic coaching positions require candidates to possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as the Bachelor of Science offered through Maryville University’s online Rawlings Sport Business Management program. Covering topics such as sport business management, sport marketing, and business communications, the Rawlings Sport Business Management coursework is designed to provide graduates with the in-demand skills needed to pursue jobs in the field.

Other steps toward becoming an athletic coach may include the following:

  • Gain entry-level work experience: Many aspiring athletic coaches start their careers by volunteering or interning with teams in their chosen sport. Volunteer and internship opportunities are often available for youth, club, high school, and collegiate sports teams.
  • Pursue relevant certifications: Most athletic coaching positions require coaches to maintain certification in CPR and first aid. Additionally, individuals interested in coaching at the collegiate level must be certified by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In some instances, collegiate coaches may also need to be certified by the state agency that oversees the sport they’re interested in coaching.
  • Consider a master’s degree: Collegiate sports teams and professional sports organizations often require that applicants hold a master’s degree in a related field. To meet this requirement, aspiring coaches may pursue a master’s in athletic training or exercise science, for example.

Athletic Coach Salary Ranges and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2020, the median annual wage for athletic coaches and scouts was $36,330, with earners in the top 10th percentile reporting earnings of more than $81,900 per year. Salary ranges vary widely based on an individual’s experience level, whether they work part time or full time, and their employer.

For example, part-time coaches at the high school level earn significantly less money than full-time head coaches at the college and professional levels. Furthermore, high schools and colleges with longstanding winning records often pay better than those whose teams have been less successful.

The job outlook for athletic coaches is very favorable. The BLS projects the employment of coaches and scouts to grow by 26% between 2020 and 2030 — much faster than average (8%). That projected job growth equates to approximately 41,000 openings each year.

Embark on Your Path Toward Becoming an Athletic Coach

Coaching athletes can be rewarding and fulfilling, and the demand for trained, qualified athletic coaches remains strong. Are you ready to take the first brave step toward your dream of becoming an athletic coach? Discover how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Rawlings Sport Business Management program can help you develop the skills and techniques needed to maximize your marketability.

Recommended Reading

Should College Athletes Be Paid? Reasons Why or Why Not

Youth Sports Coach’s Guide to First Aid: Treating and Preventing Physical Injuries in Young Athletes

Social Media in Sports: Does Tech Help or Hurt Sports Culture?


The Balance Careers, “What Does an Athletic Coach Do?”

BetterTeam, “Sports Coach Job Description”

Indeed, “How to Become a Sports Coach”

National Collegiate Athletic Association, Coaches Certification (Recruiting) Test for Institution Staff and Proctors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Coaches and Scouts

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