Similar Titles

Baseball Coach, Basketball Coach, Coach, Cross Country Coach, Football Coach, Gymnastics Coach, Soccer Coach, Softball Coach, Track and Field Coach, Volleyball Coach

Job Description

From Little League to professional sports leagues and the Olympics, America—and the rest of the world—loves its sports and athletic competitions! Players and other types of athletes require a wide range of skills and training to perform well. At the high school level and beyond, this is especially crucial. 

Personal trainers are often brought in to help these athletes get in peak physical condition. But in terms of how they move and participate in their respective sports or events, it takes an Athletic Coach to help them reach their potential! 

Part-instructors, part-motivational speakers, and coaches are subject matter experts in whatever sport or competition they work in. Many are former athletes themselves which help them relate to their players. They know precisely what it takes to hone a given player’s abilities, as well as how to forge a united team that can play to each others’ strengths. 

Depending on their specific roles, Athletic Coaches may offer one-on-one advice, formulate team strategies, and oversee intensive training drills for players to practice. They also watch how the opposition plays in order to find weaknesses that can be exploited. Some pull double-duty, serving as talent scouts who attend games to look for exciting new prospects.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working behind the scenes in a sport you love
  • Helping youth athletes reach their fullest potential
  • Contributing to games and events that entertain fans
2021 Employment
2031 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Full-time positions are common but many Athletic Coaches only work part-time and have other jobs. Work schedules may include non-traditional hours such as nights or weekends. During busy seasons, coaches can expect to work overtime. Frequent travel may be required. 

Typical Duties

  • Plan training and practices for players or other athletes that will boost their strength, speed, agility, endurance, and other qualities needed
  • Demonstrate proper exercise techniques and correct poor form 
  • Monitor players to look for strengths that can be built up and leveraged, as well as areas for improvement
  • Take notes and make videos of players’ performance to assess progress
  • Forge strong teams that play to each other’s strengths and complement each other
  • Watch other teams and customize strategies based on their strengths and weaknesses
  • Offer motivation and encouragement during training and prior to games or events
  • Call plays during games and provides continuous guidance as the game unfolds 
  • Substitute players as needed 
  • Help athletes understand the importance of proper rest, hydration, nutrition, and good behavior 
  • Watch for signs of excessive fatigue, injury, or other problems 
  • Model and enforce proper sportsmanship, teamwork, and compliance with rules
  • Keep tabs on student-athlete academics, health and wellness, finances, and personal problems they may be facing
  • Perform scouting and recruiting functions, as necessary. Attend high school games and events to look for potential recruits 
  • Meet with recruits, parents, spouses, and/or agents to discuss and negotiate opportunities such as scholarships, contracts, and financial incentives 
  • Discuss recruitment options and make recommendations to stakeholders

Additional Responsibilities

  • Make travel arrangements as needed 
  • Provide performance reviews and give praise and constructive criticism 
  • Ensure athletes wear appropriate sports gear and take care of equipment
  • Stay up to date on changes to rules, best practices, and new technologies
  • Attend training camps, clinics, and try-outs
  • Engage in public relations through the media or other outlets
  • Supervise and lead assistant coaches and other staff
  • Oversee budgets and fundraising. Ensure gear, equipment, and other items are ordered and stocked 
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Analytical
  • Budget-conscious 
  • Calm under pressure
  • Compassion
  • Competence 
  • Compliance mindset
  • Consensus-building (i.e., group buy-in)
  • Curiosity
  • Detail-oriented
  • Enthusiasm 
  • Excellent communication skills 
  • Flexible 
  • Focus
  • Goal-oriented
  • Initiative
  • Methodical 
  • Motivated
  • Observant
  • Organized
  • Patient
  • Persuasive 
  • Positivity 
  • Reliable 
  • Resourceful
  • Respectful
  • Sound judgment and decision-making
  • Stamina
  • Time management 
  • Trustworthy

Technical Skills

  • Intimate knowledge of applicable sports and their rules
  • Knowledge of athlete contracts and scholarships
  • Ability to provide effective motivation and feedback 
  • Knowledge of high school and college academics
  • Knowledge of sports rules and sport management 
  • Good eye for spotting talent
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Negotiation skills
Different Types of Organizations
  • K-12 schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Professional sports and athletics organizations 
Expectations and Sacrifices

Athletic Coaches wear many hats and must make difficult decisions that can deeply affect the lives and careers of young athletes. They often develop close bonds with the players and teams they help develop, sometimes over a period of years. Some days, athletes might get frustrated or upset with a coach who is just doing their job. 

It can be tough to keep everyone motivated and in good spirits when people are tired, sore, hot, cold, wet, or feeling dejected because of an illness, injury, or a game or event not going the way they’d hoped. No matter how the athletes feel, it’s up to the coach to take good care of them and be the leader who keeps them going…and who makes the call to take them out of a training session, game, or competition, when necessary. 

Current Trends

Coach Vern Gambetta once said, “I’m a specialist in being a generalist.” Today, that sentiment is as true as ever! Athletic Coaches must focus on their core tasks but as the world gets more complex, so do their roles. They may need to offer increasingly individualized attention to players, work towards building better relationships, and be more attuned to generational differences. 

And as everything seems to be recorded and shared online in the 21st Century, Coaches must be extremely mindful of the things they do and say, and how those could be taken out of context. Speaking of modern culture, Coaches have access to better digital tools to help them capture, analyze, and track athletes' performances in order to provide feedback for improvement. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Athletic Coaches usually played or participated in the same sports they will later coach. However, some were simply avid fans with a passion for a particular sport or activity. In addition to developing their subject matter expertise, they typically cultivated their leadership qualities in their formative years, as well, perhaps because they were given family, school, or work responsibilities early on. Coaches tend to be highly motivated and optimistic people who strongly empathize and advocate for their players and teams. These are qualities they may have gained through various life experiences.  

Education and Training Needed


  • Athletic Coaches don’t always need a college degree, but most do hold a bachelor’s or master’s
    • Per O*Net, 17% of coaches have an associate’s degree, 49% have a bachelor’s degree, and have a 19% a master’s 
  • Common majors include:
    • Sport and coaching science
    • Sports medicine
    • Sport management
    • Sports and recreation management
    • Kinesiology
    • Note, many majors feature a specialization in coaching option
  • Coaches study a wide range of subjects, such as physiology, kinesiology, exercise, sports science, sports medicine, sport management, physical education, nutrition, marketing, and organizational leadership
  • Coaches often acquire their specific knowledge of a sport through prior involvement as an athlete 
  • Most positions require CPR/First Aid and other safety/coaching-related training
  • Those who work for public schools may need to obtain a state-specific certification. If they are also teachers, they must pass licensing requirements
  • College/university coaches must often get certified by the National Collegiate Athletic Association or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Specific sports like golf, volleyball, and tennis have their own certification programs (Check our list of Resources > Websites for more links)
Things to look for in an University
  • Look for programs where that offer opportunities to gain practical experience working with athletes
  • Check out what a program’s alumni are up to. How many are working (or have worked) as coaches after graduating? 
  • Consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid)
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility, when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program. In-person programs may be more beneficial for some aspects of study, such as kinesiology or working with students in the field
Typical Roadmap
Athletic/Sports Coach Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Coaches must gain some sort of related work experience before they can get hired for the most important positions. Start by volunteering as a coach for local teams then apply to graduate assistant or assistant coach positions  
  • Network your tail off! Many coaching jobs are not posted, but instead advertised through word of mouth or are done via internal hiring processes. 
  • Ask local Athletic Coaches to ask how they landed their jobs. Tell them you’re willing to volunteer in exchange for a chance to learn
  • Be ready to pass a background check, if needed
  • Try to get an internship while in college, and build strong relationships with the people you work with
  • Review job portals such as Also, check out the career pages on the websites of local school districts and colleges. Be ready to start small and work your way up! Note, volunteer roles may not be listed on job boards, so you might also check out any youth sports clubs in the area or try Craigslist
  • Consider relocating to an area where there are more opportunities. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the highest employment level of coaches are California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Ohio
  • Talk to your career center or program manager for help locating job openings. Many programs serve as pipelines to employers! 
  • On your resume, make sure that you highlight any experience you have with actually playing the sport you want to coach. Keep track of statistics, too!
  • Check out some sample resume templates
  • Decide who would make the best personal references. Ask for permission to share their contact info
  • During interviews, make sure to demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of the sport. Review sample interview questions to practice your responses
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Athletic Coaches need experience to get hired…and a proven track record of success to get promoted!
  • It can take years of working as a high school coach or college assistant coach to qualify for a head coach role
  • Whatever your college level is, be ready to take it to the next level. If you have a bachelor’s, consider signing up for a master’s
  • Ask your employer if there are specialized certifications or skills that need you to obtain in order to benefit them and qualify for advancement
  • If moving from high school to a college level, get certified by the National Collegiate Athletic Association or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Take good care of the players under your care. Treat them with respect and help them hone their skills and develop their careers and fan base
  • When needed, make sure athletes are keeping up with their academics and staying out of trouble
  • Earn the trust of player spouses, parents, agents, and other stakeholders
  • Negotiate fair contracts that are a win for everyone
  • Help athletes recognize the value of what they get to do for a living, so that they don’t take things for granted and will strive to meet group goals 
  • Build effective teams that can withstand the stress of constant training, travel, and tough competitions 
  • Set a high standard of integrity and sportsmanship
  • Stay up to date on trends, industry changes, and new technologies that can help improve performance
  • Participate in professional organizations and grow your reputation as a competent leader
Plan B

The road to becoming an Athletic Coach isn’t always a straight path. For those who make it, sometimes the job requires wearing more hats than they expected! If you’re interested in a related career field with different responsibilities, consider some of the below options: 

  • Athletes and Sports Competitor
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Dietitians and Nutritionist
  • Fitness Trainers and Instructor
  • K-12 Teacher
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Umpires, Referees, and Sports Officials


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