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The challenges confronting coaches vary, though most of the job revolves around training amateurs to compete in a sport — either individual or team. This can be invigorating as well as frustrating for the men and women on the sidelines. Most coaches do not have the luxury of recruiting the best talent; they work with the players enrolled at the school where they work. At its most basic, coaching is teaching, except in an athletic venue instead of a classroom. At its most extreme — such as in “Remember the Titans” or “Friday Night Lights” — a coach is a pillar of the community. Building a successful team can be very rewarding, but for every winner there is at least one loser. A coach with a poor win-loss record must remember that while he or she remains as a fixture of the athletic program year after year, the players, the true products of his or her labors, continue to move on. Success in this profession is not always measured by the number of wins tallied or defeats suffered.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14.8 percent employment growth for sports coaches between 2012 and 2022, which will add 36,200 new positions to a profession already boasting 201,800 professionals. The main driver of this growth is the projected rise in high school enrollment over the next decade. With more high school students packing classrooms, a greater number of student-athletes are expected to flood athletic fields and courts to participate in sports programs such as football, volleyball and basketball.
The BLS reports the median annual salary for sports coaches was $28,360 in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made $65,910, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $17,210. Elementary and secondary schools are the largest employer of sports coaches, while business and labor organizations compensate them the best. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Athens, Ga., Auburn, Ala., and College Station, Texas.
Many high schools require coaches to be trained in CPR and first aide, though there are no nationwide educational requirements for this position. Familiarity with the sport is preferred but not always necessary. Most schools hire one of their current teachers part time to coach a sport, whether it’s track and field, baseball or swimming. Coaches who are not already teachers may need state certification. For those who wish to coach for a college team or professional team, a bachelor’s degree with a focus in kinesiology, nutrition and fitness, physical education, or sports medicine is recommended.
“Teaching skills and techniques is only 5 percent of the job,” says Robert Ferraro, founder and CEO of the National High School Coaches Association. “The best coaches have a good mind for business and good people skills.” How do you demonstrate these skills? “With background checks, coaching certifications and the technology to produce a coaching video,” Ferraro says. “It’s not just a résumé; it’s a personality test.” Candidates should send their materials to the school where they wish to work, or, in the case of teachers who already work at the school, reach out to a member of the athletic administration or coaching staff.
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Last updated by Harriet Edleson.