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Breaking into Sports Coaching

If you are passionate and knowledgeable about sports and dedicated to teaching athletes, you may be interested in coaching. The job outlook is good and with the right education and experience, you may turn your passion into a career.

Employment opportunities for coaches are growing at a faster than average pace. High schools, colleges and athletic teams across the country and around the world are recruiting coaches, scouts, trainers, physical education teachers and coaches.

Many high school coaches are primarily academic teachers who supplement their income by coaching part-time, so make sure you understand and meet teaching requirements if you hope to coach high school athletics. Public high school athletic associations typically require state certification while private schools may not require you to be certified. College certification requirements vary.

If you move due to a PCS, you can receive up to $1,000 in reimbursement for costs associated with exams or registration fees to keep working in your new state. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires.

If coaching jobs aren't available in your location, consider working as a personal coach or trainer helping athletes and others increase their skills or get in shape. You may also broaden your employment options by searching for positions as an athletic trainer, fitness trainer or instructor, umpire or referee.

Work environment

As a coach or scout, you may work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Full-time coaches usually work more than 40 hours a week during the sports season and often travel frequently to sporting events. Coaches may be responsible for scouting, which involves extensive travel. Median pay for coaches and scouts was $34,840 in 2019.


To be a coach, you will need a bachelor’s degree and extensive knowledge of the sport, often gained through your own playing experience. College and professional coaches typically require playing experience at some level. Your duties may include the following:

  • Teach athletes the fundamental skills of individual and team sports.
  • Hold training and practice sessions to improve the form, technique, skills and stamina of the athletes.
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of individual athletes and opposing teams.
  • Provide direction, encouragement and motivation to athletes.
  • Call plays and make decisions about strategy and player substitutions during games.
  • Keep records of athletes’ and opponents’ performances, and identify and recruit athletes.

Sports instructor

Sports instructors differ from coaches because they typically don’t instruct athletes during competition. Like a coach, they hold practice, assign drills and correct techniques, but sports instructors spend more time working one-on-one with athletes, designing customized training programs for individuals.

Sports instructors often teach athletes the skills of an individual sport such as tennis, golf or karate, but some instructors focus on individual athletes involved in team sports like a football quarterback or baseball pitcher.


Scouts evaluate the skills of both amateur and professional athletes and seek out top candidates for colleges or professional teams. Duties of a scout may include the following:

  • Read newspapers and other news sources to find athletes.
  • Attend games, viewing videotapes and studying statistics about athletes to determine talent and potential.
  • Talk to the athlete and the coaches to see if the athlete has what it takes to succeed.
  • Report to the coach, manager or owner of the team.
  • Arrange for and offer incentives to prospective players.

Finding employment

Check for positions with Military Spouse Employment Partnership companies and organizations committed to recruiting, hiring, promoting and retaining military spouses in portable careers.

Professional organizations and networking

Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get an interview at your new location.

Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Next steps

Review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO and take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with a career in coaching or scouting. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach for assistance with locating a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.

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