So you want to be a Youth S&C coach? The 6 most important things you need to do…(Part 2)

In the first part of this series, we discussed all the various tasks and roles you may be asked to do as an S&C coach! If those tasks haven’t put you off, in this post we’ll discuss exactly what you should do, how you should do it and why, in order to stand the best chance of landing a fulltime role in S&C.

So, below you will see the top 6 things I think are important to give you the best chance of getting a full time role in sport. These are also in the order of importance from my personal perspective, which may be controversial to some!
1. Be Persistent
For me this is the number 1 factor. Degree programs for Sports Science/S&C are widely over-subscribed. As such, there are thousands of new graduates each year all vying for a limited number of internships and jobs. If you really want to make it, you’re going to have to be able to endure rejection, financial hardship and multiple low paid/voluntary work experiences to name but a few things. As an undergraduate student I was under no illusion that when my cohort graduated, we would all be applying for the same jobs and would likely see each other in the waiting room for interviews! Keep this in mind when you are studying. What factors would make an employer value you over someone else? What special skills/experience are you bringing to the table?
2. Save Money
As much as I don’t like it, you are going to have to work for free. Everyone I know who has a full time job in sport has done AT LEAST 1 season voluntarily. Often 2 seasons. Unfortunately the UKSCA doesn’t really care all that much about this issue, so it probably won’t change all that soon. So you will need to have some finances to help you through these difficult years. Live at home if you can, ride the bus if you can, eat the meals at the club house if you can. I would recommend reading the UKSCA State of the Nation survey, because it will essentially tell you, it’s pretty ugly and you’re going to work for free for a long time. So start saving!

3. Get Relevant Work Experience
I would recommend reading this document from the UKSCA on internships. It’s aimed more at the intership provider, but at least you’ll be a bit more informed. Ideally, you should be completing RELEVANT work experience from DAY 1 of you degree. The longer you wait to get started, the further others are in front of you. So what sort of experience should you get?
It’s pretty well known that S&C is a pretty easy area to exploit interns. I personally have experienced clubs/organisations that recruit 4-5 interns, only to replace them with another 4-5 the following season. They aren’t necessarily wanting to equip and develop coaches, they just want free labour. Sad, but true. So you should look for organisations that have promoted/employed interns with roles after their experience has finished. If they have a link up with a university even better, that offers some (limited) protection that you aren’t being exploited.
Secondly, there should be a structured CPD program in place. This may be regular workshops, a written portfolio or assistance in completing your UKSCA. But this should be documented and definitely ask about this in your interview – and they should have a really good answer to this question. Many clubs don’t have this and think that by simply having you around are doing you a favour. You need to be doing more than putting out cones and filling water bottles. Of course, as I mentioned previously you need to be prepared to do that, but that should be all you are doing. Are there opportunities to learn/analyse GPS, Velocity based training, daily monitoring/wellness data? What skills are you going to collect during your experience other than mixing protein shakes?Otherwise you’ve given a season to a club and learnt next to nothing and this is very easy to do!
Revolution fist holding money concept
Try and stay alive!

Third – Ideally there should be some sort of remuneration to keep you alive. This has been a relatively new concept in internships in S&C, but realistically a club that isn’t prepared to pay expenses as a minimum, also probably isn’t prepared to pay for a decent CPD program and probably just views you as free labour! However, some forward thinking clubs are now offering a wage to their interns, which is a leap forward from how it used to be! I remember interning at a Championship football club that had fulltime interns for free (40+ hours per week) and they also had to work on the side to survive financially – what a nightmare!
So how should you structure your work experience? In my opinion here’s how I think it should go:
1st year – Academy/Youth/Development Athletes
2nd year – Reserve/2nd XV
3rd year – 1st team/Professional
Why do I list it like this? Well from my experience, many coaches go and intern straight away with a 1st/Pro team. This may not be an issue except it bypasses the part where you are coaching complete beginners. Often youth athletes will have had no exposure to S&C until they reach academy level. So if you intern at the top tier of performance and your only experience is coaching competent/experienced athletes, but then end up working with young athletes, you often don’t have the experience of coaching very basic movement patterns and utilising simple cues and progressions, or implementing an LTAD model.
Additionally, if you’re used to having access to lots of varied equipment/resources, only to be put in an environment where you haven’t had to be imaginative due to restrictions, you are going to struggle in the beginning. Also, I suggest this progression as you will gradually experience the full spectrum of sporting journey and be informed as to which you think suits you best. By the end you’ll have 3 years experience and you’ll also be building the skills as you progress to the highest level and it won’t be such a steep learning curve. If you’ve managed to get in with a club that is paying a liveable wage, I would consider taking a sandwich year to go fulltime as an intern. The Uni may not advise this, but it will increase your chances in my opinion…
4. Degree
Realistically, these days you’ll need a degree and possibly a masters. When the S&C industry was in it’s infancy long ago this wasn’t necessary but it definitely is these days. Do your best but don’t get hung up on getting a first. In my personal experience there’s actually no correlation between the guys I know who got jobs and their degree grades – other than the fact that they all passed. Some got 1st, some a 2.1 and some a 2.2 – but crucially they all had a good length (1-2 seasons) of relevant work experience. If possible tie your final year research project into data collection with a professional organisation you are doing your internship with.
Who do you know and who knows you?

5. Build a network
To put it bluntly, the guys I know with good jobs have a good network. I think Keir Wenham-Flatt put it like this: “Who you know gets you the job, what you know keeps you the job.” He also discussed how, when all things are equal people prefer to work with their mates. It isn’t ideal but it’s real. So you need to build a good network. Chances are many of the fulltime jobs you see, already have someone lined up for them, so you want to be that guy/girl! If you have a good network you will hear about jobs before you see them advertised.
The simplest way to have a good network is:

  • Have good interpersonal skills (AKA Don’t be a D***)
  • Don’t burn your bridges with people (S&C is a small world)
  • If you see a role you think someone else would be interested in – send it to them (it will come back to you)
  • Start an S&C group with some fellow colleagues/students – this will double or triple the eyes on opportunities!
  • Stay in touch with your uni mates/lecturers/Alumni
  • Go to workshops/seminars/conferences

6. Get Accredited
Ok, so I put this last. It’s expensive and time-consuming to do. Fact is, many jobs will allow you up to 6 months or longer to get this sorted, particularly if you have it underway. If you want to work in the UK you’ll need the UKSCA, for the US – NSCA and for Asia/Australia – the ASCA. Some of these associations are reciprocal for the other. (Eg. The ASCA recognises the UKSCA accreditation) Personally, I think the ASCA system is far and away the best accreditation out there. It’s has multiple levels and expectations to it and there is a pathway rather than an in/out system. Accreditation is a good thing to have, but if you look at the number of accredited members in the UKSCA and the number in fulltime work, it certainly doesn’t suggest you’ll walk into a role for getting it! It’s worth considering starting the process in your 2nd/3rd year of uni and assume you’ll fail at least 1 component if it’s the UKSCA. At least on your 2nd attempt you’ll only have 1-2 parts to worry about.
So I hope this series has been helpful to you! If you think it’s been a worthwhile read, would you post/share it with your network? If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them!
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