How to actually get a job in coaching (Part 2)

So you’ve read Part 1 of “How to actually get a job in coaching“. You’ve answered the self-reflection questions and you’ve got a better understanding of the road not travelled, as well as a better understanding of your own motivations for coaching. Now we will dig into the 4 areas you need to master in order to land your job…

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1.Connection

This is by far one of THE MOST under-rated areas people think of considering how to get a job. In reality it’s one of the most important. By “Connection” I’m referring to 2 different components.


It’s important to know your audience and to communicate accordingly. One of the most influential factors in successful coaching is the ability to connect with others (athletes and coaches), build rapport quickly and create positive relationships. Coaching is a “people business”, fail to recognise this at your own peril.  Effective connection entails the type of language you use (science speak vs athlete/coach speak), your persona (introverted vs outgoing) and whether you take yourself super-seriously or are prepared to have a laugh with your athletes, to name but a few factors.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a new graduate download their entire undergrad physiology module to an athlete, whilst explaining or demonstrating a new drill. Most of the time they fail to see the athlete’s eyes glazing over and their interest diminishing rapidly. They are losing connection and they don’t realise it. Connecting with your athletes is also the best monitoring tool there is. Find out their other interests, their family background, their likes/dislikes and their sense of humour. These will all help you build a more effective and positive relationship with your athletes and coaching colleagues!

The second element of “Connection” is your network. By this I mean your friends, associates and colleagues. The world of sport is VERY small. It’s probably even less than the usual 7 degrees of separation! If you get your network right it will open up opportunities for you. You will hear of jobs before you see them, or you will know someone along the application process. Best case scenario you will get headhunted or asked to apply.  I’ve heard Keir Wenham Flatt say “When all other things are equal, people prefer to work with their friends.”

So just how do you build a good network? “Networking” often sounds very false and if you’ve ever been to a networking event it’s probably reinforced this idea. In reality, youT network is simply the relationships you’ve built with friends and colleagues. The important thing to note is that THIS IS NOT ONE WAY! Do not expect people to think of you if you haven’t invested in the relationship and just call when you want something! Make the effort to build relationships with people when you don’t necessarily want anything.  Here are some ideas for how to do this:

  • Talk to people in other roles (coaches, physios, nutrition)
  • Speak to people in similar roles in your local area
  • Meet with other coaches for coffee and a chat (without an agenda!)
  • If you see a job vacancy/CPD event/journal article may be of interest to someone you know, send them a link!
  • Help others out when they need it –  be it with a recommendation, a resource, or another contact you know that can help them
  • Don’t wait until you want something before you get to know someone!
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2. Certification 

It’s undeniable that you will need the right certification. However, it’s not necessarily what you might think! Lately, it seems that people have starting competing in an arms race. It seems more and more want a Masters or a PhD, thinking that will bridge the gap to a job in sport. Don’t get sucked into this! Of the S&C coaches in fulltime sport  I know, they have one similarity in terms of qualifications. They all have a degree, that’s it! Some got a first, some got a 2.1 and some got a 2.2 grade! Others have a Masters and still others have a PhD. But the one commonality is they all have a degree of some sort. Some are even completing this while in-post! Beyond that there isn’t really a common theme in terms of grade or post-grad qualifications. 

Yes, there is also the issues of sitting your UKSCA, ASCA or NSCA assessment. This is essentially your driving license to practice S&C as a coach depending on where you are in the world. However, many coaches have secured roles without having this in place initially! If you really want to get the best information on this – read the application criteria for the posts you aspire to hold. This will clear up exactly what you need.

A caveat – if you intend to work as a technical coach,  for yourself, or open your own facility, then you don’t necessarily need a degree. However if you intend to work fulltime for a professional sports club or organisation then typically you require a degree.

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3. Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Ok, so I couldn’t find a work that starts with “C” that means work experience. But yes – your work experience matters! You need to start gaining experience as soon as possible. It may be in your local amateur sports club, it may be in the academy of a professional sports club or even coaching general public classes. Chances are it will be voluntary, at least at the beginning. Maybe you’ll then get a role as a contractor or a part-time role. I would recommend work experiences opportunities where:

  • you aren’t just picking up cones or filling bottles
  • you actually get a chance to coach a variety of athletes (no matter what level, age or gender!)
  • you get to learn under an experienced coach
  • you have formal as well as informal learning opportunities (eg. workshops, seminars, conferences, courses)
  • you can gradually begin to add value to the organisation over time
  • the organisation actually now employs someone who was previously there on work experience
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4. Contribution

It’s not enough to just have the Connection, the certification and the CV. You need to go above and beyond what others have done. This looks like adding value to wherever you are. This will separate you as a person of value to the organisation and they will be more inclined to offer you employment, than someone who does what every other work experience body has done.

So what does this look like? It could be developing a “special skill” including:

  • GPS management
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Growth and Maturation monitoring
  • Contributing to research projects
  • Return to Play rehab protocols
  • Nutrition interventions
  • Producing reports, infographics
  • Delivering educational workshops and resources

This is just a small list. Spot an area where work needs doing and take the lead on it. Sometime opportunity looks just like hard work!

5. Where’s your job – The sweetspot!

Your job lies in the intersection or overlap of all of these 4 areas. I like to call this the “sweetspot”. However, be aware that this may not be where you initially thought it was!

Initially, I had wanted to be the S&C Coach to work with a senior level Premier League Football Club. I then realised I wanted to work with youth athletes. I made the switch to football academy. I then realised I didn’t enjoy working in a football academy and after a long winding route including unemployment, a spell in private health, college lecturing and personal training,  I had an opportunity to work for the Scottish Rugby Academy as a contractor, gradually working my way into a fulltime role.

There is an inverse relationships between the level most coaches want to work and where the most opportunities lie.

I am far more satisfied in this role than any I’ve had previously, however I would never has thought this would be a destination in my coaching career. So I would encourage you to keep an open mind and look for opportunities you wouldn’t normally expect!

I hope you’ve found this 2 part series on “How to actually get a job in coaching”. Good luck on your coaching journey! If you’ve found it useful, please comment and share as you see fit! We send out a weekly email with the latest jobs we find. If you’re interested just subscribe to it and we’ll send it to you!

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