Applied coaching

How to actually get a job in coaching (Part 1)

I remember graduating from my Degree, wide eyed and naïve, thinking I would just walk into a fulltime role in sport. I had got a decent degree, a variety of experience and the UKSCA accreditation, so why wouldn’t I?

Fast forward 7 years and I’m older, wiser and more importantly…I’ve got fulltime role coaching in sport… a goal I had for a very long time. So how did I actually get a job in sport?

If you are going to take the road less travelled, it’s worthwhile having a long hard look at yourself first!

  1. Understand the road less travelled

The road to being a coach fulltime is not smooth, it is not linear and it is certainly NOT straight forward. it is not similar to traditional jobs and it isn’t stable. I have had to work for free for a time, I’ve have to move for opportunities. I’ve also made some good decisions and some VERY bad decisions that have set me back significantly. Below you can see a trajectory of my income since commencing on the road to fulltime coaching in sport. You can also see a roadmap of my geographical journey! It’s pretty varied with stops in London, Dorset, the Midlands and Scotland! It’s included working in football, rugby union, rugby league, volleyball, swimming, trampolining and basketball to name a few sports!

I left a role as a personal trainer to study in 2008. Since then I’ve undertaken a myriad of work experiences prior to gaining a full time role, leaving it to start (but not finish) a PhD and finally arriving at my current post with Scottish Rugby. It also contains a few sideways steps after setbacks, delving into Private Health, College Lecturing and reverting to personal training.

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Over the course of this epic roadtrip and adventure I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to really get a job in sport. I’ve seen many intelligent and super-qualified colleagues fail to get the role they wanted and end up leaving the industry altogether. I’ve seen many others surprise me to get ahead ahead and secure great roles despite not having amazing academic grades. What matters most, is probably not what you think. Statistically speaking, it doesn’t seem that I am an anomaly. Consider the statistics below for the UK and USA by Science for Sport. Whilst these are for S&C, I’m sure the wider industry of sport as a whole isn’t much different!

2.  Know thyself.

Examine your motivations for getting into the industry. I mean really dig down and ask yourself why. Here’s mine. A while back I was wondering I was reflecting why I chose to go down this route of S&C. I realised my love of superheroes as a kid is a major factor. I used to love watching cartoons of these heroes performing feats of power, strength and agility. Essentially, like many other kids, I wanted to be a superhero when I grew up. In the real world, I perceived athletes to be the human equivalent: muscled, athletic and performing feats of strength, power, speed and agility. So I wanted to be an athlete. When I realised this wasn’t possible, I wanted to coach them.  To this day I still find myself drawn to superheroes owning various things with superheroes on them!

What do Superheroes have to do with S&C?

Another key element in this journey was my upbringing in a musical household. I wrote about this previously in the article “What Jazz taught me about coaching.” In a nutshell it taught me the benefits of spending hours in practice, improvisation, a growth mindset and the importance of “Keeping it simple stupid” (KISS). It also taught me that you should do something because you love it, not because of any extrinsic awards, because that way you’ll do it whether you earn anything or not. In your spare time, evening and weekends! If you want to understand this more then read the article. When I left music and took up the sport of football, I took all these valuable lessons, removed them from the context of music and then applied them in sport. Although I didn’t make it as an athlete these became valuable parts of my coaching philosophy.

So here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do you want to be in coaching?
  • Would you be in it if there was no money involved?
  •  How long can you last financially?
  • How well do you handle uncertainty?
  • Do you play well with others?
  • How supportive is your significant other/family?
  • Are you prepared to do whatever needs doing
  • Are you prepared to work early/late/evenings/weekends/holidays?
  • Are you prepared to move for opportunities?
  • Are you a “people” person?
  • Do you love training?
  • Do you love reading?
  • Do you love learning?

So, before you pursue a fulltime role coaching in sport, grab a pen and a piece of paper and figure out the answers to these questions.

If the answers lead you to want to continue to pursue coaching fulltime, then in Part 2 we’ll examine what is really going to help you achieve this…

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