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How to Become a Head Coach

How to Become a Head Coach
February 18, 2022 | Andre Harakas | 11 min read

You may convert your enthusiasm for sports into a fulfilling profession as a college team coach, whether you’re a former player or a die-hard fan. Coaches are entrusted with the task of instilling in collegiate players the necessary abilities for success on and off the field. Collegiate coaches may be engaged to arrange teams in every varsity sport, from basketball and hockey to football and swimming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as participation in collegiate sports continues to expand, particularly in women’s sports, the employment of coaches is predicted to grow 15 percent faster than the national average, creating 36,200 new jobs by 2022. The following is a step-by-step outline of the steps you’ll need to do to become a successful college team coach.

Getting a job as a college team coach might be a dream come true for a sports fan. Most prospective coaches, on the other hand, will have to work their way up from low-paying entry-level professions for years before landing their ideal job. The joy of leading a college team might be enough to keep a coach motivated throughout the early stages of their profession. A few great coaches will wind up guiding NCAA Division 1 teams for numerous seasons after decades of hard work and effort.

A Bachelor’s Degree is a great way to start your career.

You must attend an approved four-year college or university before you may coach college players on the sidelines. Coaches of collegiate teams may major in almost any field, although exercise science, physiology, kinesiology, fitness, nutrition, physical education, sports management, or sports medicine are the most advantageous. Aspiring coaches should get lots of playing experience in their chosen sport while pursuing their degree since institutions often recruit former players. Working as a manager for your college’s sports team or working in the athletic department might be beneficial as well.

The majority of collegiate coaches complete their bachelor’s degree while on a full sports scholarship. Athletic scholarships are the most common form of payment in organized college sports, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The National College Athletics Association, which encompasses Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3 sections, is the most well-known organization for college team sports. Almost every college coach aspires to operate at the Division 1 level. This ideal usually requires a career of athletic success, starting in college.

NCAA D1 colleges, which play in the most major events in college sports, such as the many college bowl games, award scholarships to talented college athletes. When their playing careers are complete, collegiate athletes who play at the NCAA D1 level and attend college on athletic scholarships are well on their way to becoming D1 head coaches.

Other NCAA divisions and college sports organizations, such as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes and the National Junior College Athletic Association, follow the same process. Although the lesser divisions and organizations of the NCAA are less prominent than Division 1, they nevertheless account for the bulk of collegiate sports teams and scholarships.

Aspiring college coaches should make every effort to get an athletic scholarship while in school, even if it is a less prestigious NAIA or NJCAA one. They should improve their athletic abilities each year, maintain a good grade-point average, and apply for the best sports scholarships available. They’ll be far more appealing to the teams seeking coaches if they have years of experience playing collegiate sports at a nationally recognized level.

Acquire coaching expertise

Most college team coaches do not immediately become the head coach after graduation unless they have previously paid their dues. Coaches with years of expertise and a winning record are often necessary to become head coaches. Coaching a young team, aiding on a high school roster, or working as an assistant coach for a college club are all good places to start. As an assistant coach, you’ll learn how to organize sessions, create physical conditioning exercises, observe game styles, and provide successful methods to players. Working as the head coach at a lesser institution may be required before progressing to the next level of competition.

Starting as an assistant coach is a frequent approach to advance in the coaching profession. The assistant coach is critical in giving players the assistance they need to perform at their best throughout the season. The assistant coach works with players under the guidance of the head coach, while the head coach controls all training and preparation from a top-down viewpoint.

Because the assistant coach has fewer responsibilities than the head coach, he or she is free to develop a more friendly connection with the players. This relationship may lead to a “good cop/bad cop” coaching approach, where the assistant coach plays the good policeman and the head coach plays the bad cop, depending on the head coach’s personality. Despite having less responsibility and earning less money than their head coach superiors, NCAA D1 assistant coaches nevertheless occupy significant positions in the world of college team sports.

Before coaching at the NCAA D1 level, it is common practice to get experience at a lesser level. Because many of the country’s finest colleges are too small to field significant sports teams, they are classified as NAIA or NCAA Divisions 2 and 3. A successful career at one of these companies may lead to a D1 coaching position. However, the majority of college team coaches work in the lower categories.

Professional Certification is a good idea to pursue.

Networking is key to securing a position as a notable college team coach. Every season, new coaching positions become available, so you must develop a network of collegiate coaches who can help spread the word about your abilities. Professional certification, while entirely optional, might be another method to demonstrate your teaching abilities. For example, you may become a Certified Interscholastic Coach (CIC) via the NFHS or finish the U.S. Sports Academy’s new National Coaching Certification program. Attending camps, clinics, and scouting trips may help demonstrate your dedication to your sport. Also, be open to moving since college coaching employment may be found all across the country.

Professional certification may make establishing a reputation as a college coach simpler, particularly at the start of a career. The American Coaching Academy, which provides an online credential for prospective coaches at a variety of competitive levels, is one of the most well-known certifying organizations. The ACA Coaching Certificate may assist an unskilled coach to acquire an entry-level job on a college sports team. It takes two to five days to complete.

The National Federation of State High School Associations Coach Certification is another well-known coaching credential. This credential qualifies coaches to work at the high school level, as the name implies. An assistant coach with some experience coaching high school sports may be a more appealing prospect for a job with a D3 or NJCAA team.

Those interested in becoming coaches may also enroll at the United States Sports Academy, a regionally authorized four-year institution that provides bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in sports-related fields. The USSA provides credentials in sports administration and coaching in addition to authorized academic degrees. It takes around a semester to complete these credentials. They are recognized by the Southern Association of Institutions and Schools Commission on Colleges, a prominent regional accrediting organization, and bear the name of one of the most well-known sports colleges in the nation.

Football Coach Requirements on a Professional Level

A college coach’s job hunt might be difficult. That’s why new coaches must have a strong academic and athletic record throughout their college years. Experience coaching in a high-pressure environment, like a playoff series or championship, is also beneficial.

Coaches on collegiate teams are expected to have bachelor’s degrees in sports-related areas, therefore choosing the right college major as an undergraduate is critical. Kinesiology, sports management, sports coaching, physical education, sports science, and sports nutrition are just a few of the top options. Candidates for college coaching positions should have competed at the collegiate level and have a thorough understanding of the sport they will be coaching.

Getting Some Experience

Before obtaining the ideal coaching employment, every coach should be prepared to go through a few experiences. It’s not uncommon for college coaches to labor in low-paying positions for years before earning their dream job as a coach in the NCAA. Team coaches work long, exhausting days and nights, and they often attend large games on weekends and holidays.

Coaches of college teams may make millions of dollars per year at the NCAA Division 1 level, although they often earn substantially less at Division 2 and Division 3 levels. Because coaching is such a passion for those that pursue it, the great majority of college coaches are ready to work for minimal pay in exchange for the opportunity to do what they love. Coaches are often forced to perform second jobs to supplement their income while earning professional experience.

At the D2 and D3 levels, head coaches may earn six figures, while assistant coaches can earn less than $10,000 per year working part-time for their teams. It will be much simpler to go up to the post of head coach after many years of experience as an assistant coach in the lower levels. However, in many circumstances, this career change will necessitate relocating to a different city or state.

Soccer coach job prospects and growth potential

The need for college coaches is expected to rise in lockstep with the expansion of the higher education business. As new sports programs are formed or expanded in the next decades, new coaching opportunities will become available. With 130 teams playing at the NCAA D1 Football Bowl level, there are plenty of options for college football coaches. When other sports and categories are included, the development potential is even higher.

College coaches have a better career outlook than most other working professions, but they must be prepared to labor for years at modest pay. Many coaches work as physical education teachers, personal trainers, high school coaches, physical therapists, or nutritionists to augment their income during these years.

Coaching Positions at the Entry Level

Coaches who are just starting in their careers might start building a reputation straight immediately. A coach may get a footing in college team sports with numerous entry-level work prospects in addition to gaining certification. Some of these positions may be accessible in vocations unrelated to collegiate athletics but linked to high school or community league sports.

With so many college teams, coaching positions available in today’s market, most new coaches will be able to find employment in their chosen field, even if it is just part-time and low-paying at first. Coaches with diverse skill sets and unbounded love for their profession often find employment in organized sports to be steady, trustworthy, and profitable beyond this first stage. Aspiring coaches might make themselves more appealing to recruiting teams by specializing in a field like kinesiology, nutrition, or physical therapy.

Coaches of Collegiate Teams in the Best States

The best states for college coaches, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are those with the most public interest in team sports. Southern states with competitive football teams account for several of the states with the highest median yearly compensation for coaches. Because certain southern locations, including Louisiana and South Carolina, have some of the lowest living costs in the nation, a relatively high coaching income may go a long way.

Washington, D.C., has the highest median yearly coaching compensation in the nation, at $72,180. While the finest college coaches in the NCAA may make up to 20 or 30 times that, assistant coaches who are just starting might earn far less. Most college coaches may expect to make between $90,000 and $100,000 per year if they devote their lives to their careers.


Coaches work hard not just to win games, but also to cultivate excellent sportsmanship and cooperation among college players. Coaches in colleges and universities earn an average yearly compensation of $53,670, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Coaches in NCAA Division I sports, on the other hand, often see this number more than quadrupled. Some of college athletics’ highest-paid coaches earn more than $1 million per year by fostering successful teams. Once you get a position as a collegiate team coach, you’ll be rewarded both financially and emotionally for passing on your passion for the game to young college players.

Many individuals will be interested in pursuing a collegiate coaching profession since coaching positions are rising faster than the general economy. The most successful college coaches will be very enthusiastic and educated about their respective sports, as well as willing to work their way up from the bottom of the profession. Anyone can acquire a job as a college team coach if they keep these factors in mind.

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