A winning part-time play to keep you off the sidelines and in the game
You had a favorite high school basketball coach who didn’t let a losing game get you down. Coach Betts was cool. You could tell her anything, even if it wasn’t sports-related. She was intense, fair, and professional, but fun. As an adult, you’re an avid sports fan, and not only as a spectator. You’re still rather athletic; you play basketball on the team with friends from work. One of your colleagues mentioned that he does part-time soccer coaching on the weekends through the local park district. He loves the game, gets ample exercise while coaching, and appreciates how it supplements his income. Becoming a sports coach or assistant coach is something you’d like to try.
You can become certified for a specific sport in your state. Choose your sport and age level.
The American Sports Education Program (ASEP) is the agency that oversees school coaching and standardizes classes and exams for aspiring coaches. Also, each specific sport has its own national organization such as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Coach certification is regulated at the state level. For example, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), certifies Illinois coaches for football, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, tennis, baseball, track and field, and cross country. This certification is for coaching high school students. There is a different certification for girl’s sports than for boys. The Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) certifies those who want to coach children under twelve years old. Other athletic activities such as cheerleading, offer their own training and certification programs. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisers (AACCA) has a website with details for cheerleading coaching in your state. Coaches can be certified for other sports such as hockey.
Some coaches are teachers, but many are not.
More training is typically required for non-teachers than for teachers who are seeking after-school coaching positions. Obviously, immense knowledge of the sport is a prerequisite for becoming a coach. Specific classes, many of which can be taken on-line, must be completed to become a certified coach, including coaching principles and first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). A written exam must be passed. Additionally, since you will be working with children, you must have a background check. Many certified teachers enjoy the benefits of coaching after school and on weekends, and state that the pay is often quite generous, especially if your team is consistently a winner.
Elementary, middle and high schools and some park districts join the certifying organization such as the IHSA, which maintains a list of eligible coaches; coaches get recruited and hired from this list. To get started in coaching you might want to contact your local high school, middle school, or park district, and they can put the ball in motion for you.
Many of the coaching jobs with the park district require no specific certification; these are volunteer and not paying jobs.
Though more leagues are seeking trained and certified sports coaches, coaching as a volunteer, such as for a park district team, often requires no certification and is an excellent way to see if sports coaching for children is something that you’d enjoy. With knowledge of the game, a squeaky clean background to work with children, and some time, you can coach after school or on weekends. Little League has a useful website about being a volunteer coach. It’s a terrific way to try coaching.
Coaching jobs at the college level and above require a professional with much more extensive academic training, a college degree, and special credentials.
If you are interested in coaching for community college, a university or even for major league sports, you need to have a specific college degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level in physical education with a specialty. This is quite different from coaching youth sports and is generally a full time career rather than a paying avocation. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has useful information about these careers on their website. Men’s football and basketball coaches at Big Ten Universities are often some of the highest paid university employees.
Refereeing, though much different from coaching, can also be a fun part-time pursuit.
The National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) oversees refereeing. Being a ref or an umpire may be more appealing to you that coaching. Peruse their website and learn more about that aspect of part-time work to add to your income.
Having extra spending money is always a good thing. Becoming a paid youth sports coach for high school, middle school or the park district is fun, and can be a great stepping stone to other interesting opportunities. If you love the game and enjoy working closely with kids and with their parents, you could be that terrific coach who is a role model for good sportsmanship and changes the life of an aspiring young athlete.
Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
registered occupational therapist