Sports Instructors and Coaches


Education and Training Requirements

High School

To prepare for college courses, high school students should take courses that teach human physiology. Biology, health, and exercise classes would all be helpful. Courses in English and speech are also important to improve or develop communication skills.

There is no substitute for developing expertise in a sport. If you can play the sport well and effectively explain to other people how they might play, you will most likely be able to get a job as a sports instructor. The most significant source of training for this occupation is gained while on the job.

Postsecondary Training

Postsecondary training in this field varies greatly. College and professional coaches often attended college as athletes, while others attended college and received their degrees without playing a sport. To become a high school coach, you will need a college degree because you will most likely be teaching as well as coaching. At the high school level, coaches spend their days teaching everything from physical education to English to mathematics, and so the college courses these coaches take vary greatly. Coaches of some youth league sports may not need a postsecondary degree, but they must have a solid understanding of their sport and of injury prevention.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that courses in exercise and sports science, physiology, kinesiology, nutrition and fitness, physical education, and sports medicine may be required to become a coach.

Other Education or Training

The Society of Health and Physical Educators, American Football Coaches Association, United Soccer Coaches, and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association offer online classes and webinars, workshops, and seminars.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Many facilities require sports instructors to be certified. Information on certification is available from any organization that deals with the specific sport in which one might be interested.

Most high school coaches also work as teachers, and those interested in this job should plan to obtain teacher certification in their state.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Try to get experience as a coach or instructor. Contact local sports leagues to see if any assistant positions are available. 

Coaches have to be experts in their sport. They must have complete knowledge of the rules and strategies of the game, so that they can creatively design effective plays and techniques for their athletes. But the requirements for this job do not end here. Good coaches are able to communicate their extensive knowledge to the athletes in a way that not only instructs the athletes, but also inspires them to perform to their fullest potential. Therefore, coaches are also teachers who are patient. Patience can make all the difference between an effective coach and one who is unsuccessful.

Coaches and instructors should have optimistic personalities—even if their team is on a losing streak or a player is not performing up to expectations. They must encourage their players to believe that they can win. An optimistic attitude on and off the playing field or court sends a message that the coach believes in their team. Coaches also must be able to work under pressure, guiding teams through games and tournaments that carry great personal and possibly financial stakes for everyone involved.

Discipline is important for athletes, as they must practice plays and techniques over and over again. Coaches who cannot demonstrate and encourage this type of discipline will have difficulty helping their athletes improve.