Sports Coach

The Job and What's Involved

A sports coach works with athletes at many different levels, from beginners to professional and Olympic standard. They motivate athletes, helping them perform to the best of their ability and achieve their personal goals. Sport coaches do this by using their knowledge and experience to plan and deliver structured training sessions.

Sport coaches may work with professionals or amateurs, individuals or teams.

At a non-competitive level, coaches usually work with people of different abilities in a group. Their key task is to develop exercise sessions in which athletes of all abilities are able to get involved. Sports coaches often need to demonstrate activities.

Coaches also spend time helping athletes prepare both mentally and physically before competitions. If coaching a team, they need to be able to mould individuals into an effective team.

Other roles, which vary depending on the standard at which they are coaching, may include:

  • Working with other professionals, such as nutritionists and physiotherapists.
  • Giving evaluation and feedback after competitions.
  • Using video and computerised technology to analyse strengths and weaknesses of athletes.
  • Maintaining records of results and performances.
  • Finding suitable competitions to participate in.
  • Identifying possible sponsorship deals and other marketing opportunities.

Sports coaches do not tend to work set hours. They often take training sessions in the early mornings, evenings and at weekends. This is because many of the people they train are amateurs, who are at work during the day.

Coaches working in schools or at a professional club take sessions during the day. In some sports, the work may be seasonal.

The working environment varies depending on the sport so may be outside on playing fields or indoors in a sports centre or at a swimming pool. Most spend some time in the gym for training.

Coaching may involve long periods of standing and periods of activity, either demonstrating or training with athletes.

Some coaching, particularly at a higher level, may involve considerable travel, including internationally. There may also be opportunities to work abroad.

Newly-qualified coaches working for local authorities may earn £15,000 to £25,000. Most coaches are paid an hourly rate, which varies from £10 to £20 an hour. In professional sport, coaches may receive additional bonuses, depending on the prize money won by the individual or team they are coaching.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 1.6 million people are involved in some kind of coaching activity in the UK, most on a voluntary basis. Around 355,000 people are paid to coach but of these just 78,000 do so full time. Many work for several different clubs or teams.

Competition for full-time coaching jobs is fierce. Increased interest in health and fitness is likely to lead to an increase in demand especially with the approach of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Employers include:

- Local authorities

- Private schools

- Professional clubs, e.g. football, rugby, cricket

- Sports councils and National Governing Bodies (NGB's)

- Sports centres and clubs

- Holiday companies in the UK or overseas

- The armed forces

The number of coaches working in each sport depends on its popularity and the number of participants.

Many coaches find work by word of mouth and through contacts at local authorities and NGB's. Coaching jobs may also be advertised on websites such as and Local authorities may advertise jobs in local newspapers, through their own job bulletins or on the website Specialist magazines may also list vacancies.

Education and Training

All sports coaches must have a qualification recognised by the appropriate National Governing Body (NGB) for a particular sport. An opportunity to start a qualification begins at 16 years old, however this qualification would not allow a coach to work independently as they are only able to do this once they are 18 year old. A first aid certificate may be required. To work with children, aCriminal Records Bureau (CRB)clearance may be necessary.

There are two ways to gain a coaching/instructing qualification:

- Through the NGB for the relevant sport
- A college or university course

NGB qualifications, which correspond to NVQ's Levels 1 to 4, are usually studied part time. No academic qualifications are required, except for golf. Trainee golf coaches must have four GCSE's (A*-C).

Relevant college/university courses include:

Degrees in coaching, sports science, sports studies, movement studies and physical education. Entry is usually with two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C) usually including English and maths or equivalent qualifications.

A foundation degree in sport coaching (often with sport development). Entry requirements vary.

BTEC HNC/HND in leisure studies with a sports coaching option. Some include NGB awards. Students need one A level and four GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications.

BTEC national certificate/diploma courses which can be studied part time or full time. Applicants need four or five GCSE's usually including English.

The Football Association also runs courses for women interested in coaching.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

Coaches in professional sport are often ex-professional sports people who have gained coaching qualifications. Others have experience of helping out with sports clubs for young people and a keen interest in the game.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) gives coaches a nationally recognised qualification and also a progressive development pathway.

Sports Coach UK also offers personal development courses for coaches from all sports and at every level of experience, to help develop their knowledge and skills. These include:

  • Coaching Essentials Workshops Level 2 covers generic coaching as well as specific courses on coaching children and people with disabilities.
  • Coach XL for experienced, high-performance coaches.

NVQ's are available in sport, recreation and allied occupations. Coaching, teaching and instructing at Levels 2 and 3 are awarded in the context of a specific sport/activity and age group in a growing number of activities.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Sports coaches need:

  • To be knowledgeable about all aspects of the sport.
  • Perseverance and patience.
  • To be inspirational motivators.
  • Good communication and listening skills.
  • Enthusiasm.
  • To be sensitive and supportive.
  • Organisational skills.
  • Some knowledge of nutrition and how the body works.
  • To be able to work well in a team, and on their own initiative.
  • To be good at analysing problems.
  • to understand training principals and methods.

Your Long Term Prospects

Many coaches begin as local volunteers and build up a reputation, meeting sports development officers and representatives from National Governing Bodies (NGB's). Many are also self-employed.

Prospects usually depend on results, and the willingness of the coach to develop their own skills and diversify into offering additional services.

With the right experience and qualifications it may be possible to become a coach development officer. This role is designed to help County Sports Partnerships, local authorities and other bodies to develop the skills and qualifications of individual coaches whom they employ.

With experience, coaches may move into lecturing, sports development, management or administration. Football coaches can become scouts for professional teams.

Get Further Information

Sport England, 3rd Floor,
Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square,
London WC1B 4SE
Tel: 020 7273 1551

SkillsActive, Castlewood House,
77-91 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1PX
Tel: 020 7632 2000

Sports Coach UK, 114 Cardigan Road,
Headingley, Leeds LS6 3BJ
Tel: 0113 274 4802

Sports Leaders UK, Clyde House,
10 Milburn Avenue, Oldbrook,
Milton Keynes MK6 2WA
Tel: 01908 689180

UK Sport,
40 Bernard Street, London WC1N 1ST
Tel: 020 7211 5100

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