The athletic coaching profession offers opportunities for athletic-minded people to work in a field they love, and to advance a coaching career over time. If you’re an athletic coach ready to make some positive additions to your coaching resume, take a look at these 5 strategies that will help you advance your career and set you up for future success.
Set Some Short-Term Goals
If you’re a coach, you’ve probably been an athlete. You know that results take time and commitment, and part of that journey means setting strong goals. You know how to set goals.
The tougher part about reaching your goals is choosing the right checkpoints along the way. These checkpoints keep you on track, and push you to complete objectives in a timely manner.
Think about the long-term coaching goals you have already made for yourself: a promotion, a certification, better coaching skills. What are the steps you can take to make a positive change in the next two weeks?
Time isn’t waiting for you – if you want to see improvement for yourself and for your future career, you need to get up and get moving. And that starts with short-term, achievable goals. Finish one short-term goal, check it off your list, and move to the next one.
Have a “Winning” Season Next Year
A straightforward approach to showing off your coaching skills: show improvement in your athletic team next year. Have a “winning” season.
When we say a “winning” season, it doesn’t necessarily mean a winning record. Every coach knows that it’s his or her job to take the talent they’re working with and maximize it for the benefit of the team and the program. Sometimes a variety of reasons can make a season tougher than the previous year.
The key in showing improvement is to have clear benchmarks that you believe your team can reach, regardless of the team’s record. Some ideas for benchmarks:
- Crunch some numbers and make sure your defense allows less points next year.
- Be more involved in athlete diets or plan workouts better so more players reach fitness or weight goals.
- Work harder to recruit more players from the student body.
All of these “winning” results come from successful coaches who know how to put in the time and seek the right information to help players improve. A coach who can demonstrate his or her positive contributions (regardless of a team’s record) is a valuable coach in any setting.
Certification and Education
Professional certification and higher education make coaches more valuable. From a personal improvement standpoint, coaches should be constantly looking for ways to improve their coaching skills, and to provide more for their players.
In terms of sport-specific improvement, there are a variety of programs or courses offered (often by private companies or consultants) to introduce new skills or different approaches to technique and training. Besides an actual course to take, you can also become involved with travel teams or other “club” organizations that typically play at a higher level.
By working in an assistant’s role, or whatever the opportunity may be, you’ll be exposed to different training techniques and drills that you can bring back to your own team. Plus, working with these kind of organizations can mean introductions to important figures in the athletic community. We’ll talk more about networking later in the article.
However, some of the most valuable information you’ll learn will come from an accredited body with courses designed with coaches in mind.
StateChamps works with and often interacts with two of the biggest high school athletics and athletic administrator bodies: the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).
On a base level, the NFHS offers resources for higher education offer courses that fulfill state requirements for coaching. From there, athletic professionals can choose to attend conferences, workshops, and enroll in coursework for higher education. The NFHS believes in actively growing your professional career.
The completion of courses corresponds with a certificate of completion and can eventually lead to higher certification. You can find a complete list of NFHS higher education resources here.
The NIAAA is geared more directly towards current athletic directors and administrators. For those coaches who can see themselves in a position as athletic director one day, this organization is one to follow and pay attention to.
Similarly, athletic directors who can see their retirement coming up in a few years should think about starting to involve or include their potential replacements in bigger department conversations. That might mean on a local level (working with department projects at the school) or bringing coaching staff along to bigger state association conferences.
For coaches who are on track to soon work in athletic administration, there are a variety of online courses available, plus the Leadership Training Course (LTC) program. The list of NIAAA higher education resources can be found here.
Networking is critical to a coach’s success, because by meeting more people you open yourself to valuable information and opportunities. No matter which community you coach in, there is a more experienced coach around. By putting yourself out there and finding experienced coaches you can use as a resource, you’ll save yourself from having to learn some of the toughest lessons the hard way.
Bigger networking opportunities might include athletic coaching conferences, conventions, and other events designed specifically for coaches to learn more about their craft and meet others.
On a more local scale, putting yourself out there can mean:
- Getting involved with non-profit or charity athletic programs
- Asking about opportunities to work with club teams, or helping to host tournaments
- Asking your athletic director for recommendations or references
By actively pursuing events and connections in your local community, you’ll build a list of contacts who can help you learn more about your profession and might even offer an advancement opportunity down the road.
Don’t forget: in networking, acting as a valuable resource for others is just as important as requesting help from your network. Make yourself available to other coaches and figures in the community, and be a resource for them when they need it.
Being an effective coach takes more than just understanding your sport. Coaching requires a variety of different skills to apply in different situations. Some of these skills include:
- Conflict resolution
- Event Planning
These skills aren’t in any particular order, and each individual will need to prioritize skills that they need to work on. But universal skills like being a good communicator can make the difference in a situation like a parental conflict, a tough conversation with a player, or an interview for that next-level job.