Preparing for a Career in Coaching

Tiger Tracks for careers in Coaching


Getting Started

  • Understanding why you want to coach is foundational. Don't enter the field because you enjoy watching SportsCenter or because you won your fantasy league last year. Become a coach because you are passionate about the game.
  • Some coaches love teaching players Xs and Os, some love breaking down film and analyzing scouting reports, some excel at prepping the game plan and at game management, and others love mentoring young people on and off the playing field. Identify your passion.
  • Do not become a coach because you think it will make you rich. Coaches do fine financially, but you will not be as successful if you enter the field just to make money.
  • Entry positions in the coaching profession are difficult to come by and demand a long, exhausting work schedule-in the office, on the court, and after hours. Keep the coaching lifestyle in mind as you consider your passion for the profession.
  • Once you have settled on why you want to coach, think about what level you want to coach. Consider professional, NCAA Divisions I, II, and III, NAIA, junior college, high school, and recreation options.

Academics At Hampden-Sydney

  • Hampden-Sydney men learn how to evaluate problems and think critically. Coaches often are required to identify a problem on the playing field and provide a solution quickly. The liberal arts education prepares your mind for that agility. Soak it up and invest in learning, so you will be ready when you need to think quickly and cleverly as a coach.
  • Coaches must be able to communicate what they are trying to teach to their players. To that end, take advantage of Public Speaking, Advanced Public Speaking, and other Rhetoric courses as your schedule permits. Also consider Economics 217: Economics of Sports to learn about pertinent economic issues in the sporting world.
  • If you are interested in coaching at the high school level, consider what classes you would like to teach and take courses that will help you gain a solid understanding of those subjects, and think about getting a teacher certification.

For further information, contact the Director of Career Education and Vocational Reflection, Ellen Masters

Summer Experience

  • Volunteering to work at a top-recruit camp at large universities is a great opportunity to practice coaching and to meet the people who are pursuing the profession at high levels. Aggressively seek out these opportunities to demonstrate that you can coach, and stay in contact with everyone you meet.
  • Be creative. If there is a team that you can help coach-your old AAU basketball team, your high school football team, your little brother's rec league t-ball team-do it. Experience of any kind is valuable.
  • Summer camps and clinics hire counselors to coach a multitude of sports. This is a particularly good option for students after their freshmen or sophomore years to practice and learn from established coaches.

Graduate School Options

  • Master's in Sports Management: The most common graduate degree for individuals pursuing careers in coaching, the MSM may require the GRE for admission (check with your specific program).
  • North American Society of Sports Management: Check out the NASSM website as you begin your research on sports management programs around the nation. The COSMA website may also be helpful.
  • Grad Assistant: Experience is the most valuable pursuit for an aspiring coach. Volunteering for a grad assistantship may allow you to meet established coaches and observe the intricacies of top-level coaching.

Entering The Professional Conversation

  • Gain experience helping a varsity Hampden-Sydney squad. The athletics department has opportunities for interested students to help out with almost every sport. Talk to the coaches or athletic department officials about how you can help with a specific program.
  • Volunteer coaching: Opportunities exist at Fuqua School or Prince Edward County Public Schools.
  • Identify and develop a relationship with a mentor: perhaps a high school coach you were close to or one of the Hampden-Sydney coaches. Talk to them regularly about why they chose their career and what life is like in the coaching profession.
  • Network: Like many professions, the coaching world is a well-connected network. Take advantage of every opportunity you can to meet and learn from men and women who may be able to provide applicable career advice to you.
  • Find discreet ways to connect to individuals who hold positions you are interested in pursuing. Use the Hampden-Sydney alumni network by contacting Career Education and Alumni Affairs to find ways to connect to coaches around the region.
  • Building meaningful relationships is difficult to do via e-mail, so find ways to naturally connect with people in the coaching industry who you want to talk to. Attending conferences and workshops may be a helpful way to achieve this.
  • Be judicious in the people you try to contact, and know that the head coach may not always be the most helpful person for you to talk to as a student-get to know the entire staff.
  • Be patient. Understand that you are never "too good" for a coaching job. Be willing to take a chance on a job to gain experience. Only experience can gain you respect in the industry.

Alumni with careers in coaching