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Sports coaches/instructors help children and adults to realise their potential in a sporting discipline through the provision of instruction, advice and encouragement.

If you're considering postgraduate study, a degree in sports science, sports management, recreation or leisure studies, physiology or psychology may be beneficial.

What do sports coaches do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Due to Covid-19, you may find it difficult to kick-start your sports coaching career at the moment. As we explain here, however, recruiters will not view time out of work due to the pandemic as a 'gap' in your CV. For guidance on searching for work during this difficult time, take a look at our advice for job hunting during a pandemic.

Coaches are responsible for planning, organising and delivering an appropriate range of sports activities and programmes for individuals and teams.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • teaching relevant skills, tactics and techniques
  • monitoring and enhancing performance by providing tuition, encouragement and constructive feedback
  • identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • advising about health and lifestyle issues
  • developing training programmes
  • undertaking administrative tasks
  • assisting with sports promotion/development.

Typical employers of sports coaches

  • Schools and universities
  • Colleges
  • Local authorities
  • Fitness centres
  • Sports clubs
  • Holiday camps
  • Sports national governing bodies
  • Sports councils.

Competition for vacancies varies: popular sports (such as football and swimming) tend to have a greater number of jobs available than less mainstream sports (for example, basketball and lacrosse). You can find opportunities online through organisations such as UK Sport and UK Coaching.

Qualifications and training required

SkillsActive, the sector skills council for active leisure, learning and wellbeing, has useful information about standards and qualifications in this area. There are routes in for both university graduates and school leavers, with a range of apprenticeships available.

You can also study sports coaching at undergraduate or postgraduate level.  If you are considering applying for postgraduate study in this area, a degree in sports science, sports management, recreation or leisure studies, physiology or psychology may be beneficial. You're also likely to need substantial relevant practical work experience, which you may have gained via voluntary, part-time or paid employment as a coach, fitness instructor, recreation assistant or leisure or fitness centre attendant.

In order to coach independently, clubs and governing bodies of sport typically require you to have a minimum standard of training. Most will help you to obtain this. Coaching qualifications begin at Level 1 and go up to Level 4. Some local authorities maintain registers of coaches who are approved to work in schools, and may provide their own guidance on minimum standards. You can find out more about minimum standards for sports coaches, including for coaches working with children and young people, from UK Coaching.

Key skills for sports coaches

  • Physical fitness
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamworking skills.

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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