A: The cheese pizza can feed a family of four.
I sat in the parking lot, my forehead on the steering wheel. I was thinking to myself, “Good God, what have I done?”
I had just graduated college. I had a degree in a hard science.
On the seat next to me was my first student-loan bill.
Next to that lay my first pay-statement as a college coach.
Both scared me.
I remember why I took the job as a coach.
In my senior year, 30 seconds after my last race, I uttered these words, “Now what?”
I had just spent years training and I wasn’t ready for it to be over.
I wasn’t talented enough to take the next step as an athlete, so it made perfect sense to me to be a coach.
Perfect sense THEN, but not NOW, after looking at those statements.
What had I done?
How was I going to make a living coaching sports?
That was 37 years ago, and I’m here to report that I’ve made a living as a coach since then.
It has not been easy—far from it—there have been highs and lows and financial struggles, but I have made a living as a coach, a living I desired.
And you can too.
I’ll share the plan I used to make it happen for me.
I created it the same day I was sitting in that parking lot.
I can’t guarantee the plan will work for you, but it might, and maybe that makes it worth a try.
A plan on how to make a living from coaching sports
What follows is a step-by-step outline.
I present it in the same format I’ve used in several of the books I’ve written.
Those books have helped many coaches and I believe one reason is the format, one I copied from John Muir’s How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot. (I believe in giving credit where credit is due.)
I’m presenting this info here for because if it helps one good, caring, coach stay in coaching (and make a living from it) then it has been worth my effort.
Off we go then …
How To Make The Living From Coaching Sports
JOB 1: Do you REALLY WANT to make a living coaching sports?
Problem: You need an answer to this very personal question.
Needed: Pencil, paper, thoughtful place
Step 1: Can it be done—make a living from coaching sports?
I estimate, in the US, there are over 5 million sport coaches. However, only a small percent of those actually make a living from coaching. A tiny percentage. I can’t throw an exact number at you (I don’t think it really exists) but I’d be surprised if it were over 30,000. That includes amateur and professional sport coaches. Most of the other 4.9 million are volunteer or part-time coaches, who have other ways to support themselves while they coach. They coach but they make their living doing something else.
So, to answer my own question, yes it can be done. However …
Step 2: How badly do you want it?
Determining how great is your desire to make a living as a sport coach will have a huge impact on your success.
Straight up, coaching is not an easy way to make a living. It’s not as tough as digging ditches (I know, I’ve done that) but it does involve a wide variety of responsibilities other jobs just don’t seem to have, at least not all at the SAME TIME. A coach who is passionate about coaching, who lives-and-breathes coaching, stands a much greater chance of making the living she desires as a coach.
When I first started coaching my plan was to do it only for a year or two.
In short time, I was bitten by the “coach-bug” and had dreams of coaching as a career. It was at that point, because I REALLY WANTED it, that I became open to some of the steps I needed to take to make a living as a coach.
Caution, keep this in mind … 15% and 85%. The 15% is usually what coaches love about coaching. That is the teaching and interacting and competing part. This is the stuff that gets many coaches to volunteer to be a coach.
As you move more into the full-time world of coaching you become more involved with the OTHER—the 85%.
That’s the part that most coaches slog through so they can do the 15%. I read once, and I’ll be darned if I can find who said it, but a great quote went something like this, “Coaching is 15% teaching and 85% preparing to teach.” Seems to sum it up well.
At this point, grab paper and something to write with.
Step 3: Write it down
Engage your brain. Smack in the middle of the paper write the words, “Coaching Sports.” Then think of all the other ways you could, right now, make a living. Let’s say one is “librarian.” If you’d rather be a librarian than a coach, and have those skills, put librarian above “coaching sports.” Rather coach than work in a library? Put “librarian” under “coaching sports.”
Now let your mind crank for 10 minutes on other ways you might want to make a living. Don’t edit. Think and write.
After 10 minutes or so, you should have a list of ways for you to make a living. Now edit. Move items above or below “coaching sports.”
Step 4: Furget-about-it
If, on the list you just did, “coaching sports” is not at the top, or darn close to it, then pay attention.
You might not really want to coach—for a living that is.
Do some coaching? Sure. Make a living from it? Eh…probably not.
Every time I saw a certain family friend he was always so excited about all the coaching jobs he had applied to, all around the country. Yet, he had a job in a different field that he enjoyed and allowed him to supports his family, and it had nothing to do with coaching at all. I knew he enjoyed coaching yet I never got the feeling from him that making a living as a coach was something he was keen about. Yet he kept on applying for those jobs. If I never felt he was serious about it, I wonder how the potential employers felt about hiring him?
So, if “coaching sports” is not highest on your list then enjoy where you are with things, and don’t stress on the making-living-part.
And you need to read no further.
Step 5: Or go for it
But if your list is topped by “coaching sports” then it’s time to get serious about making a living from it.
JOB 2: Define What “Making A Living” Means to You
Problem: You’re committed to making-a-living from coaching, now you need to define exactly what that means. Don’t blow this off. I had a coach-friend who never did this and he actually ended up living in a van, down by the river. Seriously.
Needed: Again, pencil, paper, thoughtful place.
Step 1: Define it
Making-a-living means different things to different people, and is time dependent. For example, when I first got out of college I was single and living simply. As a coach I was paid $7,000 per year. Full time, 24/7/365. And for a while I was one happy camper. However today, making-a-living means supporting a family of four, with healthcare insurance, car loan, mortgage, and kids heading off to college.
A few years completely changed my definition.
There are many ways to define making-a-living, but I’m going to suggest a real simple method that works for me.
Step 2: Paper and Pencil Again
Let’s determine your NEEDS. Grab another piece of paper and fold it into thirds, length-wise.
Title one side “needs.” The other “income.” Under NEEDS list all the bills you NEED to pay, and how much each is. Under INCOME, list all the sources of money you expect and the amount(s).
Once you’ve done this (it may take many minutes or longer, since you need your answers to be as detailed as possible) subtotal each side. What is the balance between your NEEDS and INCOME. Which column is larger, or are they equal?
Step 3: You desire what?
Now for your DESIRES.
Desires, obviously, are different than needs. Where a need is a MUST-HAVE a desire is a NICE-TO-HAVE. The latter you can live without, at least for the short term, the former you cannot, without significant negative repercussions or hassles.
For example, you may need a car to get to work, but you might desire a Volvo instead of your beater Chevy with the broken window (the car I had for my first two years of coaching). There’s nothing wrong with desiring better, it’s what we do, as humans, but its CRITICAL to know the difference between needing and desiring.
In the open column on your paper write down your desires. A few might be: graduate school, upgraded computer/smartphone, travel. Put a rough money amount with each desire.
Step 4: Now the hard part
Take the balance of your first two columns. Have any extra (okay, stop laughing and just answer the question). Most coaches would answer “No”. But is there is a surplus? Could that be applied to your DESIRE column?
Looking at all three columns can offer a snapshot of your make-a-living future, right now. No, it is not a budget, because there is too much emotion engrained in it; so don’t go waving it around to your accounting friends. They will just scoff.
But it is a balance sheet, of importance.
Now put down the paper, close your eyes, and try to visualize a sentence or two that describes making-the-living you desire.
My definition of making-the-living I desire is “having a job that allows me to support my family in a healthy manner and allows for positive development and growth for everyone.”
Now do yours.
See it in your mind, then write it down.
You now are armed with what Making-a-Living means to you. Get it on paper, don’t hold it in your head. That’s worthless. Written down it is priceless.
JOB 3: Will your current job (or job you are applying for) support your desired living standard?
Problem: You know you want to coach for a living, and, you have defined your desired living you want to make. Can you achieve it with this job?
Needed: Hard info about your job, and a place to process things
Step 1: Hard details on this job
What is the salary and the benefits of the job? Start there. But don’t stop there.
What is the time commitment of the job? In my latest coaching gig, my playing season was 30 weeks long (high school coaching with 3 seasons), and I was a 10 month employee. So, my schedule was significantly different than an NCAA D3 coach (19 weeks, 1 sport) who was 12 month.
Find these hard details, but don’t guess on them, get the specifics.
Step 2: Soft details on this job
Now look deeper at the job. There are others ways to make money as a coach past the salary.
Jobs will typically have upper limits but there are ways that coaches can supplement their salaries, such as:
- camps, clinics & workshops
- collateral jobs on campus
- sales repping sporting equipment
Do opportunities such as these exist? Dig.
Ask other coaches, or watch what they are doing on the side. Coaches need to be entrepreneurial in their thinking and this is time to do just that.
At my latest college coaching gig, I coached the team, was the NCAA compliance coordinator for the athletics department, and directed the professional development efforts for all our coaches. And taught classes. Those last two items, along with writing and speaking about coaching on the side increased my income significantly.
Are there other benefits that come into play that you might have overlooked? Graduate school assistance? Housing help? Ask, ask. Ask!
Step 3: Another balance sheet and the BIG question
Now go back to your balance sheet, and compare the hard/soft details you have to the NEEDS and DESIRES that are on the paper. Make another comparison. And now … drumroll please … ask yourself the BIG question …
“Will THIS job allow me to make-a-living I desire?”
If the job won’t support you, then you have a few choices:
- You can change your desires. That certainly is one course of action make people have had to take in this challenging economy.
- You can try to change your coaching job. Get a promotion. Change the contract.
- You can look for greener pastures.
Step 4: Should I go, or should I stay?
If you decide that your current coaching job (or the one you are considering) WILL allow you to make-a-living you desire, then keep an eye out for JOB 4: KEEPING a coaching job that allows you to make a living.
If it is time to find greener locker-rooms, meaning the coaching job you have (or the one you are considering) WON’T allow you to make the living you desire, then watch for JOB 5: GETTING a coaching job that allows you to make-a-living you desire.
Coming soon to a blog near you!