The other day I was discussing the state of the strength and conditioning job market with a friend and former colleague. The usual problems came up in the conversation, specifically:
- There are literally hundreds of applications for even the most junior and unpaid coaching jobs. Recent example: Arsenal had 400+ applications for a minimum wage internship.
- Competition has driven the wages down to insultingly low levels (if you want to make money your time is better spent not going to university for 5 years and working your way up through the ranks in a supermarket).
- Universities and accrediting bodies are (in my opinion) failing their students in preparing them for the realities of coaching. New coaches arrive in the real world and often have to do a year or more of professional training or interning before they even come close to being competent. This is not the case with other complex professions like dentistry, medicine, aviation etc. So we need to do a much better job as an industry.
My answer to these points are pretty much what they have been for the last few years (as highlighted in the how to get a job in S&C seminar I put up for free on this site):
1. If you are applying for the job in the same way as everyone else, you are almost certainly wasting your time.
2. Have an income stream separate to professional sport. It is an infinitely easier and more secure way to make money.
3. Make it a priority to develop the actual skills that will get you the job long before you get released from the comfy confines of the UKSCA or university.
It is a SMALL industry
However another aspect of this conversation came up that really made me think. We were discussing a specific job listing for a major rugby team that had recently been posted. It turned out that- between us- we knew of five people who had applied for the job. Then I tried to think about the last job in professional sport where I didn’t know someone who applied for the job. I couldn’t remember it! I was struck by what a small industry we work in despite the large numbers.
Another example: no matter where I travel, no matter which club or team, there is almost always a player or coach with whom I have shared a mutual connection. This has happened to me all over the world- England, USA, Australia, NZ, Argentina.
One more example: I struggle to think of anyone in my circle of friends and colleagues who has got their current job by applying cold with the usual CV and covering letter, myself included- I only secured my internship the traditional way. For 99% of coaches there is always a prior relationship that gets them the job, or at the very least gets them the interview. This becomes even more true as you rise up the ranks. If you want the big jobs, you don’t apply. They ASK you to apply.
What does this mean?
Stopping to think and realising just how small our industry has reinforced to me more than ever how important it is to go out every day and do good work as a coach; to always be improving, to always be trying to serve your athletes before yourself, to always be meeting and helping other coaches.
It is a small industry. Everyone knows who the dickheads are. News travels quickly if you rest on your laurels, if your athletes suck, if you put your own interests before those of the team or your athletes, and you aren’t doing your best to raise the standards of the profession and those around you. Keep it up and before long your tarnished reputation will lose you jobs or opportunities before you even know they exist.
But on a brighter note, it is a small industry. People know who the good, helpful, selfless coaches are. If you go out every day and make some aspect of your work a little better, if you make a difference to your team and your athletes’ lives, if you work to set the standard for those around you, people will hear. That means doors will open for you, people will seek you out and often the job is yours without ever having to reach for your CV or covering letter.