Getting Your Foot in the Door – GA and Entry Level College Coaching Positions
The competition for GA and entry level college coaching positions, even at the lower divisions, is insane. This is especially true in football and basketball. There are so many coaches and aspiring coaches, young and old, who are looking to get their foot into the college coaching door. Things have gotten so crazy at the Power 5 level that we see top assistants or even head coaches who get fired and become GA’s at other programs (obviously this is the case if they already did not have a master’s degree).
Unless you played or have really good connections, it can be near impossible to land a GA position. Most GA positions are filled with someone the coach knows or by someone who was referred to them. Rarely does an unknown person come in and get the job unless they've got an outstanding playing or coaching resume.
Many young aspiring coaches think they are going to land a GA job and work another job on or off campus to make ends meet financially. It just doesn't work that way. When you are a GA, you are typically expected to be there full time. That means minimum 10 hours a day 7 days a week during the season, and 40+ hours in the offseason. That's why most GA's can only afford to do it when they are young and single.
If you’re out of college and looking for a way to get into college coaching, your best bet to get experience without totally sacrificing everything financially is to seek out volunteer or part-time positions at smaller colleges near you. Make in-person visits to talk to the coach and see if there is anything you can do to help. That way, you can get a position that will give you more flexibility to work a second job. If you really want to work your way into the profession, then expect to spend every spare hour you have at the athletic office. That's the only way to learn and also gain a good recommendation from the head coach.
I have a lot of volunteer and part-time experience in my early years on my resume. But most of those jobs, I spent full-time hours at the office because I knew I had to make an impression if I wanted to move on to a better position. Since I spent so much time working and had so much responsibility, I did not have to list those jobs on my resume as "volunteer" or "part-time." I worked full-time hours for part-time pay or for free. If you just show up for practice and pre-practice meetings, don't expect the head coach to give you a glowing recommendation when you start applying for full-time positions.
I took a part-time D1 position a few years ago, when I was 41 years old. I was divorced and determined to make a run at a full-time D1 position. I worked 10 hours a day the entire school year for $15,000. It ultimately paid off with a full-time D1 assistant position. Sad part was, I still make less than I did as a high school teacher 10 years prior.
Here are some tips from Ron McKeefery on getting a GA or entry level college position. Ron has spent many years as the head strength and conditioning coordinator at several Division 1 and NFL programs.
1. Are you credible? Do you have your degree, certifications, and practical experience that qualify you for the position you are seeking? Most of the time, people think just because you have these things you are qualified. The reality is that it just keeps you in the conversation.
2. What do you bring to the table? Can you sell yourself to the Head Coach of the sport you are going to work with. In the world of coaching, it is important that the coaches and athletes believe in you. Hard to believe in a coach that has never played that sport, or coached it somewhere prior. I am not saying you don’t understand sport. I simply stating that understanding the sport complexities are a positive. That is why a well-rounded background is important. It is also why former athletes have an advantage.
3. Who else says you are good? There are plenty of good coaches out there for only a few jobs. You have to get your foot in the door and that comes through networking. Rarely do I hire someone I do not know. Every time I have, I have been burned. You need to get out and meet as many coaches as you can, and leave a lasting impression. The more they see your face the better chance you have.
4. It is important to understand that there are hundreds of coaches that want the same job you are applying for. You must do your part. You must have a resume that qualifies you, experience with that sport, and someone to validate your skills. However if you do what has been suggested and work hard, you will make it. It is this combination of credibility, experience, and marketability that often makes it easier and more practical to move up the college coaching ladder.
What Opportunities are Available?
While the NCAA has severely limited the number of assistants that can be on a staff in pretty much every sport, there are still several entry-level opportunities for someone looking to get experience at the college level. Below is a brief description for some of these opportunities.
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