How to Get Into College Coaching - Part 3 - GA's and Interns
The competition for graduate assistant (GA) or entry level intern coaching positions, even at the lower divisions of college, is insane. There are so many coaches and aspiring, young and old, who are trying to get into these positions, especially in football and basketball. The craziest part is that we are seeing coaches in the latter stages of their careers go back to be GA's when they can't find any other full-time opportunities.
Unless you played at the college level or have really good connections, it can be almost impossible to land a GA position in football or basketball. 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.
Also, a lot of people 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 expected to be there full time. That means minimum 12 hours days 7 days a week during the season for football coaches, 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 being a GA isn't an option for you at your current stage in life, or you are having trouble finding a GA position, your best bet to gain experience without totally sacrificing everything financially is to seek out volunteer or part-time positions at smaller schools 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, expect to spend every spare hour you have at the coach's office/facility. 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 of coaching on my resume. However, 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 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 and pre-practice meetings, don't expect the head coach to give you a glowing recommendation when you start applying for full-time positions.
For those who are still undergraduate students who would like to get into coaching at the college level but don't currently play a sport in college, you can still create opportunities for yourself. College sports programs are ALWAYS looking for student-assistant coaches and managers who can fulfill important duties within the program. I didn't play sports in college.....instead I was a student assistant for the football team. It gave me invaluable experience and led to great opportunities. Throughout my coaching career, I have always looked for undergrads who were interested in a coaching career who could assist our program. Good help (that's cheap) is always hard to find! Go knock on the door of the head coach at your college and get started!
Hope this helps give coaches some direction on getting their foot in the door. If you have questions, please let me know!
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