There are thousands of high school and college coaches who apply for coaching jobs every year. Many have experienced success at the highest level and can stand out by name. There are many others who have not had as much success, are trying to get their foot in their door, or move up the coaching ranks.
How can they do that?
By writing a coaching resume that sells themselves as the right person for the job.
While resumes are not the sole criteria used to determine who gets interviewed and ultimately hired for open athletic coaching jobs, it’s often required as part of the process. A resume is oftentimes a coach’s first opportunity to make an impression with an athletic director, head coach, or hiring committee.
What are the keys to writing a successful sports coach resume?
Highlighting that undefeated season or state championship isn’t enough. Break down exactly how you achieved success on and off the field. Below, we break down what athletic directors and coaches look for when reviewing sports coaching resumes.
The Best Resumes Focus on Results and Achievements
The best sports coaching resumes focus on results, results, results.
The fact that as a lacrosse coach you went 19-3 in your first year and beat your rival 11-4 in the biggest game of the year is not enough. Dig deeper, says Chris Fore, author of An Insider’s Guide to Scoring Your Next Coaching Job and consultant at Eight Laces.
Fore has coached high school football for 16 years (head coach for eight) and has been an athletic director for six. Fore also has a Master’s Degree in Coaching and Athletic Administration and currently serves as a board member for the California Coaches Association.
“You’ve got to highlight your accomplishments,” Fore told Jobscan. “I’ve seen SO many stinking boring resumes. They just list the facts. They list titles and years and job descriptions. Ho-hum. You’ve seen one boring resume, you’ve seen them all.”
He continued, “Prove [that you’re a great coach] on paper as best as you can. … Tell me that you coached 3 collegiate linemen in one year, that you helped six kids get scholarships in just two years, what programs you started to help improve the GPA of your team, what the numbers were when you took over, and how you improved those while you were there. Don’t just show me a win-loss record. Show me what the winning percentage was before you got there and what it was when you were there.”
Most collegiate athletic directors understand they are likely going to receive several resumes from a number of highly qualified candidates from an X’s and O’s standpoint, says Kevin Buisman, Director of Athletics at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“What separates candidates at the collegiate level is the ability to demonstrate success beyond the coaching aspect of the job,” says Buisman. “Does the resume showcase their ability to fundraise, work within a budget, and handle alumni relations and PR for the program? Can they sell the program to recruits and generate fan interest? Have they demonstrated they can hire the right assistant coaches and round out their staff?”
At the college level, there are little nuances within each division that college coaching candidates need to account for– recruiting scholarship players at the Division I level versus non-scholarship players at Division III, public versus private institutions, schools with a religious affiliation. Do you have direct experience, or can you highlight values that show you are fit to work in this type of environment?
And don’t be shy. This is your one and only chance to brag.
“You’ve only got 30 seconds with that resume in front of an Athletic Director, maybe up to a minute,” adds Fore. “Brag about yourself early and often. Make your career jump off that paper by using real stats, facts, and figures that make the person reading it say ‘I need to talk with this guy.'”
Human Resources and the Applicant Tracking System
“It all goes through HR and a centralized application process that requires pre-screening to ensure candidates meet the minimum qualifications,” says Buisman. “It’s not like the old days when an administrative assistant would keep a box with all the resumes in it, and the search committee would get together and pass around resumes and talk about candidates.”
In today’s world, and especially at the collegiate level, coaching resumes are typically submitted via an applicant tracking system (ATS) that is pre-set with criteria and qualifications for each coaching position. Each college or human resources department can determine what criteria must be met in order to get to the next step in the review process.
“HR departments protect the university from potential violations of institution, state, and federal laws,” says Jim Fallis, Deputy Director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association and the former Athletic Director at the University of Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona State University.
“So typically, HR will want the department to provide a job description that lists the minimum qualifications for the job,” added Fallis, who was also the head wrestling coach at Lake Superior State University before moving into athletic administration. “The initial task of the search committee is to determine that those considered have the minimum qualifications. Having served on numerous search committees and going thru literally hundreds of resumes and applications, you figure out in a hurry how to match the applicants’ skills to the minimum qualifications.”
Fallis’ advice to college coaching candidates?
“Read the job description and make sure your experience matches the minimum qualifications, and that that information is easy to find on your resume,” adds Fallis. “I would literally have a list of the minimum qualifications and go through a resume to first and foremost match up minimum qualifications. If I could not match all those up the candidate did not make it through the first cut.”
Generate your custom report based on ATS matching algorithms below:
Once it’s determined which candidates have met the prescreening qualifications, search committee members can log-in to the applicant tracking system and review applications at their leisure.
Resume writing tips for assistant coaches
If you’re applying for an assistant college or high school position, be sure the resume highlights ways you can make an impact in the things most important to running an entire program. In college, showcase recruiting success, how you’ve made an impact with certain positions/players, highlight organizational and administrative skills.
Office work is a part of the game. Coaches want assistants who can fill in and add value in areas where the head coach is not as proficient. Again, look for examples of what is required of the assistant in the job description and showcase where you have made an impact in those areas. Don’t try and wow with a won-loss record alone.
“Many head coaches at the college and high school level run their wrestling program like a business,” I recently wrote in an article How to Write a Wrestling Coaching Resume. “The head coach is the CEO, and the assistant coaches and support staff are the vice president, directors, and sales staff. Any good business also needs someone who can complete the administrative tasks necessary to run a program.”
“If I’m looking at a candidate and they can’t help out with office work, if they can’t communicate with athletes, parents, and administrators, they just aren’t going to be a competitive candidate at many schools,” says Mike Clayton, Manager of the National Coaches Education Program for USA Wrestling and a former DI assistant and DIII head coach.
In high school, assistant coaches should also showcase how they can add value to the program. Perhaps the head basketball coach is an offensive guru, but needs an assistant who can improve the defense. Or, a second assistant is needed to work with the booster club, organize schedules, practice times, travel, and fundraising – all aspects important to a high school program that an assistant can take on to let the head coach coach. Showcase examples or results from your past on your resume that demonstrate how you can fill those gaps.
How to write a high school coaching resume
Jerry Concannon is the owner and director of QuickSkills Soccer, a Pittsburgh-based soccer program providing instructional training and products for developing soccer players. Concannon is also a former assistant coach with the Duquesne University men’s soccer team and played Division I soccer at Marquette University. He holds coaching certifications from the United States Soccer Federation and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and is a Pennsylvania West coaching education and license instructor who hires coaches that are certified and nationally licensed.
Concannon offers these resume writing tips for high school coaching candidates:
Open with a brief summary statement outlining interest in the position, but never use the word “I.” Instead, write something like this instead:
High-energy coach with 6+ years of experience leading varsity soccer programs to success on and off the field seeking opportunity as head coach at Central High School.
Follow with a professional experience category featuring 4-6 bullet points outlining your biggest accomplishments that most closely align with the specific coaching position you’re applying to.
This comes back to reading the job description and understanding specific needs. Highlight coaching certifications, leadership, off-the-field successes (academics), and program development, not just winning or won-loss record. Consider adding any coaching awards or honors in to a profile section.
After a summary and profile, list your coaching experience in reverse chronological order – most recent to oldest. In the experience section, again, focus on bullet points of successes. Include information on how you increased numbers, improved certain aspects within the team or program, and successes, backed by examples of those successes.
When reviewing various experiences, Concannon looks for coaching experience in the age group or at the level the candidate would be coaching.
“Do they have time working with players of that age and/or gender?” says Concannon. “In addition, can they provide some situational experiences that they may have dealing with certain situations that have come up in their career? For example, can the candidate share an anecdotal story [in an interview setting] about how they dealt with a situation such as playing time, an upset parent? I’d also like to know how the candidate approaches disciplining an athlete in certain situations.”
Education and Training
After experience, list coaching certifications and training, along with educational information. Coaching certifications are important. “My perception of coaches who do not pursue coaching certifications is that they are not willing to develop themselves, or worse, they already think they know it all,” says Concannon. “Coaching is a lifelong learning process, and the pursuit of coaching education demonstrates both a level of professionalism as well as a willingness to learn to improve the experience of the athletes.”
Including a brief section on your coaching philosophy for that level can also help share more about your as a coaching candidate, says Concannon. “This tells me if they align with the organization’s principles and provides some insight on the candidate’s overall approach to coaching.”
Listing a brief section about your past playing experience can also be valuable, however, don’t let playing experience take over what’s most important: Showing value as a coach.
“Playing experience is likely a more significant factor for younger coaches trying to build their coaching career,” says Concannon. “Over time, the coaching experience can overtake playing experience in terms of a main factor in getting a job.”
At the end of the resume, try and add some info about soft skills (interpersonal/communication), unique attributes (matching what is requested in the job description if possible), and/or experiences that help you stand out as a candidate.
“Coaching is a job that requires an ability to establish rapport and motivate athletes, so it requires solid interpersonal skills and an ability to relate to people,” says Concannon.
Coaching resumes for youth sports
The best coaching resumes for youth sports coaching positions are those that demonstrate both coaching experience and coaching certifications for the age group of the coaching position, says Concannon. In other words, does the candidate have experience with a large range of ages and genders? Has the candidate coached 6-year-olds and 18-year-olds? “Coaching 6-year-olds teaches one to be concise in communication and flexible in approach. These are qualities that would help at any level of coaching,” says Concannon.
Proofread the resume
Spelling and grammar mistakes happen. Proofread the resume several times to avoid any mistakes if at all possible.
Read it in different ways to catch errors your brain might be glossing over. Read the resume from bottom to top. Increase the size of the document on your computer to 150% to make the font bigger and easier to read. Print it out and read it. Write it one day, read it over the next.
Also, make sure you update each and every resume for the specific job. Fore has reviewed several resumes where the candidate listed the wrong school on the resume or application package. Don’t put in the hard work only to see it all for naught because it’s littered with errors. The little things are important as a coach… and in writing a resume.
At the interview: Supplemental materials make an impact
Buisman says leaving behind supplemental material such as program vision, a student-athlete handbook created by the candidate, documents outlining the candidates plan for the first 90 days, six months, or first year on the job, or a program philosophy or mission statement, can help candidates stand out.
“Once you’re on campus, it’s an extended chance to share your vision for the program, to sell yourself and continue to tell your story,” says Buisman.
Remember, a resume alone won’t get you job. But the goal of the resume is to get an interview and get your foot in the door. To get the interview, follow these tips the next time you write a sports coaching resume.
Matt Krumrie has 15 years of resume writing experience and helps professionals at all levels, and in all professions – including coaches – create resumes that help them stand out and get noticed.