They're the motivators on the side of the pool during a swim practice or a big meet -- but swim coaches have a myriad of other duties. They're also typically highly trained professionals and managers who deal with safety, scheduling and employee relations. If you're interested in becoming a coach, you'll need to hone your skills in much more than just swim technique.
Where They Work
Swim coaches work in nearly every type of aquatics facility you could imagine. Many work for community centers and fitness centers, coaching swimmers of all ages. Others work in middle or high schools, providing coaching services on top of their regular teaching duties. Swim coaches also work for college swim programs as well as for professional swimming clubs. At the collegiate or professional level, a coach might be employed full-time, while in other settings it might be a part-time job.
What They Do
Swim coaches help swimmers perfect their techniques and become the best swimmers they can be, but that's just the start. In addition to leading practices and scheduling swim meets, coaches may be constantly recruiting, meaning they're attending other meets to be on the lookout for new swimmers to add to their team. In higher-level clubs, coaches may help swimmers with proper nutrition and career planning. Since they're often swimmers themselves, coaches may also help to develop new techniques or products that help swimmers get better race times. When they're the head coach, they'll also manage assistant coaches or other team members, develop schedules, ensure employees are paid and even manage aquatics facilities.
Becoming a Swim Coach
Swim coaches are typically required to be certified in CPR and first aid and are often required to have lifeguard certification as well. Many facilities also want coaches to be certified by the American Swimming Coaches Association. The ASCA has five levels of certification, each one adding more expertise and knowledge to a coach's repertoire. Generally, a higher level of certification will mean increased opportunities for higher-level jobs. When you complete the first level, you'll also become a member of the USA Swimming organization, which can help you network with other professionals. Swim coaches at the collegiate and professional level may also be required to have at least a bachelor's degree in exercise science or a related field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics coaches of all types earned an average yearly income of $37,610, while those in colleges and universities earned an average wage of $51,550 as of May 2013. Although it hasn't published a salary survey since 2003, the American Swimming Coaches Association's survey of swim coaches at that time listed Level 3 head coaches as making $30,040 per year, Level 4 head coaches at $44,750, and Level 5 head coaches at $56,420. Based on those salary estimates, it's clear that more experience and more training as a coach will help you earn more credibility and money in the field. To advance your career, you might start out working as an assistant coach in a small club or at the middle or high school level, gain experience and receive higher-level training, and then work your way into a higher-paying college coaching position.
- Lifetime Fitness: Swim Team Coach Job
- Club Fit: Swim Team Assistant Coach
- American Swimming Coaches Association: ASCA Coaches Certifcation: Purpose & Process
- USA Swimming: Coach Membership Requirements
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Coaches and Scouts
- American Swimming Coaches Association: 2003 Salary Survey
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 27-2022 Coaches and Scouts
- Photo Credit Sven Hoppe/iStock/Getty Images
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