Sports instructors can serve in a variety of roles in the athletic world. They may work as coaches at every level ranging from elementary school teams to professional ones. They may also serve as personal trainers or team scouts. There's no single educational trajectory a sports instructor has to follow, and some don't have college degrees. No matter what major you choose, however, personal experience in the field is important. A soccer instructor, for example, is more likely to land a job if he has played soccer.
A degree in exercise and sport sciences can give you a broad background in basic physiology, the effects of exercise on the body, best training practices and coaching. Some schools allow students to select a specialty related to the type of instructor they want to become. At Texas Tech University, for example, students can choose the exercise science track, exercise and health promotion track, or sport management track; they can also add a minor in athletic coaching.
Anatomy and Physiology
Courses in anatomy and physiology prepare students to understand the effects of exercise on the body as well as the health benefits of exercise. Degrees in anatomy and physiology can be particularly helpful to future sports instructors who want to serve as personal trainers. At many schools, such as California Polytechnic State University, anatomy and physiology is a subspecialty within a biology major.
If you want to be an instructor for children, a degree in physical and health education can give you the background you need. You'll take classes in health, child development, education, nutrition and sports coaching, and can then seek certification as a PE teacher. PE teachers sometimes coach school-based athletic teams or work one-on-one training students who want private instruction. They also develop and implement physical education curricula and must be licensed at the state level.
If you want to be an instructor in a specific sport, you'll also need to meet the credentialing criteria for the governing body of your sport. For example, U.S. Soccer, the governing body for soccer in the U.S., sets criteria for coaches based on the type of team they're coaching. Coaches working at the collegiate or professional level must meet more stringent licensing criteria than those at less competitive levels. Coaches must attend coaching classes and have experience playing soccer. Playing on a college team while you prepare for your career can help you get the experience you need.
- Carthage College: Exercise and Sport Science
- Topend Sports: Coaching Sports
- PE Central : Becoming a Physical Education Teacher
- National Careers Service: Job Profile: Sports Coach
- California Polytechnic State University: 11-13 Biological Sciences Major (Anatomy and Physiology Concentration)
- U.S. Soccer: Frequently Asked Questions
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.