Athletes, Coaches, Umpires, and Related Workers

Many young people who love sports aspire to a career in this field. Although it is very difficult to make it as a professional athlete, there are other ways to make a living in athletics. Coaching and umpiring (also known as refereeing) are two such ways. These careers are a good fit for active people who love to socialize and compete.

  • Although athletic professionals are in some ways public figures, most of their work takes place away from the crowds. Athletes, coaches, and umpires must engage in constant and intense preparation in order to stay atop their respective fields.
  • For top athletes, almost every aspect of their personal and professional lives is geared towards maintaining physical superiority.
  • When they are not practicing, they must be studying their sport or resting. Similarly, coaches must constantly study strategy and film in order to compete at the highest level.
  • For coaches, there is really no end to the amount of preparation that can be performed. Even umpires and referees must spend long, thankless hours honing their craft in order to succeed.

For aspiring athletes, the path to professional success is straightforward and simple: relentless training. Athletes must devote much of their time to specific skill development. In addition, they must eat properly and get plenty of rest. In other words, preparing to become an athlete is a round-the-clock endeavor. Most athletes in well-known sports participated in high school and collegiate programs. However, the level of support for top athletes in college depends on the sport. Basketball and football players, for instance, usually spend at least a couple years playing college sports, while baseball and soccer players often enter professional leagues straight out of high school. Many top tennis players go to special high schools so that they can accelerate their training during their teen years. Similarly, athletes who look to participate in lesser-known Olympic sports may have to move to special training facilities in order to have access to the best equipment and coaches.

  • For coaches, the best training is usually participation in the sport as a young person, followed by a long apprenticeship under established coaches. High school and college coaches are usually required to have a bachelor’s degree, and they need to have a teaching certificate. Many coaches complete specialized programs that focus on physiology, nutrition, and sports medicine. However, experience and personal contacts are usually the most important factors in the development of a coaching career. This is true also of scouts, whose professional success usually depends on their skill and connections rather than any particular credentials.
  • For umpires and referees, there are usually specific certification tests related to the particular sport. Most of these professionals began by officiating low-level events, and only moved up to the extent that they demonstrated fairness and accuracy of judgment. There are professional improvement conferences and camps for umpires and referees to improve their skills.
  • Athletes are commonly thought of as overpaid, so some people may be surprised to learn that the average annual income for athletes is only about $40,000. Of course, the most well-known athletes in the most popular sports earn many times this figure. However, some athletes in smaller leagues and in less popular sports earn less than $20,000 a year.
  • Coaches and scouts make quite a bit less than athletes. The average annual salary of coaches and scouts is about $28,000, and 10 percent of coaches and scouts earn less than $15,500 a year. Coaches in the most popular sports (football, basketball, and baseball) earn considerably more. Also, coaches and scouts tend to earn more when they are employed by colleges and universities. Coaches who work for elementary and secondary schools earn less than the general average for the profession.
  • Umpires do not make a great deal of money, and so most are forced to supplement their income with another job. The average annual income for umpiring or related work is $23,730. Umpires and referees in the most popular and visible sports make closer to $50,000 a year.

There is expected to be much higher demand for athletes, coaches, umpires, and other professionals of this sort in the future. Although the competition for the top jobs will remain very intense, the compensation at lower levels will improve as well. The increase in population will drive demand for more organized athletic programs. This will create more opportunities for any professionals looking to enter this field. The best jobs will be reserved for those who have a good background and extensive credentialing. There will be part-time jobs available at lower levels, where the competition for available positions will be less intense.