Head football coaches are the leaders of their teams, acting as CEO, “field general” and spokesperson. Opportunities range from teaching youth players the fundamentals to coaching elite players on the most sophisticated strategies in the game of football. Head coaches often delegate tasks to their assistants, but all decisions for a team stem from the head coach’s philosophy.
The head coach maps out practice plans, leads analysis of game film and dictates strategies. In addition to working with their teams, some coaches work off-season football camps or have teaching responsibilities in fields related to their educations. A head football coach has a central role in disciplinary situations, team budget and media relations. Head coaches of college and professional teams are involved in college recruiting and the National Football League draft, respectively, to acquire new players.
Education standards vary for head coaches, with many colleges requiring a bachelor’s or master’s degree, while youth leagues and high school teams have lower barriers to entry. At any level, from youth to the National Football League, a career as a head coach calls for extensive knowledge of football, leadership and lasting dedication to the game. Nearly all head coaches in the upper tiers of the sport are formerly successful, high-profile football players.
While head football coaches must be experts in technique and strategy, they must also have a thorough knowledge of league policy. From high schools to the National Collegiate Athletic Association to the National Football League, football organizations mandate standards of conduct, recruiting and competition. Breaking these rules can bring in-game penalties or serious off-field sanctions for coaches, teams or players.
Nearly all coaches develop deep knowledge of the intricacies of football strategy while playing high school and college football. Even after the requisite leadership skills are developed and foundational knowledge is gained, career coaches must relentlessly study the strategic innovations developed by their peers in order to remain competitive.
The majority of high-paying career opportunities for head football coaches are at the college and NFL levels. Youth and high school head football coaching jobs rarely command full-time salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual pay for coaches at $28,340 in May 2010, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $16,380. In 2012, the top NCAA coach made more than $5.4 million, and the top NFL coach made $7.5 million.
The BLS expects job growth of 29 percent for coaches in all sports between 2010 and 2020, well above that of the job market in general. The market for coaching jobs at the college and professional levels is extremely competitive. College and NFL coaches work 12- to 16-hour days, seven days a week during football season.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Coaches and Scouts
- National Federation of State High School Associations: Football
- National Collegiate Athletics Association: Enforcement
- National Collegiate Athletics Association: Penalties
- National Football League: Rulebook
- USA TODAY: College Football Coaches Salaries Database
- Forbes: Highest-Paid NFL Coaches 2012
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images