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When to Make Career Moves – Part 2: Full-time and Part-time Coaches

Ryan Metzger
Nov 24, 2023

In part 1 of this series, we explored considerations for making moves within your career based on being an intern or graduate assistant that has an expiring timeline within their current position.  In part 2, we will explore when to make a career move based on being a part-time or full-time coach that does not have a hard end date to their position.  This scenario is a bit trickier to navigate since there is no hard timeline pushing you to look for a new position but rather, this is a decision you come to for other reasons.

Building upon the considerations outlined in Part 1 of this series, part-time and full-time coaches must examine some additional factors when contemplating a transition from their current position.  Let’s explore some of these other considerations to help determine whether moving on from your current role aligns with your personal and professional goals.

Athletic Population / Sport Assignment 

Beginning your journey in the field of strength and conditioning as a generalist provides the opportunity to gain well-rounded experience working with numerous sports.  However, as you progress, honing your focus to a select few sports can serve as a valuable filter for potential job opportunities.  When contemplating your career path, the considerations of athletic population and sport assignment bear significant weight, as they directly impact the nature of your work and your capacity to excel in that role.

As you navigate this field, you will begin to find your niche area of expertise.  Intentionally choosing positions that align with your expertise is crucial as it allows you to leverage your skills and knowledge, thereby increasing your influence and effectiveness in developing your athletes.

Beyond the professional advantages, considering potential sport assignment and athletic population of a position can greatly affect motivation levels within your role.  An elevated level of enthusiasm for a particular population or sport can influence your work environment, making it more positive and conducive to better results in athlete development.  This enthusiasm translates to improved effectiveness in addressing the unique demands, training needs and other nuances of a specific sport.

It is important to recognize the trickle-down effect that narrowing your search for a new role based on athletic population and sport assignment has.  Being strategic in your search helps filter potential opportunities but magnifies the potential for career fulfillment and success which ultimately benefits the athletes you serve.

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Workload and Expectations

Daily responsibilities, job satisfaction and overall well-being can be profoundly influenced based on workload and expectations associated with a new position.  Strength and conditioning coaches are accustomed to irregular hours and widely varying demands of their profession so assessing workload and expectations is essential when determining if a new role aligns with your lifestyle and personal priorities.

Unrealistic or overwhelming workload and expectations can lead to burnout and job dissatisfaction.  Understanding what is expected in terms of daily demands, sport involvement, and administrative duties allows you to evaluate whether you can realistically manage these demands while maintaining job satisfaction.

Workload and expectations can also have direct consequences for program effectiveness and athlete safety. Maintaining a manageable workload allows you to concentrate on essential aspects of your position, including design and progression of training programs.  An excessive workload may cause one to cut corners or neglect other crucial elements, potentially undermining the overall effectiveness of your coaching.  This, in turn, can jeopardize athlete safety, as an excessive workload can lead to fatigue and compromise your ability to provide proper supervision or make informed decisions regarding a training program.

Furthermore, considering the already high burnout rates among strength and conditioning coaches, unrealistic workloads and expectations can accelerate the timeline and lead to premature departure from a position or even cause a complete career pivot.

Careful consideration needs to be taken regarding workload and expectations when contemplating taking a new position because it can severely affect the trajectory of your career.  It is essential to have a clear understanding of the workload and expectations of a new position before making a commitment.

Compensation and Benefits

Navigating a career field where compensation often doesn’t match the time and effort invested, considerations of compensation and benefits are vital when contemplating taking a new position.  Compensation is a primary factor that directly impacts your financial well-being.  This includes your salary, bonuses, and other financial incentives tied to your position.  Evaluating potential compensation is not merely a financial matter; it’s a fundamental step in ensuring that the new position aligns with your financial needs and goals.

Compensation can also influence your long-term career progression.  Taking a position offering a competitive salary and comprehensive benefits package serves as a steppingstone to access higher-paying positions in the future.  Each progressive step within your career should lead to increased compensation, reinforcing the value of your position.  Salary can often be used as a bargaining tool when deciding between remaining in your position or accepting a new role.  If you can leverage salary within negotiations, you have likely positioned yourself well to benefit financially.

Lastly, feeling valued and financially secure is motivating to stay engaged in your work.  Although coaching is often pursued out of passion rather than financial gain, staying in roles that compromise your value and effort can negatively impact your career and the strength and conditioning field. Assessing compensation and benefits ensures that a position aligns with financial needs, market value and long-term career objectives. 

Work Satisfaction

As many of the previous topics in this article have alluded to, work satisfaction should be given high consideration due to the substantial amount of time invested in job-related tasks.  When an individual finds genuine satisfaction in their work, it becomes a catalyst for continued motivation and improved performance.  This heightened level of dedication directly translates to more effective coaching, where enthusiasm and commitment create a positive feedback loop, benefiting both the coach and athletes they work with.

Work satisfaction plays a crucial role in long-term commitment to a coaching role.  A coach who finds satisfaction in their position is more likely to stay in their current position for an extended period.  Any organization is aware that when they fill positions with talented members, job satisfaction increases retention which not only improves the organization but, in this case, bolsters continuity and consistency in an athletic development program. 

Lastly, your overall well-being is closely intertwined with your work satisfaction.  Feelings of satisfaction can positively impact your mental and emotional well-being, contributing to a healthier and more fulfilling life.  Job dissatisfaction can lead to stress, burnout, and a host of other negative health effects.

While no position is without its share of challenges, and every day may not be smooth sailing, it’s important to assess your current work satisfaction in comparison to the potential satisfaction a new role may bring.  The concept of “the grass is greener” is difficult to gauge, especially if work satisfaction is the primary driver of a potential job change. However, this consideration has significant influence in your ability to perform at your best and thrive as a coach, making it a fundamental aspect of your career decisions.

The decision to change jobs is one that should not be taken lightly and although a few factors for consideration have been outlined, it is important to assess which concerns take the highest priority and align with your personal and professional goals.  As strength and conditioning coaches, we are always taught to reverse engineer our plans to make sure our process aligns with the end goal, and I often utilize that approach in my own decision making when faced with an opportunity for change within my career.  Anytime I have been presented with an opportunity, I have always questioned if taking that step will bring me closer to my end career goal.  If the answer is yes, I pursue the opportunity and if the answer is no, I politely pass. 

As a last bit of advice, it is important to be selective in the opportunities you choose to pursue, otherwise you will likely find a lack of growth in your career and minimal time spent at any organization.

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