Getting Hired as a Coach
Because of the diversity of skills needed to work within an organized race program, there is tremendous potential for learning and development. While the competent coach must always continue her education in the field, there are very few American coaches who did not begin coaching without being an outstanding skier in their own right. Most working coaches were drawn to the profession as their own careers wound down and they were able to get satisfaction helping younger, less experienced racers on their team.
If you’re interested in becoming a coach, industry insiders suggest getting into the ski school at your area, showing some interest, and making connections. Earning your USSCA certification is important – just like it’s much easier to apply for a job if you have a degree, becoming a coach is a lot easier if you’re certified. If you have racing experience it helps, but if you don’t, go to the clinics and get into the ski school where you hope to work. If an opening comes up and you’ve shown a lot of interest, chances are you’ll get an opportunity.
In the words of a racing director at a ski area in California:
“You don’t have to be on the U.S. Ski Team or anything like that, but you should have some knowledge of ski racing before you start. Most of our coaches came up through the rings of PSIA. Not only are they fully certified ski instructors but they’re also members of a professional ski coaches association. They’re either Level I- or Level II-certified. The coaches that we hire have to have those certifications or they have to be working on them.”
While it’s somewhat difficult to get hired on at a large ski area, you don’t necessarily have to coach at a well-known academy to develop champions. Take for example the Buck Hill Ski Racing Club. The area, just south of Minneapolis, has a vertical elevation barely over 300 feet; but its program, incredibly, has placed several athletes on the U.S. Ski Team and developed collegiate champions. While programs range from teams of 200 or more down to just two or three athletes, the average group has about 100 athletes, with anywhere from fifteen to twenty coaches.
As in other segments of the ski industry, interpersonal skills are just as important as skiing skills. A racing team director stresses that attitude is a big part of the job:
“Coaches have to have an outgoing personality and they have to love the sport of skiing. They have to make a commitment to the sport of skiing. Our coaches here are very committed and that commitment shows through to their students.”
Program directors of the country’s biggest ski racing programs can earn up to $80,000 per year, although an average annual salary for a full-time coach who is also involved in planning and fundraising through the summer months or who works at summer camps may range from $30,000 to $60,000 per year. As a seasonal full-time coach you can expect to be paid on a salary basis for a contractual period, say mid-November through mid-April. A weekend-only coach should anticipate being paid on a per-diem basis of $75 to $100 per day.
A key concern during contract negotiations should be health insurance. A coach may be covered through his state’s workmen’s compensation program; however, without additional personal coverage, a coach may be at risk if he takes off for a little free skiing after the gates have been put away for the day.