Becoming a professional soccer coach is a lofty goal. The world's most popular game has thousands of would-be coaches searching for jobs every day. However, with good networking skills, appropriate certification and a love of the game, it's possible to rise through the ranks and find a job on the center stage.
Although experience playing high-level soccer is not absolutely essential for a coaching career, it's a big help for two main reasons: first, playing collegiate or professional soccer teaches you about the game. It can be difficult to comprehend the strategic, tactical and athletic challenges of the game if you haven't played it at an advanced level. Second, high-level play is a great networking opportunity for future coaches. Coach Curt Onalfo of the Los Angeles Galaxy, for example, played for the University of Virginia under current Galaxy general manager Bruce Arena. In fact, almost every member of the Galaxy's coaching staff played college or pro soccer before beginning coaching.
If your goal is to end up as a professional soccer coach, your top priority should be gaining coaching experience any way you can. According to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, you can get a good start by volunteering with local youth soccer organizations or high school teams. Volunteering can lead to future job opportunities and help you build a professional network. You can find volunteer, internship and entry-level coaching opportunities at the NSCAA website.
Education and Certification
Although formal requirements are rare, most professional soccer coaches need some industry-specific training and education. The United States Soccer Federation offers the most widely-recognized coaching certificates. The organization offers five levels of coaching certification-- A, B, C, D, and E -- with the level-E certification most appropriate for beginning coaches. Requirements for each certification vary. The level E certificate requires 18 hours of training, while level B requires 20 hours in the classroom and another 48 hours on the field. Licenses are cumulative, so you have to start at the beginning and work your way up. Waivers can allow faster progress through the levels for professional players and coaches.
Pay Your Dues
The NSCAA advises coaches against rushing through licensing requirements and expecting a big payday with a professional club. In most cases, rising through the ranks and joining a professional club requires years of hard work and experience. Many coaches toil for years as high school or college assistants before making the leap to the professional level. From there, it can take several more years of experience to earn the top job with a club. The career trajectory is slow for most coaches, but it's a rewarding challenge for true soccer fanatics.