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How Do I Become a College Softball Coach?

By Jacob Harkins
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Becoming a softball coach in a college or university usually takes a lot of experience, determination, and networking, as well as at least some formal education in sports or coaching more generally. This can be a challenging career path since there aren’t always openings, and in many cases you’ll have to move to wherever the job is. Not all schools have softball teams, and those that do don’t always see much turnover. Competition for positions can be intense, too. Having experience as a player yourself is almost always required, and previous coaching experience is usually very advantageous. It’s often easiest to start out coaching at a junior college or in a lower-division setting to gain experience and to begin setting a record. It’s rare for top-tier schools to hire coaches who are unknown. Networking with athletic department representatives and hiring managers can help make schools aware of your skills, too, which can help you land the job you want.

Understanding the Job Generally

Many colleges have sports teams, and the coaching staff is an important part of this enterprise. In addition to recruiting and training student players, coaches are also responsible for giving players the dynamic support they need to win on the field while still succeeding in the classroom. Not all colleges have softball teams, and while it’s possible to get a job as a coach at a school that wants to start one, your search will be easier if you target schools that already have developed programs.

Importance of Experience

Almost all college softball coaches were college softball players themselves at some point. Many also played or still play in organized leagues or teams. Playing the game yourself is often one of the best ways to really know how its rules work and how to implement different strategies. A strong record as a player is often an added bonus. Many schools are interested in recruiting former stars to coach, since an outstanding record often speaks to a deep understanding and appreciation of the game.

Experience working with teams is usually also essential to become a college softball coach. A first-time coach will likely have to start as a part-time assistant at a Division III or NAIA school. It can also help to start out as a high school softball coach to build experience first. Part-time college coaching positions are often filled by former players trying to work their way up in the ranks, which is where previous playing experience can help immensely.

Educational Requirements

Many college colleges also require their coaches to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some positions may require a master's degree, too, usually in a field like coaching, sports medicine, or athletic development. Dealing with team dynamics and interpersonal issues may make psychology training very useful as well. More than anything, though, a college or university degree can help you relate to your players as someone who has been through what they’re going through, and know what it takes to balance athletics and academics.

Networking and Hierarchy

Landing a good job as a college softball coach usually requires some networking. Networking within a school or meeting other athletic directors and coaches from nearby colleges or regional leaders can be a good place to start. Working at clinics, generally run by successful coaches as part of or in addition to their coaching contracts, is a great way to meet coaches at larger schools who may be on the lookout for up-and-coming talent.

Understanding the college softball hierarchy is also important, particularly if you want to become a college softball coach at a prestigious school. There are multiple tiers to the game, starting with NCAA Division I, which is where the best players, most money, and most TV and media exposure wind up. Division I-AA is the next most prominent tier, followed by Division II and Division III wrapping up the NCAA brackets. There is also the smaller National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Being willing to start at the bottom might make sense, especially if you don’t yet have a lot of experience.

Other Important Skills

Aside from experience and education, successful college softball coaches typically have a variety of other skills. Interpersonal skills including mediation and negotiation skills are important not only when working with players but also in potential recruitment processes. Of course, a good understanding of the relevant rules of the game is also usually imperative to coaching a successful team.

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Discussion Comments
By jcraig — On Jun 03, 2012

@Izzy78 - I will have to say that I agree with you to a certain, but experience is a major thing and it is almost impossible to be hired on as a head coach right from the start without having experience as an assistant coach in the first place.

Really I feel like one just has to be persistent and start out at the low levels of colleges and simply work their way up.

Personally I think it also depends on if someone wants to be the coach of a large program or not, as it is harder to move up from Division III assistant coach to Division I head coach.

It is usually a very long and winding road for a coach and I really think one has to set their priorities early and make sure they know what they are getting into in the first place.

By Izzy78 — On Jun 03, 2012

@stl156 - Although it seems like someone could start out as a head college coach at a small college most of the time it helps to have started out as an assistant at a smaller school and work their way up.

One major thing with small colleges is that the coaches are major recruiting tools in getting students to come to college and spend tens of thousands of dollars to fund their education there.

This is one reason why coaches are paid good money and this means that a coach has to be a good recruiter and make sure that they know how to properly coach kids at the college level as well as know how to keep them in school.

I have found it hard to become a college coach simply because it is hard to get ones foot in the door. I find it helps to know someone at a college and try to get on as an assistant as opposed to gaining experience in the high school ranks.

By stl156 — On Jun 02, 2012

@matthewc23 - I absolutely agree. I feel like Division III schools are merely looking for people to properly fill the position, but not necessarily always look to build a championship contending team.

Also, I find it to be a lot easier to obtain these types of jobs, because at a lot of colleges these are part time positions and the coaches are given additional jobs on campus to supplement their coaching position.

To be honest I feel like this is a great place to start out as one can still be considered a college coach while they pad their resume for higher up coaching positions, say at a Division I school or a more contending college.

By matthewc23 — On Jun 02, 2012

I have to say that if someone really wants to become a coach at the college level the best place to try it is at the Division III level as there are a lot of colleges that are merely looking for someone to fill the position as opposed to have full expertise in it.

I will also say that there are far greater chances to get hired at a school that has a bad softball program simply because people do not want to inherit a bad team, but in my opinion that is what determines a good coach as they can do nothing but improve and if they do they prove themselves.

Also, another thing to consider is that Division III is the most similar division to high school and that the environment will be very similar to what most of the kids have grown up in, so it may help to have experience with high schoolers, whether as a teacher or as a coach in high school.

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