Making a living as a coach in fitness or sports isn’t easy. I’m sharing some personal experiences with fellow coaches just to help. It’s not preaching, just sharing.
I’ve coached and taught thousands of women and men from scratch, in the gym, on the football field, and in college law enforcement lecture halls. I’ve learned countless lessons. But the main lesson I’ve learned it that coaching is the toughest profession I’ve worked in top make a living.
All my other professions were tough. I’m an ex-police officer (1975-1990). Frontline policing is tough – it’s a life and death fight. I’m an ex-college law enforcement professor/program coordinator (1990-2010). Teaching college students to compete with tens of thousands to get hired in a life-and-death job is tough. There’s a huge obligation to give college students your very best so they get the best return for their tuition money. I’ve worked in a flour mill carrying 140-lb. bags for 8 hours a day. That was brutally tough. But coaching is the toughest profession I’ve had to make a living at. But, it’s the only profession that has endured my entire adult life. I’ve changed careers but I’ve stuck to coaching. There’s a compelling reason why – I believe coaching is a calling. Like with any other profession, I believe we are called to be coaches. The potential lasting impact a coach can have on lives, good or bad, is immeasurable. But there’s a steep price to pay to coach. Every calling has a cost but coaching is the most expensive because it’s the toughest profession I’ve had to earn a sustainable income in.
I got paid by the taxpayers when I was a police officer. I got paid by the taxpayers when I was a college professor. Steady income, 100% guarantee. No such guarantees with coaching. Zero guarantee. If you’re not careful, coaching will make you go broke.
Coaching can make you or break you. No profession has been more rewarding than coaching for one simple reason – the reward. There’s no greater reward than putting up ladders for others. Coaching makes the biggest, lasting positive impact on countless lives, including your own. Coaching is life-altering, both for the athlete and the coach. No profession I’ve worked in compares to the inner reward that coaching gives. Nothing comes even close. But coaching is paradoxical – it can make you rich inside but it can break you financially because in my experience, the majority of people believe that coaching is free. Many expect it for free. Many demand it for free.
No one expects medical treatment for free. No one expects a dentist to fix teeth for free. No one expects a home built for free. No one expects a mechanic to fix cars for free. No one expects free beer and alcohol at a bar. No one expects free vacations from travel agents and resorts. But coaching is different. Many people will scrounge, mooch, and otherwise try to squeeze every bit of free advice, consultation, knowledge, inspiration, and motivation without ever giving a single thought of paying for it. What’s the cause? Me and people like me. I’m guilty of promoting the belief that coaching is free because I have been one of the worst offenders for giving away a coaching fortune for free.
I have been a head football coach for 31 seasons at three different levels, all unpaid. Repeat – unpaid. Google “football coach salaries” and you’ll find mind-numbing exorbitant salaries paid to football coaches. Why? Because coaching is life-altering. The value of coaching is priceless. Coaching brings out the best in people, mentally and physically. Coaches bring out intellectual and physical potential that would otherwise be buried deep inside until it becomes a heavy weight to carry. But I’m guilty of de-valuing the coaching profession by giving away a fortune all in the name of altruism.
One of my biggest fears is counting the amount of free fitness and football coaching I’ve given away in my life. I’m afraid to count because it’s the equivalent of a fortune. A true fortune. I’ve taken food off my family’s table to coach other people for free. I’ve never given my three daughters a dime toward their post-secondary education but I have paid a steep price to help other peoples’ kids get scholarships. Here’s my point – where’s the line between helping people and enabling people?
I’m 55 and still work out way over 300 days annually. The 300 workouts-a-year streak is in its 43rd year. All-natural. 100% drug-free. No fitness coach ever. Here’s my point. I have never stopped working out since I was an obese dysfunctional 12-year old, without one minute of coaching. I know exactly what it takes to work out for a lifetime. Those of you who do the same as me know that it has to be experienced to be believed. Your experience is a treasure of knowledge. You own a fortune of practical experience. Your experience can change lives beyond wildest dreams. To make a living at coaching, you have to calculate the true value of your coaching skills and not compromise. Otherwise, you’ll spend your whole life working for someone else.
I’ve owned a 24-hour gym (X Fitness) for 12 years in one of the worst economies in Canada. Making a self-generated business is the toughest job I’ve had because there is no guaranteed government income. The biggest threat to my business is my altruism, an a mysterious compulsion to help people by giving away coaching for free. If you’re a coach looking to make a living in fitness coaching or sports coaching, be careful how much you give away for free. I never worked as a cop for free. I never taught college for free. Yet I give away my calling of coaching for free. I’m sharing this with you for one reason –to help you. My goal is to help you make a living at coaching.
This is part 1. More to follow. You can email any comments/questions through this website.
Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., Level 3 Nat’l Coaching Certification program
Owner – X Fitness Inc.
Head coach – Oakville Longhorns football
Author – Soul of a Lifter