10 Coaching Interview Questions (With Sample Answers and Tips)

Updated June 24, 2022

During the interview process for athletic coaches, potential employers ask some common questions to assess candidates' qualifications. An impressive candidate will not only outline their skills but also provide specific examples of how they use them. One of the best ways to prepare is to research these questions and the best practices for answering them. In this article, we provide explanations and sample answers for 10 coaching interview questions.

Related: How To Become a Coach

Coaching interview questions with sample answers

The following are some common questions you may face during coaching job interviews, along with some example answers to help you prepare:

Why did you want to become a coach?

This question is a personal one, which means the answer will vary based on your experience and background. Interviewers commonly ask this because they want to gain insight into who you are and what you can bring to the position. While they will appreciate hearing a personal story about your inspiration to take on this role, remember to align your reasons with their needs.

Example: "When I started high school, I was so excited to join the soccer team but soon felt like I was nowhere near as talented as my teammates. My coach noticed my change in demeanor and pulled me aside. After listening to my concerns, she explained why I should stop comparing myself to others. She outlined the skills I brought to the team and kindly offered suggestions on the areas I could improve. Every few weeks, she checked in on how I was feeling and provided feedback on my progress.

By taking the time to coach me on an individual basis, I felt that she cared about me and valued me as a team member. At the end of the season, I had gained confidence that extended both on and off the field. I want to make the same positive impact on my players, letting them know that I care about their well-being and want to see them grow as athletes and individuals."

Can you describe what a typical practice looks like for your teams?

The interviewer wants to get a better idea of your coaching and team-management skills. Talk them through a typical practice and the types of drills and activities it entails. You can further impress the interviewer by bringing a sample practice plan, which shows them that you are organized and well-prepared. Remember to mention any unique or fun activities, as these will help you stand out from other candidates.

Example: "I start all of my practices with warm-up exercises and stretches to prepare the players. After that, we move onto individual and group drills to improve specific techniques and skills. The types of drills we practice vary based on their recent game performance and the areas I think need improvement. I brought along an example of one of my practice plans from my prior job if you would like to take a look at it."

What are your core values as a coach?

Interviewers ask this question to learn what kind of leader you are and how your values align with their organization. It also shows them the ways you will serve as a positive role model for your athletes. Keep your response brief by focusing on two or three values, explaining their importance to you and providing examples of how you implement them.

Example: "Two of my core values are commitment and teamwork. I expect athletes to show up to practices and games prepared and on time. This proves to me that they are engaged and want to be on the team. I hold myself to the same expectations, which shows them that I am equally committed.

I also value teamwork and cooperation, so I expect teammates to build strong relationships with one another. To do this, I incorporate collaborative drills and exercises during practice. I make sure to illustrate relationship-building by treating everyone with respect and listening to their concerns."

Related: Core Values: Overview and Examples

How do you view the relationship between academics and athletics?

Working as a coach within a school means you sometimes have to consider athletes' educational demands—and you also may be an educator yourself. Interviewers want to learn how you maintain the balance between education and athletics. They usually want to make sure you consider the students' academic interests above athletics.

Example: "As a coach, I take education very seriously. I want my athletes to have the skills to succeed on the field and in their daily lives. In the past, I set requirements to maintain a specific GPA to remain on the team. If I learn that an individual is having trouble in a class, I have a conversation with them and the teacher to see if we can arrange a customized plan to help them improve."

How will you develop community support for the team?

Establishing support is especially important when coaching at a high school level because you may need it for funding purposes. It is also essential at all other levels because you want your team to feel supported by a fan base. Interviewers want to see what actions you take to generate support and help the program thrive.

Example: "The best way to build support among the community is to show the community that we also support them. To do this, I organize volunteering opportunities hosted by the team throughout the season. My previous teams have helped deliver meals from food banks, cleaned up litter in local parks and much more. These activities also teach valuable lessons to my athletes about the importance of helping others."

What approach do you take when your team is struggling?

Interviewers want evidence that you can solve challenging situations. When answering this question, try to use a specific example of how you previously worked through struggles on your teams.

Example: "When I notice my team is struggling, I first determine whether the issue exists across all players or at an individual level. If I decide the whole team is struggling with a specific technique or method of playing, I implement team drills during practices to explain my expectations and help them develop that skill. If it is an individual problem, I speak with them before or after practice and suggest drills they can do at home to improve."

Describe what your bench area looks like during games.

This question shows interviewers how you manage your team and the rules of conduct you set. Detail how you keep control of your bench, and explain your reasoning.

Example: "First, I make sure to adhere to any rules set by the organization or facility. I do not mind whether players are sitting or standing, as long as they remain in the bench area. What is most important to me is that they are focused on the game and cheering on their fellow teammates. To me, this is a sign of respect because they are supporting their team even when off the court. I also want them to maintain respectful language toward the opposing team to show good sportsmanship."

What are your off-season expectations?

Interviewers are often interested in finding out how you plan your off-season, which can be just as important as in-season strategies. Your potential employer may have expectations of their own regarding players' off-season habits, so make sure you can back up your decision if your choices differ.

Example: "Ideally, I would like my players to continue practicing their skills during the off-season, whether on their own, with friends or as part of a club. I do understand that they may have other commitments, so I would at least like them to maintain a regular exercise routine. As we get closer to the start of the season, I host open-gym sessions to provide an opportunity for them to practice and get back into the team mindset."

How would you handle criticism?

Coaches can encounter criticism from fans or other interested parties who are disappointed when the team loses. Interviewers want to know you are prepared for these situations and can respectfully handle them.

Example: "It is never fun to receive criticism from fans, but I stay focused on my players. I set an example for my team by responding in a calm, collected manner and avoiding arguments. I want to show them that a negative comment does not require a negative response, so we should focus on staying optimistic about future games. In response to criticism, I explain to my athletes how we can improve rather than what we did wrong."

Related: How To Accept Criticism

How do you handle parents who have concerns about their child's playing time?

Parents often approach coaches after a game if they believe their child did not receive enough time on the field or court. This concern is understandable because games are their only opportunity to see their child play, but it is almost impossible for coaches to give equal playing time to every player. Show interviewers that you would respond to this situation in a calm, professional manner.

Example: "If a parent approaches me and seems upset, I set up a private meeting to discuss their concerns. This creates ‘cool down' time so that when we meet, they're calmer. I try to schedule it before or after a team practice so they can see their child play and gain a better understanding of how I manage my team. I do not make promises about increasing playing time, but I might provide advice on what skills I think their child would benefit from practicing during their own time."

Interview tips for coaches

Here are some additional tips you can use when going in for a coach interview:

Do your research

Learn as much as you can about the school or organization before your interview.. This will help you feel more prepared and could help determine if it is the right fit for you. Examples of what to research include why the position is open, the tenure of the most recent head coaches and the state of the employer's sports facilities.

Bring examples of your work

It is a good idea to bring physical playbooks or workout programs with you to provide examples of your previous experience. You can pull them out after answering a related question or at the end of the interview. Interviewers will be impressed by your preparedness and gain a clear understanding of your coaching approach.

Ask questions

Try to prepare three to five questions to ask about the employer and the job itself. These questions show your interest in the role and that you took the time to prepare for your conversation.

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