There are many wrestlers who have a laundry list of wrestling credentials. State champion, national champion, All-American, and so on.
But success on the mat doesn’t always translate to success as a coach. At the same time, there are several successful wrestling coaches who did not achieve a high level of success on the mat that have turned into great coaches, leaders of young men and women, and who any athletic director would like to hire to run their high school or college wrestling program.
When writing a wrestling coaching resume, coaches need to show they have more than on the mat success to stand out.
In fact, the best resumes showcase much more than past wrestling success. They highlight leadership skills, show how one made an impact or improved a program, highlight coaching certifications or training, showcase academic improvement, and/or use achievements to showcase how one can make an impact.
This article starts by providing feedback from three former college coaches on the application, resume, interviewing, and hiring process, and ends with advice from a high school athletics director who has read hundreds of resumes and hired over 30 head coaches at the high school level in a variety of sports, including wrestling. In addition, the article features tips on how to format a resume, and how to write a resume that uses achievements and results to stand out. In addition, the article provides a resource that helps coaches compare their resume to the coaching job description before submitting the resume, and a resume writing resource who can assist with writing your coaching resume.
What coaches look for when reading a wrestling coaching resume
Mike Clayton is Manager of the National Coaches Education Program for USA Wrestling and runs Session 6 Wrestling, where he helps wrestlers set goals, focus, gain confidence, organize and prioritize their training to help them reach their goals on the mat and in life. Prior to that Clayton was the head assistant coach for Division I Army (West Point, N.Y.) and head coach at Division III Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, N.J.).
At Stevens Institute, Clayton was in charge of reviewing resumes and applications when hiring assistant coaches. He had a set budget, and looked for a number of key qualities of candidates when reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates.
“At each level I’ve worked at, we look for not just wrestling accomplishments, but the quality of person,” says Clayton. “We can teach great people more about how to teach wrestling, but it is really hard to teach someone to be a good person and how to make good decisions.”
One thing is certain: Wrestling credentials certainly play a part in the hiring decision, but it shouldn’t be the end all in the decision, says Clayton.
“I’ve passed on candidates who had great ‘wrestling’ resumes, because what we were looking for was a mentor and coach, not just a great wrestler,” says Stevens. “As a staff gets bigger, you can hire specialty assistants who can focus on training, but be careful, hiring someone just on athletic ability can backfire quickly if they can’t make decisions that mesh with program values.”
Many head coaches at the college and high school level run their wrestling program like a business. The head coach is the CEO, and the assistant coaches and support staff are the vice president, directors, and sales staff. Any good business also needs someone who can complete the administrative tasks necessary to run a program.
“If I’m looking at a candidate and they can’t help out with office work, if they can’t communicate with athletes, parents, and administrators, they just aren’t going to be a competitive candidate at many schools,” says Clayton. “I’d recommend all coaches take the USA Wrestling Silver Certification task for 3 Dimensional Coaching. It is a great program that teaches coaches about values and motivational tools that can make the X’s and O’s of coaching really cement better with the athletes.”
In addition to a strong resume, references are important, especially if someone who is respected in the sport calls the athletics director on a coaches’ behalf, says Clayton.
“The resume is big,” says Clayton. “Having someone call an AD is probably bigger. If the AD receives a call from a reputable person in our sport, it goes a long way with that AD’s choice. If you aren’t networking, you’re not really trying to get your foot in the door.”
Resume is one part of the process
Like most jobs, the resume is only one part of the application and interview process. But it’s important, and can sometimes make or break one’s chances of getting an interview. However, it’s still also about who you know, says Jim Harshaw, an All-American wrestler at the University of Virginia, and former assistant coach with the Cavaliers and head coach with Division I Slippery Rock. Reputation and having solid references who can speak highly of a candidate are important, says Harshaw. And, like in the professional/business world, networking is also important. A desire to make an impact and succeed in a coaching role must be apparent throughout the entire process.
“We’re looking for signs that the applicant wants this job and wants to be in this industry,” says Harshaw, who is now a TEDx speaker, executive coach, and host of the Success through Failure podcast, where he teaches former wrestlers, business professionals, and anyone seeking positive life change how to use failure to drive success. “Someone getting into the sports (coaching or otherwise) industry because their spouse moved and they’re looking for any job they can find is not likely to look good.”
Wrestling is unique in that most assistants are workout partners, adds Harshaw. “So, assistants should not only have office/administrative skills, leadership skills, and good decision-making capabilities, but also be able to build rapport with wrestlers, and be a solid teacher and technician.”
When a coach is looking to move into a head assistant, or head coaching role, highlighting recruiting success, leadership skills, understanding the office work needed, and other CEO-style skills become more important, added Harshaw. At Slippery Rock, Harshaw reviewed resumes, conducted the interview, and did the hiring. Once a coach finds a candidate, or narrows the candidate pool, the coach then passes the applicants name to HR and they do their background checks and other necessary paperwork.
Different processes for different schools
Both high school and college wrestling coaching candidates need to understand every school — high school or college level — has different application, interviewing, and hiring processes.
For example, before taking a job as Manager of Freestyle Programs for USA Wrestling, Joe Russell was the head coach at Division I George Mason University. Prior to that he was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota. George Mason was a state school which had defined protocols for hiring. Russell assisted with creating the job description and posting, following advice and working with the George Mason HR department.
“The HR department had a crucial role in the process,” says Russell. “They were the ones who posted the job, handled the intake of applicants, and guided the hiring committee. The AD met with the candidates brought in for interviews, and offered opinions and feedback. Ultimately, I did have input in the hiring, but the detailed process was crucial to making sure things were done in a fair manner.”
The resume and application process played an important role, said Russell. The hiring committee used it to make determinations on who was qualified for the job and who was not. It also assisted them in determining who was the best fit. They used the information to help determine finalists for the job.
Keep in mind that a hiring committee can include people who are not familiar with wrestling, so a resume must showcase success beyond wins and losses to impress non-wrestling decision-makers. Russell expands on how to do that below.
What stands out on a wrestling coaching resume?
Athletic directors want candidates who have a track record of success on the mat, but more importantly they want candidates that have shown success in leading teams in the classroom and in the community, says Russell.
“I also believe an AD wants to see a candidate that is a good fit for an institution,” says Russell. “They want coaches that understand the type of environment at the institution.”
For example, if a coach is looking at a faith-based school and has no experience listed on the resume with this type of institution it may cause pause. If a coach has only coached at a Power 5 conference school, a mid-major college AD may have some concerns if the coach can operate at their institution.
“Proven ability to recruit and retain athletes is also important to show an AD,” says Russell. “A coach needs to be able to show they have a plan to recruit and retain athletes within the environment of the institution. For example, show how you have been involved with recruiting on your resume and express your ability to recruit on your cover letter.”
Education and Leadership is also important to show on your resume.
“I believe it helps separate you from other candidates,” says Russell. “Attending the NWCA Leadership Academy has proved positive for many coaching candidates. Having USA Wrestling Coaching Certifications has proved positive for many coaching candidates. No doubt, an AD which may not know much about the sport, sees it as a positive when a candidate has a certificate from the recognized National Governing Body and Coaches Association for the sport.”
As a head coach, Russell strived to find assistants that were strong where he was weak.
“I tried to find people who could help the program make gains,” said Russell. “Most important for me was making sure the assistant would push me to be better, push the athletes to be better, push the support system at the school to be better, to push the program to be better. For example, I am limited physically, so I wanted assistants that were able to give athletes a good feel for technique and positioning. I relied on previous relationships with people. I knew what they brought to the table. When I did not have a prior relationship, I relied most on references of the candidates. If someone I knew and trusted told me the candidate was the right fit, their opinion carried lots of weight.”
What do athletic directors look for in a coaching resume?
Chris Fore runs Eight Laces Consulting and is the author of An Insider’s Guide to Scoring Your Next Coaching Job. Fore has coached high school football for 16 years (head coach for eight) and has been an athletic director for six. Fore also has a Master’s Degree in Coaching and Athletic Administration, and currently serves as a Board Member for the California Coaches Association.
Fore estimates he has reviewed over 700 resumes in the past five years. The best resumes are customized for each coaching job, and focus on results versus duties. If you are a high school teacher and coach you should have separate teaching and coaching resumes.
“Your resume should reflect what you have done in your career, but it should also reflect the job description of the position you are trying to get,” says Fore.
So, use language that’s in the job description to showcase successes on your resume. Try to show examples of the criteria the program is looking for listed in the job description and show examples of that in the resume. For example, if you are applying for a second assistant coaching job, one where administrative and office tasks may be required, show organizational skills, highlight ways you created processes to stay organized and computer skills — like Excel for example, that can at the college level be used to keep a recruiting contact list, or at the high school level, be used to organize wrestler information, booster club/parent contact info, and so on.
Highlight your past accomplishments as a competitor, but don’t let that be all, end all.
“I want to know about your athletic accomplishments and history,” says Fore. “I want to see details about your athletic background that most principals could care less about. For instance, I want to know what the records of the teams you have coached at, how you have developed kids for college, I want to see the differences you made there as a coach. Did you improve the program while you were there? Not just a head coach, but an assistant. As the Special Teams Coordinator, did the Special Teams improve under your leadership? Put that on your resume.”
How to organize a coaching resume
Organization is also important on a resume. Ditch the resume objective and start with a short summary that is directed to the specific position you are applying for. Then use this format:
SUMMARY: Short 1-2 sentence branding statement directed to the job applying for.
PROFILE: Highlighting 4 or 5 top achievements related to the specific job applying for.
EXPERIENCE: List your coaching experience in chronological order. Under that experience, come up with bullets using results/achievements to match the job description. Keep them short — focusing on top achievements. A greater explanation of how you achieved those results can be discussed in the interview.
EDUCATION: This is where you can highlight your educational background.
TRAINING/CERTIFICATION: This is where you can list any coaching certifications, coaching courses or seminars, or completion of leadership training.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Close the resume with an additional information section where you can include unique elements of your background as a coach, which further expand on why you should be a fit for this specific job.
Don’t cram it all in. Let it breathe. Two-page resumes are fine if needed.
“I’ve seen some resumes with so much information on them, it’s just information overload, and my eyes don’t even want to read it,” says Fore. “Format your resume in such a way that it’s easy to trace your career path, while showing off the highlights to potential readers.”
Through it all, focus on results and achievements. That’s what Fore looks for when reviewing resumes. While he uses a football analogy, this type of analogy translates to a wrestling coaching resume, or any sports coaching resume.
“I don’t want to see on your resume that you were the special teams coordinator for four years at XYZ School; I want to see that you improved their kick return average start from the 18.25 yard line to the 26.8 yard line after two years,” says Fore. “I want to see stats on your resume. I want to see real numbers. I want to see that as the wide receivers coach, your guys led the league in receiving every year you were there. I want to see that your running backs improved from averaging 3.8 yards per carry the year before you started to 4.9 yards per carry after you started. If you’ve been a head coach somewhere else, I want to see the four-year win-loss record on that resume before you got there and the four-year win-loss record when you were there.”
Focus on improvement. Did you improve the quality of the program while you were there?
“I tell coaches all of the time that you’ve got to spell this out on your resume for athletic directors and administrators to see,” says Fore. “Don’t just give the facts of the jobs you’ve held; give the figures too. Figures that show YOU have made a difference where you have been.”
How to showcase achievements on a wrestling coaching resume
Wrestling coaches can showcase achievements by using results, like this, on a resume:
Program development: In three years as assistant coach, helped program go from three state qualifiers to eight, by adding two morning technique practice sessions per week and incorporating weekly mental training sessions.
As head high school wrestling coach, increased program numbers from 21 to 43 participants in two years by recruiting football players, and other students or one-sport athletes. Worked with other head coaches to promote/sell benefits of wrestling.
Academic success: As college head coach, added mandatory team study halls and study sessions, which included several tutors, improving team GPA from 2.5 to 3.4, earning NWCA top 25 Academic team honors by second year.
Coaching Certifications and leadership training: Completed USA Wrestling 3 Dimensional Coaching Certification course, achieved Gold-level coaching certification status, and completed 10 online modules of the NWCA Leadership Academy. Also attend yearly coaches’ clinics for 7 years.
Teaching/instructing: Served as camp counselor for 10 consecutive summers at J Robinson Wrestling Camps, leading, mentoring, and coaching/training over 1,000 youth wrestlers from around the country.
Use bold typeface to highlight keywords or successes to help key elements of a resume stand out.
Note this: Athletic Directors, coaches, HR, and others quickly glance over resumes first, read second. So using bold typeface helps the eye naturally attract to key successes, and stand out when quickly reviewing a resume. A resume must make an immediate impact, and this helps do that.
Use Jobscan resume screening technology
Before submitting a resume for your next wrestling coaching job, take advantage of new technology like Jobscan. Jobscan is a tool that gives job seekers an instant analysis of how well their resume is tailored for a particular job, along with how it can be even better optimized for an applicant tracking system (also known as an ATS). When using Jobscan, a coaching candidate can paste their resume into one field, and the job description in another, where they are then provided with a “match rate” that shows how close the resume matches the job description.
If needed, use the feedback from this scan to go back and edit/change the resume as needed to best fit the job description.
Remember this: The resume is one aspect of the coaching job search. Even if you have the best referrals and recommendations, and even if you have the most influential coaches in the sport calling ADs on your behalf, at some point, you will still need to submit a resume. It’s just part of the process. So why not create the best resume you can to stand out in a pool of hundreds of other candidates? Good wrestlers don’t cut corners in their training. Good coaches — or those who want to prove they are a good coach — don’t cut corners when writing a resume.
Use these tips and advice when writing your next wrestling coaching resume.
About the author
If you’re a wrestling coach struggling to get interviews, or struggling with writing a coaching resume, contact professional resume writer Matt Krumrie for help. Krumrie is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps, and a contributing writer for MatBoss, USA Wrestling, and The Guillotine. In addition, Krumrie is a professional resume writer with 15 years of experience helping professionals at all levels, achieve resume writing success. You’ve succeeded as a coach, now showcase that on your resume.