Sports coaches/officials coach and instruct athletes, and are the officials in charge of sporting events.
Entry-level coaches usually earn
$39K per year
Regional and national coaches usually earn
$53K-$146K per year
Source: Skills Active and Sport New Zealand, 2017.
Pay for professional sports coaches varies depending on the sport and the level at which they coach.
Many sports coaches/officials work part time. Sports coaches working on a casual, part-time basis may start on minimum wage and later earn up to $25 an hour.
Entry-level, full-time sports coaches usually earn minimum wage a year or more.
With further experience and coaching success, sports coaches in a few popular sports, such as rugby or cricket, may work as regional or national coaches.
- Regional coaches usually earn $53,000 to $102,000 a year.
- National talent coaches who coach individual athletes usually earn $77,000 to $109,000.
- National coaches for teams usually earn $75,000 to $146,000.
Source: Skills Active and Sport New Zealand, 2017.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Sports coaches/officials may do some or all of the following:
- help athletes learn the skills, rules and tactics of a sport
- organise practice sessions and develop training programmes and drills
- motivate teams or individuals
- identify and encourage talented players
- select players for teams and events
- referee, umpire and keep time for sports competitions or games
- judge and award points in sports competitions
- look after equipment and ensure players use it correctly.
Skills and knowledge
Sports coaches/officials need to have knowledge of:
- the skills, rules and tactics of the sport they coach or act as officials in
- coaching and teaching techniques that support a sportsperson's learning and development
- how different weather conditions could affect an event or a sportsperson's performance
- sport science and first aid.
- may work long and irregular hours, including early mornings, evenings and weekends
- work at indoor sports facilities such as sport centres, or outdoors – for example, on rugby fields – in all weather conditions
- may work in stressful conditions
- may travel around New Zealand and overseas to sports events and competitions.
What's the job really like?
Injury leads to opportunity
A recurring ankle injury forced Chris Pollock to take a season off rugby, and led him to becoming a referee.
"I intended on getting rehab and back into playing, but decided to try out refereeing till I was back on the playing field. I refereed a First XV trial and really enjoyed it, so I stuck at it."
A year later Chris refereed his first premier-level rugby game. He hasn't looked back, and these days he can be found refereeing test matches as part of the International Rugby Board’s elite referees panel.
People management skills essential
Chris says the most important skill in refereeing is learning how to manage people. "You get to a point as a referee where anyone can identify infringements, but the difference between an average ref and a ref at the top level is the way they deal with players – it's people management skills that set a good referee apart from the rest."
Chris admits that refereeing can be stressful at times, but that's all part of the challenge that he enjoys. "I like the stress factor because it drives me. No two games are ever the same, so I'm always learning something new, and I love the challenge that each game brings."
Sports coach/official video
Shaka Sola, Sports Coach
("Come on – up, knees up! Yeah, nice!")
I love this job because it's outdoors. You get to be outside in the sunshine and also just to see the kids that I coach grow into athletes, better themselves as young people and giving their personal best and seeing that smile on their faces when they achieve.
Being a good coach, you've got to be a motivator. You've got to also be able to sort of get the kids together and give them a lot of positive instructions. Being positive – we tend to go negative sometimes in things we do, but being a good coach you've got to motivate that kid, you've got to encourage them, you're gonna make sure that they achieve their best by feeling good about themselves.
("Yeah, good girl! Nice!')
The most rewarding thing about this job – you know, the smiles on their faces, the difference I can make in their lives and encouraging them to be better people. That's what makes me a better coach.
Entry requirements for sports coaches/officials vary, as each national sporting body has its own requirements. Usually sports coaches need:
- previous experience and success as a sportsperson
- previous work as a sports coach, which could be on a volunteer basis
- a good working knowledge of the sport they wish to work in so they can pass theory exams and practical tests.
- Sport New Zealand website - find out more about becoming a coach
- Skills Active website - information on sport education programmes
Sports coaches who work with children may need to pass a police background check and/or hold a first aid certificate.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
Coaches who want to work with high-performing sportspeople can apply to the High Performance Sport New Zealand Coach Accelerator Programme.
There are no specific secondary educational requirements for sports coaches/officials, though NCEA Level 1 is recommended. Useful subjects include physical education, home economics, maths and English.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Training for snowsports instructors
Training through the New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance is required for people who instruct in:
- telemark or free heel skiing
- adaptive skiing for people with physical disabilities.
Snowsport instructors can also do further study to become trainers, examiners and coaches.
Sports coaches/officials need to be:
- able to make decisions quickly
- able to motivate, lead and inspire athletes and teams
- good at planning, management and organisation
- patient, tactful, observant and analytical
- excellent at communicating.
You have to be quite perceptive about how you think other people will respond. I coach on instinct sometimes in terms of how much pressure I put on players.
Assistant Coach, New Zealand National Rugby Team
Useful experience for sports coaches/officials includes:
- participating in sport at a competitive level
- working as an assistant or volunteer coach or official
- working in sports administration.
Sports coaches/officials need to need have excellent fitness and health.
Find out more about training
- High Performance Sport New Zealand
- 0800 GOLDMEDAL- email@example.com - www.hpsnz.org.nz
- New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance
- (03) 451 1534 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzsia.org
- Skills Active
- 0508 4SKILLS - email@example.com - www.skillsactive.org.nz
- Sport New Zealand
- (04) 472 8058 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.sportnz.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Few opportunities for sports coaches/officials
It is difficult to find work as a sports coach/official, as few sports are played year-round in New Zealand. This means most sports coaches/officials need a second job to make a living.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further reduced opportunities for sports coaches/officials.
Demand may improve slightly as restrictions to control the spread of the pandemic ease.
According to the Census, 8,478 sports coaches/officials worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Sports coaches/officials can be self-employed or work for:
- sports clubs or facilities such as golf clubs, ski fields or swimming pools
- regional, national or international sports organisations such as Tennis Auckland, New Zealand Rugby Union or the International Cricket Council
- schools or tertiary education providers
- sport organisations such as regional sports trusts or the New Zealand High Performance Unit
- indoor sports venues.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Marshall, P, industry development adviser for sport, Skills Active Aotearoa, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, August 2017.
- New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance website, accessed August 2017, (www.nzsia.org.nz).
- Sport New Zealand website, accessed August 2017, (www.sportnz.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Sports coaches/officials usually specialise in a role such as:
- Diving Instructor
- Diving instructors train and instruct recreational or commercial divers in diving techniques, safety, and the correct use of diving equipment.
- Dog or Horse Racing Official
- Dog or horse racing officials co-ordinate and direct dog or horse racing activities, and liaise with other officials to enforce racing regulations.
- Gymnastics Coach
- Gymnastics coaches train and instruct gymnasts by analysing their performances and developing their skills.
- Horse Riding Instructor
- Horse riding instructors teach people how to ride horses. They analyse the performance of horse riders and jockeys, and develop their skills.
- Skydive Instructor
- Skydive Instructors teach people how to parachute.
- Snowsport Instructor
- Snowsport instructors teach people how to ski or snowboard and improve their technique.
- Sports Official
- Sports officials enforce rules during sporting events or judge the performance of those taking part.
- Swimming Coach
- Swimming coaches train and instruct swimmers and help them to develop their speed and technique.
- Tennis Coach
- Tennis coaches work with tennis players to help them develop their skills and technique.
Last updated 16 November 2020