Coaching and judging are rewarding ways to elevate the sport of gymnastics without training or competing directly. Coaches and judges serve as the bedrock to providing more opportunities in the other pathways, and there is always a need for both.
This pathway can take many forms, from volunteering occasionally to part-time jobs to full-time work. It is also possible to pursue both coaching and judging opportunities, and the skill sets supplement each other. Entry-level coaches and judges often start with the youngest age groups. As one’s career progresses, opportunities open up to coach and judge all levels of gymnastics, and one may find a particular niche they enjoy.
Both coaching and judging offer participants the opportunity to build a professional network through educational conferences as well as through networking events held at competitions. These connections can serve as a way to further develop and learn skills and can also lead to professional benefits that go beyond the sport of gymnastics.
No formal gymnastics experience is required to start coaching or judging. However, any gymnastics “sense” one has gained through prior participation in the sport can provide a head start. There are certain educational certifications required for both coaching and judging. You must be a USA Gymnastics Professional member in good standing, which requires the completion of a background check and SafeSport certification. Judges take additional tests and are certified through the National Association of Gymnastics Judges (NGJA).
Educational resources are available for both judging and coaching. Coaching courses are available through online courses through USAG and conferences at USAG Congresses and Future Stars Nationals, as well as a plethora of social media groups and online educational videos from around the internet. Great material is abundant for individual skill progressions, lesson planning, or general coaching philosophy. Judges’ education is available through annual live judging courses as well as practice judging material and presentations on the NGJA website.
In addition to a gymnastics skill set, additional skills are developed in this pathway. Coaches learn how to educate, teach, and motivate different learning styles and how to run an effective class, while judges develop skills around consistency, focus, and attention to detail and work to reduce their personal biases.
Pay for entry-level coaches is typically paid between $10 and $20 an hour, while the typical salary income for experienced full-time coaches is $30,000-$80,000. Judges typically earn between $80 and $250 per session depending on the size and format of the competition, and over a full weekend of judging can earn between $400 and $1200. There are some start-up costs associated with this pathway. The USAG Membership, background check, and acquiring professional attire can amount to between $100 – $300.
Coaching opportunities are available at many gyms, and there is often a shortage. To find a gym in your area that may have a boys team, USAG has a gym locator. Just type in your zip code, and it will give a list of nearby gyms. From there, you’ll need to find out which gyms have men’s programs and open positions. Calling or emailing the gyms is the most direct. Class schedules are set in line with the school year, so getting involved in the summer or the beginning of the calendar year is often preferred but not required.
There may also be open coaching positions at high schools, NAIGC, or GymACT teams as well. Due to the limited number of NCAA opportunities and high level of gymnastics being performed, coaching opportunities are hard to get and require significant prior experience as well as a strong professional network.
Judges are organized by associations that cover one or more states. To get involved in judging in your area, email the NGJA here. Judging courses for the upcoming season happen from September – October, and certification tests happen in November and December, so the best time to start getting involved is in the prior months beginning in July or August. Additional information can be found here.