17 October, 2023 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Expert Advice: How to Improve Your CV for Your Dream Sports Career

Getting your foot in the door for the career you want can seem daunting when you are starting out, but there are many ways to improve your chances of success.  

With any kind of sports coaching role, sports performance, personal training or team coaching the more hours of experience you have put in and dedication you have shown goes a long way when you start applying for internships.

This is according to Joe McGinley, Senior Performance Coach at Leinster Rugby who worked around the clock during his university years to amass as much experience as possible before securing a role at Munster Rugby straight out of college.

While chatting with Portobello Institute about following his passion to fulfil his potential he shared some key insights into what he looks for from the hundreds of applications that Leinster Rugby receives for its internship programme each year. 

Gain a Sports Science Degree  

A sports science degree is the equivalent of an arts degree for those who want to have a career in sports, according to Joe. It forms the foundation of everything you will need to know to be able to make informed decisions and work with multidisciplinary teams in future. It also equips you with the knowledge and ability to handle large amounts of data and the computer software that goes along with it, which is becoming more intricate and important all the time. Embarking on a sports science degree is the first step to showing your commitment to your work and your initiative towards learning. It offers you a broad base from which you can choose what career path you would like to pursue later from coaching and analysis to physiotherapy, psychology, nutrition and many other areas. 

Accumulate as Many Coaching Hours as Possible  

Don’t wait around for your work placement a few years into your degree before getting started with coaching or any area of sports that interests you. A key way to show your passion, initiative, drive and determination for the role is by coaching when and where you can as much as possible, even if this means a lot of travelling and late nights, that’s how your future employer will know you are committed, Joe says.  

“Everyone applying for a job will have a degree or a master's but how many hours and how many years of coaching has come alongside that? When I reflect back, I suppose I started my coaching journey even before I started my degree,” he said. 

Diversify Your Experience  

Try to get coaching hours in as many different settings as possible with people from different walks of life with a variety of goals. While he was studying Joe coached a number of GAA teams, worked as a personal trainer at a large gym and happily took the early morning graveyard shift in his first promising rugby role to get as much diversity into his experience as possible. He then fell in love with rugby and that has led to his extensive work with Munster Rugby and Leinster Rugby ever since. Working with children in a local sports team or working with people with additional needs or the elderly are great ways to diversify your experience, you may also find you are more interested in one type of coaching than another, so it’s a win-win.   

Embrace Your Creative Side  

A huge part of being a coach involves analysing data, making decisions and then presenting plans back to teams and players. How you present this information is almost like a marketing role where you need to sell the new idea to someone, either the person or people you are coaching or colleagues. Joe also describes coaching as an art and the more creative you can be with your coaching, the more success you will have. You have an opportunity to showcase your creativity and ability to sell yourself when you design your CV and application for an internship or job, a written text document won’t help you to stand out from the crowd anymore. An interestingly designed CV with colours, images and creative fonts that is easy to read and well-designed will have much more impact and help get you onto that interview shortlist.  

Never Stop Learning and Get Accredited  

Once you find an area of sports science or coaching that you are interested in, pursue that specification further with CPD courses and get accredited to make your qualifications more specific and robust for the role you want. Mention certifications in First Aid or CPR, as these can be essential for coaching positions. In Joe’s case, once he discovered his passion for rugby this meant gaining qualifications in strength and conditioning specifically for rugby. He recommends the following accreditations:

Coaching accreditations are awarded to coach practitioners to demonstrate that an individual coach has the appropriate level of knowledge and the ability to apply it effectively in their practice. 

Get Comfortable with Software and Data 

Sports science involves large amounts of analytics and data, more and more of which is being handled by artificial intelligence (AI) and being able to use the analytical software needed in a skilled and confident way will set you apart from the competition. Many sports science roles are now asking for data visualisation experience, particularly with Tableau and Power BI, as part of their job specifications. Try to find out the industry standard software that is used in the role you are looking for and learn as much as you can about how to optimise its use in new and innovative ways to impress those hiring you. Joe warns not to get too caught up in any fads or trends or the next best thing either - he says how you treat people and your ability to see the athlete as a person are more important.

Find Mentors, Network, Attend Events and Upskill 

Attending seminars, short courses, big tournaments and mixing with others in your desired area of expertise will help you to get your name out there, find people who can support and guide you and network for new opportunities. This may apply to every profession, but the sports coaching world is small, particularly when you are starting out in Ireland so being confident, introducing yourself and putting yourself out there will go a long way when the person who could be hiring you makes reference calls. A simple mention of your name could be the difference between getting hired or not!  

If you are setting out on a career in any area of sports these tips will come in handy when it comes to making your CV the best it can be for competitive internships.  

Find Out More

Portobello Institute has a dynamic sports department with a range of top qualifications for the next step in your career.

If you are interested in any of our sports courses or have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert sports advisor Jason Lester, email jason.lester@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0029. 

Portobello Insider

Join our mailing list to receive the latest insights and exclusive content from your chosen department of interest