Editor's note: This article was updated on August 1, 2023 to clarify the definition of full time.
Q: Do athletic coaches have to be certified teachers or contract employees?
A: Certification requirements for coaches depend on the individual’s assignment. An employee is not required to be certified to supervise a sport, academic team, or other extracurricular activity. However, if students receive physical education (PE) credit for athletics or the employee is going to teach an associated elective class for credit, the individual must be certified through the State Board for Education (SBEC). An employee must have a valid certificate that matches the grade level of the assignment in order to teach the elective courses of athletics, cheerleading, drill team, and marching band.
In contrast, SBEC requires athletic directors to be certified teachers. SBEC does not require an administrator certificate for the position, even though the position is generally considered an administrator.
UIL Employment Rules
A school is not eligible for UIL competition in an athletic activity unless the head coach and assistant high school coaches are full-time employees of the school board of the school the team represents. This applies to the high school (grades 9-12) athletic coach or the high school one-act play director. Full time means the person:
- Has enough contractual duties to be considered a full-time employee by the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and state law, including
- A minimum of one-half of the time required of the standard workload (minimum of 15 hours per week for non-certified and 20 hours per week for certified employees); and
- Is earning a salary comparable to one-half the salary earned by a full-time employee in a similar position; and
- Is under contract to the school board of the school which the athletic team represents for the whole scholastic or calendar year.
In this context, contract means full-time employment. A Chapter 21 or noncertified professional contract is not required. The employee must meet the TRS minimum employment eligibility but does not have to actually qualify for TRS membership.
There are four exceptions to the rule that coaches must be full-time, contract employees. These exceptions are listed below:
- A board may hire an individual to coach who is not a teacher and whose regular duties do not qualify for a contract if employment conditions satisfy the hourly and salary requirement in UIL rules as stated above, the rate of pay for the school year is determined by the board before the coach begins, the employee is informed by the person approving them for hire that they are not eligible to receive a bonus or any part of their coaching salary from any source (including booster clubs) other than the school district, and the employee completes and signs a UIL Professional Acknowledgement Form.
- A board may hire a retired teacher or administrator who has 20 or more years of experience to serve as an assistant coach in all athletics and as a head coach for golf, tennis, team tennis, cross county, track and field, swimming, and wrestling.
- Student teachers, while assigned to a district to fulfill their student teaching requirements, may volunteer to serve as an assistant coach in all athletics. The district may not pay student teachers for assisting athletic coaches.
- A full-time substitute who has coached during the school year may be permitted to continue coaching until the UIL competitive year has ended (e.g., state baseball playoffs).
Sponsors and Other Positions
UIL rules do not govern employment or certification of cheer or drill sponsors and other sponsors (e.g., National Honor Society, Future Farmers of America); those decisions are left with the local school district.
Districts that employ a nonexempt employee as a coach must ensure pay practices comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations. This includes paying the individual at least minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime for any hours beyond 40 in a workweek. A complete discussion of hiring nonexempt employees in extracurricular activities is included in The Administrator’s Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act. This book can be purchased online in the TASB Store.
If a retiree is hired to coach, the district may incur additional surcharges and the retiree may be subject to a loss or reduction of TRS annuity payments. Additional information is available in the HR Library topic Employment of Retired Personnel and Employment of Retired Personnel for College (member login required).
Another consideration, as noted in the TEA Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, may be that a student participating in an off-campus athletic event must be supervised by a professional staff member or highly qualified paraprofessional that meets certain standards (e.g., educational aide I, II, or III) to be considered in attendance for school funding purposes.
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.
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