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Top 5 Sports Performance Coach Certification Programs

Last updated on February 6, 2024

You might be a coaching veteran looking to level up your resume or a fresh face in the coaching arena focused on kickstarting your career, but either way, the knowledge and expertise you gain from a certification program can be the key to higher rates for your coaching services. Certification isn’t just a notch in your coaching belt; it’s a tool for succeeding in the competitive coaching industry where staying ahead with the right credentials can make all the difference. 

However, the abundance of online sports performance coach certification programs has made the road to becoming a certified sports performance coach less clear and straightforward. That’s why we’ve taken on the challenging task of sifting through them to identify the best sports performance coach certification programs.

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What Is Sports Performance Coaching?

Sports performance coaching is a specialized field in life coaching that focuses on improving the athletic abilities and overall performance of individuals or teams in various sports. Coaches in this domain work closely with athletes to optimize their physical, mental, and technical skills to maximize their potential and achieve peak performance.

This type of coaching involves assessing and addressing aspects such as strength and conditioning, nutrition, mental resilience, injury prevention, and skill development. The goal is to create a well-rounded and personalized training plan tailored to the specific needs and goals of each athlete.

In addition to refining physical skills, sports performance coaches work on improving mental toughness, goal-setting, focus, and overall mindset. They can employ techniques from sports psychology to help athletes overcome challenges, build confidence, and maintain peak performance under pressure.

How To Become a Sports Performance Coach

Is sports performance certification required? Simply put, no—but the answer is more complex than that. 

Anyone can proclaim themselves to be a life coach, which is why certification holds value. By enrolling in sports coach training courses and getting certified, you can assure clients of your expertise and professionalism. Therefore, certification may not be a requirement, but it is an immensely valuable credential.

Investing in your training and education can also justify a higher price of your services as it serves as a reflection of your commitment to delivering exceptional coaching quality.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Sports Coaching Certification Programs

Becoming a sports performance coach is a big investment of money and time, so you want to ensure that you’re making the right decision. To narrow down your options, consider factors such as the cost, duration, and accreditation when evaluating sports life coach certification programs.

Program Cost

If you’ve made any plans about how much you’ll invest in certification, that can be a good foundation for narrowing your options. Many things influence the pricing, but one of the main ones is the mode of learning. In-person programs tend to cost more, especially when you add the traveling costs. Online education is dominant in the coaching industry and is more affordable as the options are more diversified. 

Course Length

The amount of time it takes to complete a sports performance certification program depends on the program you choose. The main difference is whether you opt for a self-paced program or live sessions. If you don’t mind intensive training, you can finish some self-paced programs in a few days. Some demand months of learning, but still, you can learn on your own time and at the pace that suits you. Live virtual programs can be a better option if you have a flexible schedule and prefer interactive sessions in real-time.

Accreditation

Accreditation serves as official recognition from an educational body of the program’s quality. Among professional coaching certification bodies, the International Coach Federation (ICF) stands out as the most recognized institution. However, other reputable accrediting bodies in the sports performance niche are the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

Best Sports Performance Certification Programs

Foundation Option: National Sports Performance Association

The National Sports Performance Association (NSPA) offers a Certified Sports Performance Coach program, a perfect course for setting a strong sports performance coaching foundation. 

National Sports Performance Association logo
National Sports Performance Association – Certified Sports Performance Coach

Through this program, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of designing coaching programs, backed by both proven methods and the rationale behind successful sports performance coaching approaches. The CSPC certification can help you establish expertise in strength and conditioning, speed and agility training, Olympic lifting, sports nutrition, conditioning, and injury prevention. 

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $495
  • Accreditation: NASM
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Sports Performance Specialist Option: ACE Fitness

The American Council on Exercise, or ACE Fitness, is an established organization with a rich history. They are an excellent choice for earning the Sports Performance Specialist credential.

American Council on Exercise (ACE Fitness) – Sports Performance Specialist

In this self-paced program, you’ll learn about science-backed methods for training athletes, practical program applications, mind-body agility exercises, and sport-specific strength and nutrition tactics. The course also delves into the specific planning needed to successfully train competitive athletes. We also love that they cover the essentials of setting up your coaching business.

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $449
  • Accreditation: NCCA
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Advanced Sports Nutrition Option: ISSA

ISSA Sports Nutrition Certification is designed for coaches who want to master the nutrition aspect of sports performance. This program is a result of a combined effort between ISSA and Precision Nutrition. They leverage the latest research in nutrition and behavior-change psychology to create the most effective approach to nutrition coaching.

ISSA – Sports Nutrition Certification

This certification equips you with the know-how to help clients make healthier food choices and steer clear of unhealthy ingredients, like high-sugar snacks. It aims to connect nutrition and exercise and shed light on more specialized nutrition topics like intermittent fasting and plant-based eating.

The unique benefit of this program is that you get access to the Professional Edition Nutrition Calculator, which instantly generates personalized eating plans once you input client details like age, weight, goals, and dietary preferences. 

For a more detailed analysis of Sports Nutrition Certification, head to our in-depth review.

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $999
  • Accreditation: NCCA
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Sports Nutrition Option: AFPA Sports Nutrition Certification

As a Certified Sports Nutrition Specialist at AFPA, you’ll reach proficiency in enhancing athletic performance and optimizing athletes’ nutrition. Whether you want to niche in sports nutrition or gain a deeper understanding of it, this program can be a good pick. 

AFPA Sports Nutrition Certification – Certified Sports Nutrition Specialist

The instructors teach you how to design balanced nutritional plans for peak athletic performance, evaluate supplement pros and cons, address the impact of eating disorders on performance, and guide athletes on meal timing. For well-rounded training, they also cover how to implement safe weight loss programs for specific sports, create plans for body fat loss, and understand the relationship between nutrition and immune function in athletes.

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $699
  • Accreditation: ANMAB; AADP
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Sports Psychology Coach Certification Option: Spencer Institute

When it comes to athletes’ success, mindset is just as impactful as physical performance. If you want to learn how to improve clients’ sports and fitness performance while making physical activity more enjoyable, you might find your ideal program at the Spencer Institute.

Spencer Institute – Sports Psychology Coach Certification

Spencer Institute’s Sports Psychology Coach Certification is a robust training course centered around mental skills,  distraction control, and managing emotions. The curriculum encompasses diverse areas of sports psychology and coaching, including the psychological aspects of personality, leveraging personality for optimal performance, coaching dynamics for individuals and groups, and employing proper feedback techniques for diverse performance environments.

  • Course Length: Self-paced
  • Program Cost: $427
  • Accreditation: AADP
  • Mode of Delivery: Online

Alternatives (non-niche)

You don’t need to limit your coaching education to sports performance. If you decide to pursue life coaching certification to earn the prestigious ICF credential, our top selection is Coach Training Alliance. Not only is this program comprehensive and ICF-accredited, but it also delves into the business and marketing side of coaching. Our CTA review reveals more about this organization. 

If you want a course that’s easier on your wallet, there’s none better than Transformation Academy. Their programs are self-paced and under $200; plus, with our link, you can save 50%. Discover what makes TA such a popular choice (besides its attractive price) in our review.

FAQs

  • How much does a sports performance coach make?

According to Glassdoor, the average sports performance coach’s salary is $74,211 per year.

  • Do you need a certification to be a sports performance coach?

No, you don’t need a certification to launch a sports performance coaching career, but it will help you establish credibility, define your niche, build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills, and gain a competitive edge in the industry.

  • How much does a sports performance coach certification cost?

In comparison to other life coaching certifications that can soar to $10,000, sports performance coach certifications have quite reasonable pricing, typically ranging from $400 to $700.

  • Does accreditation matter in a sports performance coach certification program?

Accreditation isn’t mandatory for coach certification programs, but it can distinguish you in the eyes of potential clients.

  • What is the most recognized coaching certification? 

We wouldn’t rely on the name of the certification program to assess recognition since the options are numerous. Accreditation serves as a more dependable indicator of recognition, as accrediting bodies are widely recognized and respected within the global community of coaches and clients.

Conclusion

Athletes at various levels—from amateurs to professionals—turn to sports performance coaching to gain a competitive edge and elevate their game. As a sports performance coach, you can be the one who will help them reach their full potential, recover from setbacks, and consistently deliver outstanding performances in their chosen sports.

To gain their trust and convince them to put their career into your hands, you’ll need a reputable credential by your name, such as being a certified sports performance coach. For an extra layer of credibility, you can consider top-notch life coach certifications such as Coach Training Alliance and Transformation Academy.

Take the Coach Certification Quiz

Need help choosing a coach training and certification program? We created this short quiz to help you find the best program for you.

Take the quiz

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