Do Olympic Coaches Get Paid?

by Morgan Brinlee

It's well known that athletes don't dream of the Olympics because of the financial payoff. While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) may earn millions, none of that money ever makes it into the pockets of competing athletes. But what about those who help athletes stay focused and motivated? Do Olympic coaches get paid?

If you're looking for a career with a six-figure income, it might be best to steer clear of coaching — lifestyles of the rich and famous this is not. While coaches are, of course, paid for all of the hard work they put in training and guiding either teams or individual athletes, that money definitely doesn't come from the IOC and likely doesn't come in large quantities. But it's difficult to say exactly how much the coaches you'll see shouting and cheering from the sidelines in Rio this year are earning. Like most professions, salaries depend on experience and qualifications and can vary from sport to sport. Location may also play a determining factor. A coach based in California could earn more than one based in, say, Ohio.

Olympic dreams don't come cheap. Along with shelling out for equipment, athletes must also pay for their coaches. Some U.S. athletes find the national governing body of their sport will pick up the tab for their Olympic endeavor once they've ensured their spot at the Games. For example, according to The Daily Beast, USA Gymnastics will reportedly cover the training and travel expenses of any athlete and their coach after they make the national team.

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An article for USA Swimming described a career as a swim coach as offering "all of the promise of a free fall without a parachute. The salary scale is lighter than air. The hours are crushing." A 2003 salary survey from The American Swimming Coaches Association found respondents working full-time made anywhere from $30,040 to $56,420 annually. And that salary range doesn't appear to be strictly limited to swimming. On Simply Hired, the annual salary for a gymnastics coach was estimated to be on average just under $28,000 with the top 10 percent earning slightly more than $57,000.

While the U.S. Olympic Committee extends financial rewards known as a medal bonus to any U.S. athletes who nets a gold, silver, or bronze medal, the committee does not appear to offer coaches a bonus. Some national governing bodies, however, have offered coaches their own bit of medal motivation. USA Shooting, for example, has said it will grant its national coaches monetary rewards ranging from $4,000 to $25,000 for medals won in Rio.

Yet, like many of the athletes heading to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio this year, coaches aren't in it for the money. Rather they're driven by a passion for what they do, a love of their chosen sport, and a desire to see their athletes succeed.