Youth employment is falling, even in the summer when teenagers seek their first seasonal or part-time job. When student-athletes seek employment, coaches can guide them and assist them in their search for good work experience.

Elite basketball players may be less likely to seek work because of they are balancing school and sport, playing a summer travel schedule or starting their prep school year in the first part of August. Those who pursue work are likely doing so because of financial need and deserve the support of their coaches and teammates. Coaches fill two important roles: serving as an advisor (and reference) during the job search and developing the transferrable skills the players will need to land that first job.

Looking for work, experiencing financial difficulty, or holding the wrong job can be very detrimental to a student-athlete’s academic performance and put stress on the team. Staying informed regarding the student job market and possessing a few job hunting tips enables any coach to take charge of these situations and assist the player in need.


In 1978, summertime youth employment rate was 58.0, in the year 2000 it was 51.7 and now it is 32.9. Over the last part of the twentieth century, the employment rate fell gradually for cultural reasons, such as the increased role of summer school or supplementary instruction to improve grades in order to gain a scholarship and prepare for post-secondary studies, a focus on volunteer work and some families that do not require teenagers to work. In the past ten years, the recession has reduced the number of jobs that are available and caused adults to compete for traditional youth jobs.

Youth Employment Statistics (2000 to 2009)

Younger student-athletes and minorities experience greater unemployment than their peers. The employment rate is roughly equal between males and females.

Source: Morisi, T. L. (2010, May). The early 2000s: A period of declining teen summer employment rates. Retrieved April 22, 2012, from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Employment Standards

Young workers are the most likely to be injured in a workplace accident. A key aspect of prevention is information: knowing your rights and knowing the safety risks in the workplace. Many are unaware of the hazards at work and how they can protect themselves. Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Insurance Board offers an education programme to indoctrinate youth about safety on the job. Coaches should always remind players about the importance of safety and job training.

Employment Standards

New to the workplace, young workers may not be familiar with legislation in Ontario pertaining to workplace rights. Minimum wage, holiday pay and overtime are detailed in writing, alongside other pertinent issues for workers in their first job.

Finding a first part-time or summer job is incredibly challenging: youth must overcome anxiety, research jobs, and prepare their first resume and cover letter. Applications are submitted online but the importance of a clean and clear resume and introductory letter are required to put one’s best foot forward. When a student-athlete does not have much work history, they must look to other experiences and transferrable skills that best demonstrate their abilities.


In the summers between university years, I worked as a Youth Employment Officer for the Government of Canada. During this time, I gave bilingual presentations to high school students and provided one-on-one counseling for post-secondary students. The Centres were part of the Youth Employment Strategy until they were discontinued in the 2012 Federal Budget and replaced with a website.

Resources for Download

These resources are targeted towards Grade 9-11 students looking for their first (or second) job and provide examples on how typical student experiences (extra-curricular activities, school athletics, and volunteer work) can be incorporated into a professional resume and cover letter. While each individual situation is unique, there are several common tips that can help players who are looking for work put their best foot forward. I prepared these samples and worksheets to reinforce these job search basics.

Online Resources

Here are some links that can be used by youth in Ontario who are looking for work:

  • National Job Bank: Service Canada Centres for Students maintain this job board. The postings are submitted by employers and can be searched by job description and location. A special “student jobs” box can be checked to refine searches.
  • Youth Opportunities Ontario: The Ontario government’s youth employment website includes a gateway to provincial student employment programmes and job postings with the provincial government.
  • The Federal Government has consolidated the websites for all of its youth programmes (including youth employment) under one website. There is also a comprehensive training and job search site to help all workers put their best foot forward when applying for work.
  • MazeMaster: This public-private partnership provides help on career testing, writing a resume and cover letter, and finding a part-time or summer job.
  • Youth Employment Services (Y.E.S.) Centres: These employment centres are open year-round and service students and youth across Toronto. The bilingual centres offer job boards, counselling, and workshops in workplace health and safety, among other topics.
  • Service Canada Services for Students: A one-stop website aimed towards youth designed to facilitate the access to the Government of Canada’s programs. Options include links to grants for post-secondary studies, financial planning advice and information about housing.
In Ontario, students must complete forty hours of community service before graduating high school. This was instituted in the 1990s when the provincial government felt that teenagers were lacking a combination of work ethic, morals, or empathy for the less fortunate.

Unfortunately, most Junior Varsity players (Grade 9s and 10s) have no idea where to get started. Some even worry about whether they will be able to finish the requisite hours in time. First of all, there’s no need for stress: forty hours over four years is not much. Secondly, there are many resources available for these student/athletes.

Getting Started

  • Volunteer Canada: This national organization lists over 150 volunteer centres across the country. Each local centre lists countless volunteer projects and students can find something meaningful close to their community.
  • Charity Village: Charity Village is another national hub with searchable volunteer postings mapped according to their location. Over 20,000 charitable organizations are affiliate with the website.
  • The federal government offers a detailed website for Canadian youth. Students can find jobs, scholarships, and volunteer postings. It is even possible to search for “green” volunteer jobs or positions in Arts & Culture and Sports.
  • Volunteer Toronto: This local group lists volunteer opportunities within the Greater Toronto Area. Positions are searchable, including youth basketball coaching positions. Partners include the City of Toronto and other large community groups.
  • United Way of Toronto: The United Way is comprised of member agencies across Toronto. There are many opportunities for local involvement as part of their Action Neighbourhood Change strategy.

Safety First

All volunteer jobs should be as safe as real jobs. If the job seems unsafe or “sketchy” in some way, students should take a pass. The same standards of workplace safety, such as equipment use, should apply. If the volunteer posting is too far outside of the city, it may be best to search for something else.

Most national volunteer organizations vet the postings on their website but everyone remains responsible for the own safety. Working in teams of two or three often makes the work more fun, in addition to the safety benefits.

Helping the Program

Non-Players: I’ve found volunteer hours to be an excellent carrot to get things done around the school. Even non-players are anxious to receive credit for their work so giving community service for those who help out makes it much easier to prepare the gym for games, find qualified minor officials, and otherwise promote the programme.
Players: Coaches occasionally need to conduct clinics, help the Grade 9 team, or tutor J.V. players. Varsity players may be interested in helping out (or improving their leadership skills by conducting the clinic themselves) in order to receive community service hours. Speaking pragmatically, a Senior running out of time to finish their hours could be compelled to assist a younger squad or a Girls’ team for part of the season.

Team Building

Coaches can organize a team volunteer activity during the off-season. Throughout the spring, summer, and autumn, volunteer opportunities abound. A coach could help “build” team spirit within one group of players or it could be opened up to the entire programme in order to “bridge” different teams together. Working side by side in a positive environment is another way to reinforce pride in the programme and meet self-actualization needs.

In 2005, the National Basketball Association instituted a dress code for players arriving at the building or sitting on the bench. In 2010, the Association updated the dress code for coaches. Dressing nicely is part of maintaining high standards, even for a high school team. It is not a matter spending a lot of money, but dressing confidently to encourage confidence on the court.

Coaches can help a great deal by teaching teams how to dress properly. They often have a opportunities to influence student-athletes about issues that are not included in the curriculum, including dressing well. Coaches should spend time throughout the season explaining these tips from time to time.

Model the Way

  • The coach should always dress professionally during games and practices.
    • Practices: Neat athletic attire, such as a golf shirt.
    • Games: The N.B.A. dress code (sports jacket and slacks or a collared shirt and nice pants).
  • Act the way players should act during games.

Dress Code

  • Dress nicely while travelling to games.
    • Make a good impression at the opposing school.
    • Players should wear neat and clean clothes.
  • Dress like you expect to win and have been here before.
  • Demonstrate respectful decorum to match the attire, before and after games.

Dress for the Task at Hand

  • Bring the basketball uniform in a gym bag; do not wear the team uniform while travelling.
  • Double-check so as not to forget any items.
  • Wash the uniform and other sportswear frequently.

Represent the Team

  • Look organized on the bench and during warm-ups and timeouts.
  • Clean up after practices, games, and training sessions.
  • Keep bags, clothing, and equipment organized on the bench.

Work on the Little Things

  • Important fashion tips that players may not recognize include:
    • Keeping shoes polished.
    • Making eye contact and leading with a firm handshake.
    • Being well-groomed and neat.

How to Dress Well

I don’t think clothing makes the man, but I think it helps.Harry Rosen
To make the right impression at work, remember these basic points when assembling your wardrobe:

  1. Presentation counts.
  2. Casual shouldn’t mean slovenly.
  3. Dress as you want to be seen: Serious, professional, upward-bound.

Cornerstones of a Great Wardrobe

High school students may be in the process of acquiring their first items for dressing formally. Acquiring a few excellent pieces that work for diverse occasions is worth the money. For men, traditional attire includes:

  • A button-down shirt.
  • Polished black or brown shoes and a belt.
  • A blue, black or gray jacket.
  • Slacks that complement the jacket.
  • You can’t go wrong with a conservative tie.

Always dress for the task at hand and remember that appearance creates credibility.


  • Morassutti, W. (2008, September 17). Talking to Harry Rosen. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from Toro:
  • Reeves, S. (2010, April 12). Dress For Success. Retrieved October 2010, 5, from Forbes:

Non-Verbal Communication

  • When interviewing for a job or meeting a potential employer (at a networking opportunity or during a work setting), body language and tone of voice determine the first impression.
  • Anxiety can cause negative behaviours.
  • Controlling breathing or positive self-talk are effective stress management tools.

Communication Pie Chart



Body Language

  • Eye Contact
  • Smile
  • Two feet on the floor, arms at the sides, open palms
  • Place hands on the table
  • Stand feet shoulder width apart, shoulders back, head up
  • Crossing arms across chest
  • Fidgeting
  • Weak handshake
  • Playing with something on the table
  • Touching hair or face
  • Slouching

Tone of Voice

  • Low
  • Clear
  • Pleasant
  • Modulate Tone of Voice
  • High-pitched
  • Muddled
  • Curt
  • Aggressive

Communication Style

  • Communication style influences how someone is perceived by others (Will they be a good teammate? Can they do the job?)
  • Common communication styles include:
    • Aggressive: intense, takes advantages of opportunities, may interrupt or intimidate others, focused on self, may seem threatening.
    • Non-Assertive: equivocates or hesitates (i.e. “kind of”, “maybe”), little eye contact, fidgets, focused on others, may seem incompetent.
    • Assertive: confident, clear and concise, stands up for their principles, takes responsibility and initiative, balances self and others.
  • Tips to be assertive:
    • Reflect (repeat what was said)
    • Paraphrase (rephrase in your own words)
    • Clarify (ask for details)
    • Acknowledge views and emotions of others (“As Lisa said…”, “You must feel…”)
    • Make declarative statements (“I” and “We”)

Interview Tips

  • Plan Ahead: outline the key points that you want to emphasize.
  • Review your Resume: prepare to illustrate the points on the resume with specific examples that showcase your experience and the skills.
  • Don’t Make Assumptions: Don’t brag but clearly and concisely state what you did. Continuous learning is important so be prepared to explain what you learned from each experience.
  • Be Concise: Make your point and come to a clear conclusion; don’t ramble or trail off.
  • Support Statements with References: Inform referees that you used their name and know what they will say about you.
  • Be Natural: Some employers find it to be a turn-off if the candidate seems too polished or rehearsed.


  • Mehrabian, A., & Wiener, M. (1967). Decoding of inconsistent communications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 6 (1), 109-114.
  • Myers, J. (2011, January 13). It’s not what you say, it’s how you move. Retrieved January 14, 2011, from The Globe and Mail:
References provide colour to the black and white accomplishments on a resume or cover letter. The references can provide details, highlight important points, or answer any questions that an employer might ask. References are the personal connection that puts all of your skills and experiences into context for an employer. To the hiring manager, you are a stranger and a list of references help make the introduction.


References should be:

  • Relevant to the job that you are applying for
  • Connected to the resume or cover letter
  • Professional (supervisors or co-workers, not friends)
  • Recent

What Makes a Good Reference Letter?

The letter should go beyond mere dates and basic job descriptions. Interviewers want to delve into greater depth; include skills and abilities or specific examples which demonstrate the qualities listed on the resume.

Key Principles

  • Don’t list your references on a resume or cover letter. Print “References available upon request” instead. It is another chance to make contact with the employer and it ensures that references are only contacted by bona-fide interview offers.
  • Always ask permission. If a person has given you “carte blanche” to be a reference, send a quick email touching base with them and reminding them that they might receive a call in the near future.
  • Give the reference enough time. If the job or application requires a letter of reference, give your contact at least a week to prepare the document.
  • Specify what qualifications you want to bring to the attention of the employer. Tell the reference what you think they should emphasize in order to maximize your chances for success.

Who Could Serve as a Reference?

Employers are looking to hire people who are intelligent, co-operative, punctual, diligent, and motivated. Before asking someone to be your reference, assess yourself. References must be able to honestly speak about these qualities.
Building Relationships: You will likely know a person who could be your reference for several months or years before they vouch for you. How will they think of you? Will they agree to be a reference? Start creating a positive impression today.
References in the Digital Age: Although they cannot hurt an applicant’s chances, employers often want to contact the person to clarify and verify the information in the letter. Some interviewers wish to ask additional questions which may not be included in the letter.

Today, letters are often replaced by phone calls and LinkedIn referrals. Maintain a list of possible references and their current contact information. Since letters often serve as an introduction to the reference, include complete phone and email contact information. Inform references that you have used their name so they are prepared for the call.
Get Organized: Plan references ahead of time to take stress out of the job search process. When lists of possible references are typed ahead of time, it is one less thing to do on the day of the interview.

Reference Policy

Often, student-athletes request that a coach serve as a reference for a job or scholarship application. Serving as a reference is a favour to the player, not an obligation. Coach Bourgase values his reputation and won’t falsify a reference if the student does not sincerely possess the qualities sought by an employer.

Employers can see through a neutral reference letter and know what it means. Coach Bourgase believes that if you can’t honestly provide a good reference, don’t agree to the request. If a student insists, turning the issue back to them with questions, such as “what do you think a reference would say about you?” or “how have you demonstrated these qualities during the season?” often communicates the message discreetly.

Coach Bourgase maintains these requirements for references:

  1. One week’s notice for reference letters
  2. Prior notice of who will be calling and for what reason
  3. Communicate any specific examples or characteristics they would like to make a prospective employer aware of.

Note: This does not mean that the student-athlete “writes their own reference letter.” The third point follows the conditions outline in the previous two paragraphs. It helps ensure the reference is relevant and aids the player in putting their best foot forward in the cover letter and interview.

List of Resources

  • Mourtada, R. (2012, April 19). Letters of reference: A dying art?. Retrieved April 2012, 23, from The Globe and Mail: