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Does Your Kid Really Need a Private Coach/Trainer?

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In an era in which many parents think their kids are going to be worthy of a college athletic scholarship, there has been a dramatic increase in parents hiring private coaches/trainers for their athlete offspring.

But does your kid really need a private coach or a trainer? Under some circumstances, it makes sense but keep in mind that if not monitored carefully, the extra practice can lead to overtraining, injury and burnout.

But, before you sign up your kid, do some research and discuss the pros and cons with your child. Make sure he/she is really invested in doing the additional work before making the commitment of time and money.

private trainer for baseball instructing a girl at practice

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

Youth sports: a huge…and growing…financial market

Despite decreases in the number of kids participating in youth sports, the coaching market is burgeoning; researchers estimate that $8 billion was spent on sports camps and specialized sports instruction in 2019, up from $6.3 billion in 2014.

But with only 2% of high school athletes earning college athletic scholarships, it might make more fiscal sense to invest that money in your student’s 529 account or some other interest-bearing college savings plan.

But, are there certain conditions under which hiring a private/coach trainer makes sense? And if the answer is yes, what should you look for in that person?

private coach for swimming instructing a child at the pool

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Why you might want to hire a private coach

Full disclosure here: Although he competes on his high school tennis team, my husband and I pay for private tennis lessons for our youngest son.

Here’s why: Our son plays high school soccer in the fall but doesn’t play a high school sport in the winter. We signed him up for a membership at an indoor tennis facility so he can play during the winter and be better prepared for tennis tryouts in the spring. In addition, we pay a former high school/college player for a lesson once a week, weather permitting.

If the weather cooperates and we have a mild winter, he does have the option to play with members of the team on their home courts during the off-season. But in case we have weeks of cold, snowy weather, the indoor facility gives him the opportunity to continue to play.

Neither my husband nor I play tennis so we can’t offer any low-key pointers, even if we wanted to.

Luckily, a membership to the indoor facility is less than $100 and the private lessons are less than $20 per hour so the costs are not prohibitive.

So, like our youngest, if your athlete has an off-season, a private coach/trainer can help him or her maintain the fitness level necessary for when their sport is in season. Summer, in particular, is a busy time for private coaches as many of them are preparing athletes for tryouts for fall sports.

Another reason to hire a private coach is to gain more individualized instruction on one particular skill set. For some sports, repetitions using the proper form are critical. And often the team coach doesn’t have the time to work with each player one-on-one long enough so they can master a particular skill.

So, if your child has been struggling with batting/hitting, for example, hiring a private coach just to work on that particular skill can be worthwhile, particularly if the child is feeling defeated by not be able to master the skill. One-on-one attention can not only lead to an increase in performance but also a boost in confidence.

As much as it pains me to admit it, there are bad coaches out there. I’ve seen them…my sons have been on their teams. A lack of knowledge about the sport, the emphasis placed on the wrong priorities, limited patience to deal with a team of sometimes-distracted kids, little tact when dealing with parents all can add up to a miserable season. You’ve paid money, you and your child have invested time and effort and all for naught.

Not a terribly big deal in the grand scheme of things and certainly a learning experience when it comes to dealing with adverse situations but what if the sport is your child’s passion and he/she has shown some talent in the sport? An entire season is a lot of time to devote and get nothing—athletically—out of it. This is where a private coach could fill in the missing pieces and help your child continue to learn and grow as an athlete.

private trainer reviewing data on his pad

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What to look for in a private coach

Although many rec, travel and middle and high school programs require a background check for their coaches, some ask for little else, especially at the recreational level. You don’t need any experience, knowledge, or licenses to coach in most rec programs.

Travel programs, both for-profit and nonprofit, often require coaches to be licensed and/or to have undergone some training.

Depending on the school system, middle and high school coaches might not have any experience with the sport they are coaching. In our county, for example, preference is given to a teacher in the school system over a non-teacher in the hiring of coaches.

So, the experience and knowledge of your child’s coaches your child can vary widely depending on the program. Similarly, the experience and knowledge of private coaches/trainers can vary widely. And just because someone thinks they are a private coach/trainer doesn’t necessarily make it so.

Following are some things you might consider when researching a private coach for your kid.

  • Licenses and certifications: Is the coach licensed or certified by a sports-related organization? For instance, soccer coaches can be licensed by the U.S. Soccer Federation, running/track coaches by USA Track and Field or Road Runners Club of America. Is he/she first aid– and CPR-certified?
  • Results and favorable reviews: Can the private coach provide references, proof of positive results or testimonials from former clients? For running coaches, the results are easier to track but for some other sports, results might be a little more difficult to quantify. This is where positive references from former clients and word of mouth are important.
  • Personal experience with the sport: Because the private coach has participated in the sport doesn’t necessarily make them a good coach and conversely, even those who haven’t participated can be effective coaches. My own personal experience is that those who have played the sport have more firsthand knowledge and a different perspective than those who have never played.
  • Coordination with the team coach: If your athlete is supplementing team training with private coaching during the season, the private coach should offer to coordinate with the team coach. Overtraining and overuse injuries are one of the downsides of working with a private coach during the in-season of a sport. The private coach and team coach should coordinate on some level, each taking into account what the other is working on.
  • Online presence: Check out YouTube as some private coaches and trainers will have a channel from which you can get some sense of his/her sports philosophy and training methods. While you are online, you might also look at him/her on social media to make sure there are no red flags that might preclude you from signing your child up.
  • Cost: Are the goals of the private training sessions going to be worth the cost? Private coaching/lessons can vary widely…from the $20 tennis lesson to hundreds of dollars per hour.
  • Travel: Where will the coaching take place? Can the coach come to you or will you have to drive your child to another location? Depending on the age of the child, you might want to stay for the session, which will add to your total time commitment.

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Where to find a private coach or trainer

Word of mouth is often a good way to find an effective private coach for your kid.

Local gyms and fitness centers also might be a good place to check, particularly if you are looking for a coach that is focused on general fitness and conditioning.

Local sports organizations–Little League, Babe Ruth League, Pop Warner, rec and travel league each specific sport–may maintain lists of private coaches.

Check with your local college or high school’s athletic director who may know of alumni who offer coaching services.

And websites like CoachUp (https://www.coachup.com) can put you in contact and even process payment for coaches and trainers in your area.

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