This week we interviewed Alex Stone , CEO of CoachUp, a private coaching platform that connects athletes with private sports coaches.
Founded in 2011, CoachUp is a service that connects athletes with private coaches. They believe that private coaching is the secret to reaching the next level in sports + life. With thousands of coaches across the country, and hundreds of training sessions happening every day, they are the nation’s leading private coaching company in the US.
Picture: CoachUp app and dashboard
It is worth pointing out that CoachUp handles the backend, the payment processing, the scheduling, and the messaging on their platform. They currently support 32 types of sports such as basketball, football, baseball, softball, soccer, et cetera.
One of the unique things about CoachUp is that if a user books a session on CoachUp, he/she has an insurance policy. So if there is an injury or something that happens during that session, the user is covered from an insurance perspective.
Here is a video explaining how to book sessions on the CoachUp platform:
Here is a video showcasing how the coaching sessions work:
📝Show Notes: Through this interview with Alex, we touched on his background, his company, product, and competitive advantages. We also touched on the benefits for the teams and athletes to use its products. We also discussed his business model and his plans for the next 12 months.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Alex:
On his background in sports and product development:
“ I've been involved in sports for about the last 15 years, since I got out of the Marine Corps in 2008. I started more on the product side, physical product side of team sports equipment, working on the manufacturing side for an overseas manufacturer, and that led me to Under Armour, where I spent a few years there”.
“At Under Armour, I focused on product development, product management, and licensing, and then from there I left Under Armour in 2016 to start my first company called Athletes of Valor. And really our goal there was to support transitioning military members to go play college sports and how they can leverage the power of sports to find success post-military career”.
On how he ended up becoming the CEO of CoachUp:
“At Athletes of Valor we did that for about two years and the opportunity came to be acquired by CoachUp. And there was a lot of synergies in the sports vertical and it provided some opportunities for us to expand into different areas as well. So we sold to CoachUp in 2018”.
“I joined the CoachUp team at that time and we kept running Athletes of Valor events across the country. And then just before COVID, I took over as the CEO of CoachUp as well, and a lot of my time has been focused there over the last couple years”.
On what the CoachUp platform is and what problem it helps solve:
“If you're a parent or an athlete yourself, you can only get so far with team practices and team sports, right? You can work on the team aspect of the game. But to really improve from a player perspective, you really need to work on those one-on-one skills and those personal skills”.
“For basketball it is about ball handling, shooting, footwork, all of those things. You can go about it on your own, but the best thing to do is find a coach that you can learn and trust from, and develop your game individually and one-on-one in that in that sense. So as a parent, where do you go to find that?”.
On how CoachUp provides a platform that helps coaches find clients, manage payment processing, the scheduling, messaging and more:
“If you are a coach and you're interested in doing private coaching sessions, how do you go about that? How do you manage that from a business perspective? How do you find potential clients or athletes to work with? So, our goal is to make it really easy for you. So let us handle the backend, the payment processing, the scheduling, the messaging”.
“We do a lot of the customer acquisition and connecting those dots as well as the customer service for that. And we provide a blanket insurance policy. So you're covered from an insurance perspective, if you're out there doing those sessions. Let's make it all really easy for you so you can focus on doing what you do best”.
On the types of coaches who teach on the CoachUp platform:
“There is a minimum requirement to become a coach on our platform. You have to have some level of coaching experience and certifications as well as probably played at a very high level, collegiately professionally”.
“There's some people who are high school coaches who have a lot of experience coaching at the high school level. So I think that to reach that, for them to come on and find that level of experience where they can work with clients who are a fit for them as well, within that core market, we have some people who work really well with youth athletes, and then we have some who want to train more of high level adult athletes even on Olympic trials and things of that nature”.“
“Depending on what you're looking for from an athlete perspective, you can find all the way up to the professional level, former professional level, down to just a really more career coach. That might be someone, who's been coaching for 20 or 30 years across different levels, has a lot of certifications, and a lot of experience. So I think there's a good broad range of coaches, which is what makes it great”.
On the fact that they have student athletes who want to teach and make money as part of the NIL:
“We also have, with the changes to NIL, a lot of athletes who are now coaching on the platform as well. So some of them might not have coached at the highest level, but if you think about a college athlete, they've had the highest level of coaching. So they actually have the skills, they have the tools. So how do they then translate that to pass that down to the more youth community?”.
On the fact that they support 32 types of sports on the CoachUp platform:
“So we have 32 sports currently, listed as options on CoachUp, and where we have coaches (…) . So basketball, football, baseball, softball, soccer, et cetera. I think that also it's really easy to just grab a ball and go train when it comes to soccer, basketball. You don't need a lot of space. You don't need a lot of equipment whereas if you're going to train for hockey and you need ice time and facilities, it gets a little bit more challenging and expensive”.
On CoachUp’s competitive advantages:
“I think it is a couple things. First I would say our ease of use in simplifying the experience for both the parent like yourself or for the coach to make it really easy for them to run their business”.
“I also think safety and security is a big one as well from a competitive advantage. That means if you book a session on CoachUp, you have an insurance policy. So if there is an injury or something that happens during that session, you are covered from an insurance perspective, which is important if you're training at a facility, and things like that“.
“And I think the reliability when it comes to our brand, right? We have a really strong brand and really strong requirements that in that first experience that you're going to find a great coach on our platform (…) So I think when if you're really trying to find a coach locally and do it effectively, we make that really easy to connect those dots in an effective way”.
On their business model:
“We're a transactional business. So coaches really run their own business on our platform. They set their own prices, and manage their clients. Once we connect the dots, we're transactional based on those athlete and coach sessions and packages that are booked. And it depends on where they are in their journey, and those fees really go to pay for the operational overhead, for the insurance, for the customer service, the payment processing, et cetera. So we have a percentage there”.
On their plan for the next 12 months:
“Our focus has really been the same more or less couple years since I took over. And that's really focused on the core product and providing the highest level of service and experience for both our coaches and for our athletes”.
“So how do we just create a better experience for our coaches and a more seamless experience for our athletes and parents moving forward? So we're going to continue down that path to continue to make improvements on the current product”.
“But also think about the things that we're missing, right? At some point can CoachUp be the one stop shop for all things sports like sports nutrition, recovery for that middle school, high school and adult athlete who's looking to improve one aspect or another? That’s where we are heading. And everything we do, we do it very methodically because we are a small team”.
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