On-demand economy: start-up makes private coaching accessible

Private athletic coaching used to be something for the pros, or the rich, but CoachUp, a Boston-based start-up is trying to change that.

“It’s nothing new. At the highest level, all the best athletes in the world all do private coaching… that’s because it really works. It’s the best way to improve,” explained Jordan Fliegel, founder of CoachUp.

The company uses a website and a mobile app to help coaches connect with athletes of all ages who are looking to improve their skills, whether they’re trying out for little league, or competing at the highest levels. CoachUp performs background checks and rates coaches to help athletes find the best fit.

CoachUp works for the customer and the coach, “We provide insurance, we provide payment processing, we provide customer support… I mean for our coaches we’re their marketing department, their technology department… their website host. We are everything for them, so that they can just focus on coaching,” Fliegel said.

Coaches can set their own prices and CoachUp takes a small cut of the booking rate, which varies based on the skill level of the coach and whether or not CoachUp helped the coach find the athlete client.

The start-up, which launched in 2012, has 15,000 coaches across the country, and has trained 200,000 athletes, according to Fliegel. The average cost is about $50 an hour, but many coaches discount their rate depending on the number of sessions purchased in advance. CoachUp also offers semi-private sessions with small groups for a more cost-effective option.

The business model has attracted investment money from world champion athletes, including Stephen Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and Julian Edelman of the NFL’s New England Patriots, both of whom have benefited from private coaching.

Source: CoachUp Stephen Curry and Jordan Fliegel

Source: CoachUp
Stephen Curry and Jordan Fliegel

To date, CoachUp has raised nearly $10 million in funding, which the start-up is using to broaden its reach.

The company works with more than 100 former NBA and WNBA players and that’s just in basketball. You can even book sessions with Hall of Famers like the former NBA player “Tiny” Nate Archibald, according to Fliegel.

Shaleek Billups has been working with one of CoachUp’s coaches, Kevon Watkins, in hopes of making his high school football team.

Watkins believes one-on-one training is the key to helping athletes take their skill to the next level, “What I can do it two sessions, it would probably take two months for a team,” he explained.

Perhaps more importantly, Watkins believes he’s teaching his clients life lessons, “Everything that we apply on the football field can apply to everyday life. The biggest thing for me is hard work… you have to work hard in order to make yourself better.”

Fliegel thinks he’s a prime example of how private lessons can change your game. He was a mediocre basketball player until a camp counselor helped him develop into a high school and small college star. He went on to play professionally in Israel.

The investment Fliegel’s coach made in him did more than just improve his jump shot, “It led to a direct improvement for me academically. (I realized) if I really apply myself, I can figure out anything.”

According to Fliegel, hundreds of kids have received scholarships after training with a CoachUp coach, but it’s not all about playing on a collegiate or professional level, “The feedback from parents is, ‘yes, my son or daughter is getting better at the sport and that’s great, but the character, the confidence building… the academic improvement we’re seeing…’ They’re blown away by that,” he said.

Andy Rothman contributed to this report.

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