Have you thought about offering private lessons, but you’re not sure where to start? The first time I ran private lessons, I really really REALLY over-prepared, because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. My club had plugged me into some timeslots and I was supposed to create lessons after a quick consult with the player (most of whom I did not know) and if you know me at all, you know I’m a planner. So this was WAY outside of my comfort zone!
Now I’ve been offering private lessons off and on for two years now, but they’ve really started to pick up this summer! This is due to a few factors (I’m settling into a community, I’ve interacted with a large number of players through camps and clinics, and my players have been generally successful). After running what I would consider is a large number of private lessons, I wanted to share one I ran recently to show HOW I plan them. In addition to making a little extra money (because we know the coach’s salary can be lower than we’d prefer), private lessons are a great way to focus on small details with athletes and give them feedback which they can focus on over the next week or month before they need to meet up again for the next steps.
PRIOR TO SCHEDULING THE LESSON:
Depending on how you get your lessons, you may or may not know the athlete you’ll be meeting up with. I suggest asking for:
- Playing experience
- Position(s) preferred (if any)
- What skills they’d like to work on
This is the minimum amount of information you need to plan a good private lesson. You’ll also want to coordinate the best time to meet up (duh) and share how payment should be made (plus what the payment is!). I also have a cancellation fee (court rentals are non-refundable where I coach), so I make sure families know this before committing to a time/date.
PLANNING THE LESSON:
Now that you have a general understanding of your player’s needs, you’ll want to sit down and give yourself time to think. This sounds simple, but this is probably the hardest thing! I like to review past plans I’ve done, plus get creative with how I can push players.
Your first lesson with a player should begin with the basics of the skills they want to work on. You want to quickly assess form and see how much work is needed on the fundamentals. If a player handles these well, you can move on to more advanced drills/techniques, but if you find that a player is struggling with the basics, just stick with lower level drills you had planned to assess their skills.
For example, you may want to have a player pass a few freeballs to target. Start by tossing directly to the player, then have the player shuffle side to side while passing to target. If the player is not making their pass to target 60-70% of the time, I’d stick with freeballs and work on proper form for handling freeballs. If this seems too easy, move on to downballs (which you have planned already as the next progression).
You want to make sure that your lessons are fast-paced and offer the best value for the money. Families pay a lot to have their child receive one-on-one attention and most often will stick around to watch that their child is getting the most out of their time with you. I enjoy this because they usually help shag! Haha. In addition to drills being fast-paced, you also need to keep the following things in mind:
-Start exactly on time, or even a few minutes early.
-If you cannot start early (running a lesson just before and the previous family wants to chat for a minute or two after), get the player started with clear warmup instructions while you wrap-up.
-Help shag balls. For whatever reason, coaches these days refuse to shag. If you’re helping the player pick up balls, you’re going to go faster and get through more of the lesson plan, and most of all, make a good impression with the family. If you want repeat lessons, you need to show that you value their time! Using the time that a player is shagging to check your Insta is no bueno.
READ MORE: Fix a Volleyball Serve in 4 Steps
-If something isn’t working, move on. Pivot. Don’t spend time running a drill which isn’t helping, unless that is the only option (serving, for example, only has so many drills you can throw into the mix).
-Expect to spend 10-15 minutes per skill/drill. I plan a lot of 10-minute drills, and this improves the drills in a few ways.
-If something doesn’t work, you have other thought-out options
-You’ll cover a lot of skills and the player/family will feel like they get a lot out of the lesson
-If you do not get through everything, you have plans for your next lesson with the player
-Run drills right up until the last minute, and if the player is close to a breakthrough or has just started to see success with a new skill, maybe do a couple extra reps. I don’t recommend regularly going over your time, as this will build the expectation that you ALWAYS go over (and most of the time that’s not possible).
-If you want to go over (either to show off a new skill or to wrap up a drill) ask. Families are busy, and if you go over by 5 minutes you may inadvertently make them late in picking up their son from soccer practice or cut into family time.
This can be uncomfortable for some coaches the first time you do it, but always be upfront about the cost of your lessons before you book anything. I always let the parent’s know that they can pay me with cash or check made out to me, due at the end of the lesson.
Some parents will push for a discount or ask for a cheaper rate because they plan to come back and do more lessons. I personally do not ever give discounts. My club sets my pricing and I do not vary for a few reasons.
- We’re already one of the cheaper options in the area.
- If I start giving a discount, that indirectly impacts the other coaches at my club by placing the expectations for a discount on them.
- I know what I give players is worth it.
- Parents are able to choose where they go for lessons. If they want a lesson with me, they know the price. If it is too expensive, they can look for other coaches. (Use this if parent’s try to push you into a cheaper price!)
- If you give one person a discount, you’re essentially taking away the option to make more money. Let’s say you give someone a $10 discount because they want to do multiple lessons. You give them 10 lessons in a month, and you’re losing $100. No, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but someone else might have been willing to pay full price for those lessons which you are now not available for.
- OK, last reason. It is my opinion that when you work with kids, you will feel guilty if you are not bending over backwards to help them. STOP FEELING GUILTY. If you know you’re charging too much, that’s one thing. But if you know you’re charging your worth, don’t lower it because you’re being pushed. It’s uncomfortable to someone “no,” but if you keep it consistent (never giving discounts, for example), it’ll be easier. I haven’t lost a lesson yet because of saying no to a discount.
My final tip is to make sure you go and speak with the parents after the lesson ends. I like to include the players in this talk because I’m usually giving homework at the end. I always cover three things:
- What the player excelled at or did well with
- One or two big areas for improvement
- Something they can do at home to work on the skills they need more focus on
An example would go something like this:
“Hi Jamie, I had a lot of fun working with Sarah today. She did really well with her accuracy when we were working on serving today, she was serving short and deep pretty accurately! When we switched to defense I noticed she had the tendency to run towards the ball with her hands together, instead of move to the ball first and then make her platform. This should be a simple fix, but right now it’s just a bad habit we need to break. More reps with a focus on moving first should fix this in no time! When she’s at home, she can practice shuffling with her arms apart, and then bring the platform together. If you have a ball at home, you could toss to the sides for her. If not, just work on the shuffling!”
OK, you’ve stuck with me for a long time. And I appreciate that! Here’s a sample lesson I’ve done with Defensive Specialists/Liberos a few times now, and I’ve found it’s possible to adjust on the fly and works for different ages/skill levels. Feel free to use it for your own personal private lessons and let me know your thoughts!
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