DEAR ATHLETIC SUPPORT: Coming from a dad who used to play sports, can you explain if there is value in having a private coach develop your kid? Sure, I can play catch with him and teach him to swing a bat, but I wonder if paying a personal coach will give my son the extra push he really needs to excel. — DAD WHO PLAYED BALL
DEAR DAD WHO PLAYED: First, let’s talk money. A recent survey by TD Ameritrade found the average monthly cost of youth league sports in America to be upwards of $500. Some parents even reported spending more than a thousand dollars each month on gear, travel expenses, tournament fees, and private lessons.
Sounds expensive, right? It is.
After making a few calls, I found the average price of an hour-long, individual hitting lesson to be right around $60. I’m going to move forward assuming you’re ready/willing to shell out the dough required to afford your kid the privilege of a personal coach.
But before I do, let’s pause and acknowledge what’s currently happening in American youth sports: money, affluence, access to personal coaches — those things are creating a divide. An even wider gap between rich and poor. The difference between playing shortstop or quarterback, and riding the bench.
Lucky for your kid, you’ve got the money, honey, and you’re willing to spend it.
Which leads me, finally, back to your question.
Sure, a private coach is going to give your son more repetitions, which could, in turn, give him an edge and help him succeed in his chosen sport, but there are many other factors to consider.
First off, who’s the coach?
Is he legit? Did he play ball at a high level, college or professional? Beyond that, what are his coaching credentials? There’s a huge difference between being able to coach a sport well and play a sport well.
Do your homework before you fork over any of your hard-earned dough. Find other parents who’ve used the coach you’re considering. Research his playing/coaching career. Bottom line: If the coach in question shows up sporting a cutoff t-shirt and smelling like he’s spent the night in his truck — take your money and run.
If, on the other hand, the coach checks out, and he doesn’t smell like ten-day-old bologna, then you only have one question left to ask:
Does your child want the extra lessons?
This is by far the most important consideration you need to make. Nothing causes burnout faster than parents forcing their children into extra practices, time spent swinging a bat when they’d rather be reading a book or swimming with friends. To be clear, your son must WANT this private training for it to make any impact at all.
If your kiddo is truly passionate about athletics — if he’s out in the driveway perfecting his swing or shooting so many free throws the net rips — then I would advise you to do two things:
First, explain to him the money and time involved in private lessons. Make sure he understands the opportunity he’s being afforded. Make sure he’s thankful. Then find the best personal coach available and get him signed up.
If your child has a burning desire to endure the countless hours it takes to succeed at a high level, then yes, a private coach can definitely help. Just make sure that coach doesn’t stink.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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