The Basics of Remote Coaching (and How Big it Might Get)

Feb 10, 2021 | News

By David Gould, Staff Editor                  

It goes without saying that we live in a highly digital society, communicating online constantly. But it’s still been surprising to see how quickly Internet-based golf instruction has gone from a thought-provoking concept to a dynamic market trend. 

The central question about remote coaching has flipped from “Is it something worth doing?” to “Which of the many options and approaches should I go with?”

Here in 2021, materials and messaging coming your way from Proponent Group will continually cover this emerging topic. To kick it all off in this blog post, we’ll discuss which angles we’re currently most intrigued by, and which questions would likely be most valuable to answer for our members. In the broadest sense, we’re pushing to find out how this technology can:

  • Make you more money
  • Accelerate your students’ learning curves
  • Make managing your time a bit easier

For such a young industry segment, remote golf coaching already has some legitimately “big players,” or perhaps a mix of those already well established and those with serious plans to penetrate the market. Names like CoachNow, Ikonic, Golf Coach App, SwingU, V1, GolfPass and Thrivsports are marketing to golf instructors like yourself, looking for talent to add to their rosters. 

Here are at least some of our early questions about how this trend will develop and how much benefit to Proponent members it will provide:

  • Regarding the actual platform, am I better off creating my own mobile app, or better off signing on with one of the vendor platforms?
  • Is the remote approach highly useful to “swing-geek” instructors, and less so to coaches who create their success by building relationships?
  • Compared to in-person teaching, does remote teaching serve the “coaching model” more effectively? Less effectively?
  •  Is remote teaching particularly valuable to coaches who teach indoors full-time?
  • Do instructors who shift strongly toward remote coaching end up never meeting many or even most of their students in person?
  • Some pros use remote group coaching as a highly efficient version of group supervised practice. Is that a particularly effective application of it?
  • Can remote coaching make a big difference in my annual teaching income?
  • Can remote coaching help an instructor build and maintain stronger coach-student relationships?

It’s become clear already that online instruction can and does broaden one’s market for students—ramping it up from locally based to truly global, at least when you’re talking about the English-speaking world.

One Proponent member, Brad Pluth of suburban Minneapolis, has used Facebook Live, Zoom, CoachNow and YouTube Live to connect with remotely taught golfers. About 20 percent of those he works with online are people he never sees in person. “The number of countries my remote students represent is somewhere near 100, which is the amazing part,” says Pluth. “Many have found me on Facebook and a few via YouTube.” About 95 percent are male, they all compensate him via payment platforms, and all payments are made in American dollars.  

Interestingly, Pluth’s standard practice is to put these people into teams of eight to 12, even though they typically don’t know each other, at least to begin with. That’s a function of his longtime dedication to group teaching—in other words, an in-person coaching habit gets carried over to the digital realm, which makes sense. 

There are scheduled sessions and also an “open forum” opportunity, which his students jump onto when they see a “Brad is live now” message posted. “I’ve had people on screen who are in their basements, in their garages, in their cars, basically anywhere,” he says. “They’ll be out on the golf course, wanting to know how to play a shot. I told a guy how to hit a knockdown under a tree limb that was in his way. His friend held the phone to shoot him playing the shot, and he pulled it off.”

When they aren’t in a setting where they can swing a club they join online to pick up information or have questions answered. This all happens over the 12-week time unit a remote-learning Pluth student signs up for. The process is highly structured, with goals, skills challenges and key metrics of improvement that get reported and monitored.

Proponent member Brian Jacobs uses a similar time unit with his remote students, although he hasn’t yet added the group element. They pay him $1,200 for a four-month unit on the Ikonic digital coaching platform. For a recent period his roster was six students, so the revenue take was $7,200. He sets aside Mondays for remote work and he can serve all six with content in 30 to 45 minutes live. In addition he provides a monthly video analysis that takes 15 minutes to prepare and he does one call a month for 30 minutes. 

“Each student represents 60 to 90 minutes a month,” Jacobs explains, which adds up to about five hours monthly, and something over $200 per hour. “It’s not just healthy per-hour revenue,” he points out, “it’s also revenue on which I don’t have to pay a percentage to my facility.” His goal is to set up groups on subscription and create a one-to-many learning module. 

Experimentation is certainly a big factor in the early going for this new sub-category of instruction. It’s no surprise that Proponent Group members are out front with the innovative ideas and practices. Many have volunteered information about how they’re going about this without being asked, which is very much part of the Proponent spirit. Much more reporting and analysis on this topic will, as mentioned, be forthcoming.