Vendor Platforms Compete Hard in the Remote Coaching Space

Feb 18, 2021 | News

By David Gould, Content Editor            

Teaching the improvement-minded golfer, to Jim Flick, Bob Toski and Harvey Penick, meant standing face to face discussing flaws and fixes. The 21st century and its waves of technology seem to demand something different of the teaching professional. And perhaps technology has it very much right this time. Proponent Group is dedicated to researching, understanding, analyzing and sharing viewpoints on all the ways a modern coach can upgrade their services and enhance their monetary value through virtual interaction with clients / golfers.

Here is our first-pass look at the tech companies supporting that movement with products specifically for golf coaches, and vying for your vote of confidence in what they have to offer. In the near future, we’ll take a closer look at how our members are using these services.

CoachNow

The banner text across CoachNow’s website boldly speaks of “60-plus sports across 140 countries.” By no means are we talking about a tech startup here. If you’re looking for the platform’s baseline proposition, it’s contained in this claim: “CoachNow is an all-in-one digital coaching platform designed to manage, motivate, and train your athletes. It helps coaches and trainers be more effective, be more impactful and make more money.” Prominent participants in the platform include the IMG Academy and Cameron McCormick. An instructor can get involved for $40 a month, or $25 a month if you pay 12 months all in one hit. Web address: coachnow.io

Golf Coach App 

Billing itself as “The Only App a Golf Coach Needs,” this entrant in the virtual coaching space has reportedly built a roster of nearly 3,000 active instructors. Its suite of functions begins with classic teaching tech such as customized video shooting, communication with students through a Coaching Library, disseminating pre-produced content to students and generating strokes-gained analytics from student-loaded inputs. At the opposite extreme it provides a business-building solution, in which the coach can collect payments, build subscription income and promote their services to a wide audience.

Any judicious coach would adopt this app, according to the company, because “hybrid coaching is the future—build an in-person relationship first then switch to online supervision and coaching.” A coach can get involved for no charge and load up an initial roster of five students. Once they decide to add a sixth student, they trigger an ongoing monthly fee of $49. The companion stats app, designed to integrate seamlessly with the coaching app, can be added for $150 a year. Web address: golfcoachapp.com

The Golf Institute

Spearheaded by Proponent member Kelley Brooke, new startup The Golf Institute appeals to the would-be student in part by promoting a roster of 70-plus accomplished golf coaches already signed on. That group includes 10 Golf Digest Top 50 Teachers, eight PGA Section Teachers of the Year and 16 former tour pros—interested golfers can browse the ranks and match up with the coach who seems best for them. Those coach-shoppers are appealed to partly on cost, with The Golf Institute’s website promising “the same service, education and attention as a private lesson series, for a fraction of the cost.” Obvious as it might seem, that benefit isn’t promoted as emphatically by most virtual-coaching platforms. 

TGI also does live-streaming, with classes included in a client’s subscription fee and a posted schedule of multiple live sessions each day. The company’s video tip library is similarly well-stocked. Premium level subscription provides access to live-stream sessions, while a Basic, no-charge subscription lets you watch the video tips. ThrivSports provides TGI’s digital scheduler and supports on-boarding of coaches who review what’s offered and decide to sign on with The Golf Institute. The site is currently in beta testing. Web address: thegolfinstitute.com

Ikonik

When virtual coaching was a just a hazy idea in the instruction world, Ikonik founder and CEO Jim Shaloub would attend Proponent Group gatherings and energetically explain to his audience that virtual / remote coaching was an idea whose time had come. Study the Ikonic website and you’ll easily see that its guiding principles have held sound, and the offer to a dedicated teaching professional is notably well thought out.

One of Ikonic’s baseline proposals to the coach is that, “through a mobile application, coaches can distribute quality content, build custom programs, test player progress, and deliver actionable results.” In accordance with the move away from “set amounts of time for set amounts of payment,” the Ikonic platform pushes a coach toward optimization of intellectual property. “Rather than squeezing everything into a single session, coaches train progressions via distributed learning, training and scoring modules.

It means the coach is no longer limited to billing for time they can spend on the range. “Simply put,” the company says, “it’s a transformation of the student-coach relationship.” Brian Jacobs, in Rochester, New York, Terry Russell, at Cantigny outside Chicago and James Hong, on Long Island, New York, are among this platform’s loyal users. An interested instructor can try Ikonik free with one student, moving up in price to monthly fees of $79, $149 and $299 on a quantity basis, as you hit the 2-student, 20-student and 75-student levels. Web address: ikonikgolf.com

Hudl

Billed as a “new set of tools for instructors and coaches,” the Hudl platform is based on “instant feedback, a review-anywhere functionality, notes and drawings functions, plus easy organization.” The company’s website is notably consumer-facing, and it includes a sizable team-sports angle. To the improvement-seeking golfer it offers the opportunity to “give your golf swing a free upgrade, get a closer look at your swing, and take a new approach to analyzing performance on the course. Record any swing to review in slow motion. Add notes and drawings to highlight what needs to change.”

For the coach this software promises to “record lessons and review video on the spot, so you can focus on areas of adjustment and see students improve.” It digs a bit deeper to suggest that the coach can “make the most of teachable moments by adding voiceovers, angles, and custom drawings to any video.” Well-known professional Mark Immelman is an avowed supporter: “The Hudl Technique app,” he says, “has revolutionized my approach to golf teaching and technique analysis. It is easy to use, accurate and its features make conveying my lessons so much easier.” European Tour star Edoardo Molinari is another believer in Hudl. Web address: hudl.com/sports/golf

MyVCoach

The term “VCoach” is used to describe a  professional who deploys the MyVCoach technology and, presumably, gets business sent their way from the pool of improvement-seeking golfers the company has been building. There are even “VPoints” that the golfer can build up, two points for every $1 spent. “Vcoaches have the opportunity to solely focus on Vcoaching while we do all of the marketing for them and drive them consistent business,” the company states.

Golf is the bellwether category, but MyVCoach is a platform that purportedly can be used to teach any number of skills, including fitness and mental performance for athletes. A phenomenon known as neurosynchrony is credited by the company with facilitating the remote/virtual form of coaching and learning. “Even though you may not be in person with your Vcoach,” the company states, “neurosynchrony is playing a huge part by allowing you to connect with each other through the power of eye contact.” Clients are encouraged to “work with multiple Vcoaches from different disciplines to optimize your personal achievement to the highest possible level.” Familiar names on the coaching roster include Patrick Leahy and Nick Duffy. Web address: www.myvcoach.net

OnForm

After 18 months of development, OnForm launched in March 2020. The company’s mission comes down to “online coaching made simple.” The platform bills itself as a “one-stop video analysis and messaging solution to analyze, organize and easily stay in touch with your clients.” In that sense, it’s the pathway by which an instructor working in-person only can migrate to a hybrid approach that leverages virtual work with golfers. In this company’s case, as with other, Artificial Intelligence is deemed a vital tool for the coach. OnForm intends to “leverage AI, machine learning and cloud infrastructure to create a new platform to help coaches and athletes learn a skill in any sport, with video a core to this effort.” Web address: getonform.com/golf

PerfectMotion

Many a Proponent Group article focused on teaching technology has quoted Kevin Sprecher, a GOLF 100 Top Teacher and technophile who recently selected Perfect Motion for his virtual-coaching platform, joining Chip Beck and others. Heavy reliance on Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., is a claim to fame for this brand, which markets most energetically to consumers, suggesting to coaches with fairly limited networks that PerfectMotion can potentially find you new customers. One testimonial from an instructor said the company’s app detects faults that an instructor may not pick up, at least via video, adding that the A.I. brain will select which swing flaw to prioritize. A priority composite performance score, called the PerfectMotion Performance Index, or PPI, seeks to capture and express an individual golfer’s overall progress in their training. Consumers pay $5.99 a month for the higher-tier service, no fee at all for a limited package of benefits. Web address: perfectmotion.io

SwingU

One of the more visible brands in this space, SwingU managed to sign 100-plus coaches in its first 18 months of existence and continually publicized its progress—including signups by such prominent professionals as Mark Blackburn, Gary Gilchrist, Hank Haney, Jim McLean, Stan Utley, Jason Baile, Jim Hardy and Chris O’Connell. The company talks about “helping instructors act more like media companies”—an indicator of SwingU’s priority on promoting instruction and instructors.

SwingU sees its value to coaches in these terms: “Increase engagement, loyalty and brand awareness” for your coaching practice, while “driving more in-person revenue, with less effort” and “building an online-academy experience.” The suite of services is comprehensive, as follows: an interactive student-instructor forum, on-demand library of lessons and drills, one-on-one training with swing analysis and prescriptive drills, in-person lesson booking, on-the-course strokes-gained stats, plus business integration and push notifications. Its software allows the coach to develop his or her own branded app. Pricing is $299 a month for academies and $199 for individual coaches. Web address: swingu.com/academies

ThrivSports

Sign on with ThrivSports and, according to the company, “within minutes you can establish your services, pricing and availability to begin accepting online bookings.” The company’s roots are in booking, scheduling and buildout of a coaching network, so they’ve got those features well covered and they are oriented toward customer-attraction for the professional seeking to build their clientele.

Whereas other vendors in this space can be light on specific pricing information for various enumerated services, Thriv (rhymes with “live”) lays out its pricing schedule in detail. In fact, by reviewing the company’s price sheet you learn a lot about its program for coaches. Their Starter tier is priced at $25 a month and serves a single coach, providing basic scheduling, online payments and client management. At the Pro level, an account receives “single and multi-coach options,” as well as “basic account-plus, session packages, classes and events, recurring memberships, client lockers, basic email marketing and email customer support.” Top-tier option is the Elite level, which provides everything pegged to the Pro tier, plus “credit-based pricing” and what they refer to as “premium email marketing.” It’s a company with very deep connections to working instructors, well aware of their challenges and aspirations. Web address: platform.thrivsports.com

V1 Sports

Very likely the most recognizable brand in this long list is V1 Sports, well proven to have produced, in the company’s words, “video analysis and online coaching software, with mobile apps, that empower coaches and athletes to be their best.” Having made its bones many times over as a support for golf coaches, V1 was well positioned to build its own virtual-coaching functions and modules. Over recent years, as golfers began thinking that an app on the phone could be their vital conduit to improvement, V1 began turning to coaches long loyal to its product to tell them about this pool of consumers. Those golfers now routinely send videos and receive voice-over video lessons by connecting with one of thousands of coaches who teach with V1’s app.

ln a move to offer more, and better, game-improvement tools to its audience of amateur golfers and teaching professionals, V1 Sports recently partnered with golf training aid Eyeline Golf. An array of Eyeline Golf products is now available in the online pro shop at V1Sports.  Web address: v1sports.com