By Priscilla Tallman
It’s no surprise that private lessons in youth sports are on the rise. Parents are willing to pay top dollar for one-on-one coaching to give their child an edge or advantage. But do private lessons work?
The answer depends on what you’re looking to accomplish. Not every player wants to pursue a Division I scholarship. Some families are looking to introduce their child to a new sport or help them develop a particular skill for school tryouts. Others may be looking for a solid role model for their child.
Here are a few things to consider before you book your first private lesson:
One of the most common reasons parents pursue private lessons for their kids is to develop a particular skill. Skill-specific private lessons allow the coach to focus on the movement and technique of one athlete. Coaches can evaluate movement, look for flaws in technique and cue the athlete as they make adjustments.
Progressions are an important part of skill development. For example, an athlete struggling with serving or passing may seek private lessons to slow down or break down a particular skill. During a private lesson for serving, a coach may put the athlete through a progression of single, less complex skills that break down full movements into smaller parts. That could be the toss, then stepping to the ball, then hitting the ball from varying distances off the net. The athlete may perform all progressions of the skill and combine them at the end with one drill to achieve mastery.
Repetition drills are also an important part of skill development. Private lessons allow the athlete to get one-on-one time with the coach, but they also allow for more repetitions per practice. Passing, setting, hitting, serving or blocking balls in a private lesson provide higher reps than in a team practice.
Good private coaches will assign their players “homework” to do on their own time. With any sport, the time you dedicate outside the gym fosters just as much growth as the time you spend with your team. Coaches can assign wall drills or ball control drills that require nothing more than the athlete and a ball.
Not only can good coaches provide skill development, they can be outstanding mentors for young athletes. When coaches spend time with an athlete, they are also modeling time management, work ethic and pushing the limits of their abilities. A child responds differently to a coach than to a parent, and one-on-one settings create an environment where a person of influence can be a source of encouragement. When a coach believes in a player, it’s a powerful thing.
Not every player is trying to make it to the starting lineup. Some parents try several activities and their child takes to the one sport where they are not naturally talented. In this case, a parent may seek private instruction to get a child to a place where they can make a school team. The parent and/or the player are more interested in making a team and being a part of that camaraderie and community than they are in setting records. Private lessons can be a valuable part of this process for those athletes.
College scholarship aspirations
There are those players looking to tweak their game in an effort to secure a college scholarship. These players are usually very good already, but they have specific things they want to improve on that will help them play at the collegiate level. Private lessons can give pointed direction for these players.
Finding the right coach
Now that you have determined your child’s needs, what should you look for in a private lesson?
Matt Taylor (Matt Taylor Volleyball) has over 25 years of combined playing and teaching experience in volleyball and is the Director of MTVB in Orange County, California. He was a member of three NCAA championship teams at UCLA and played beach in CBVA and AVP competitions. In his time coaching players, he has taught all levels – from beginners to AVP players, ages 6-72. Matt says parents should consider the following criteria when looking for a private coach:
- How long have they been teaching?
- Are they an expert in a specific technique or skill?
- Do they know what they’re talking about? If they can’t answer questions specific to your child, find someone who can.
- Are they good at teaching? Good volleyball players may not always make good teachers. Find someone who can teach the sport, not just play the sport.
- Can they fix technique issues? Experienced coaches will know what it takes to change an arm swing or make adjustments to a platform. You want to find someone who can do more than just toss or hit balls to your player.