Getting Down to Business
In previous editions of For the Coaches we have focused on teaching and learning pickleball. Our attention has been on the practices we can follow and the principles we can apply to be effective teachers. We have discussed tactics and technique, we have looked at court management and we have thought about different ways to motivate players. In this edition of the newsletter, we shift our focus to something a little different — we look at the Business of Teaching Pickleball.
Now some of our readers might be thinking “But wait, I volunteer my services! What do I need to know about the business side of the game?”. Trust me, there will be lots here for you too. In fact, the instructors who are coaching as volunteers may have the most to gain from this edition of For the Coaches. Since you aren’t worried about making money through your coaching, you are really well-position to try some of the innovations we talk about.
As they say, let’s get down to business!
CEO, Pickleball Coaching International
It can be one of the hardest things to talk about when coaching. Let’s make it a little easier.
Especially if you are a new instructor — or new to getting paid for your teaching — it can feel uncomfortable to think about the relationship between coaching and charging money for it. And in many cases this is because we, as teachers, are genuinely gratified when we are part of other people’s success. When your student finally learns to hit a backhand, can block a hard shot, or can drop a volley gently in the kitchen for a winner, their accomplishment can feel like a reward for you as well. And that is a good sign — taking pleasure in other people’s success is an attribute that most good teachers share.
But just because you draw satisfaction from doing your job well, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid for it. You can be pleased with the work you do and be compensated for it. These things can coexist. In the same way that an engineer can both enjoy thinking through problem and be compensated for doing so, pickleball coaches can similarly like their work and get paid to do it.
Three Tricks to Get Over the Discomfort
If you are still in a place of feeling ‘icky’ about getting paid for your coaching, there are a few things you can remember that might help you see things differently:
You are investing time, effort and money. The fact that you are reading this newsletter means that you are a PCI member who is on the Intermediate or Pro Plan. You have spent your own resources to improve your coaching practices — an investment that your students will benefit from it. Earning some money through coaching makes it easier for you to continue to invest in your coaching education and skills in the future.
You are delivering something of value. While you might like (or even love) teaching, it is important to also see things from your students’ perspectives. They are getting something of significant value from you. You wouldn’t expect your neighbourhood bakery to give away croissants just because they like making them, would you? If you do your job well, your players will be more than happy to pay a reasonable price for it.
Not charging might give the wrong impression. What message does it send if you go around offering free pickleball coaching? It could indicate that you are a nice person who is willing to volunteer their time. But it could also send the message that your lessons aren’t really good enough to charge money for. It can be akin to seeing a table on the side of the road with random objects on. While the sign may say “Free Stuff” the message many people will hear is “This is garbage we don’t want. If you want our trash, help yourself”. If your lessons are valuable, giving them away for free might send the wrong message.
How Much Should I Charge?
Here is a note we received from a new coach: “I’m going to start offering lessons in my community but I’m not sure what price point to start at. How do I figure out the right amount?” This is a tough question and one that doesn’t have an easy answer. Of course, there is no precise amount that a person “should” charge, but there are some questions that can help get closer to an answer:
What are your competitors charging? Are there other coaches in the area who are doing what you want to do? What does their price list look like? Are you looking to undercut them or are you offering yourself as a premium alternative to what they do?
What is your background? Are you an experienced coach with multiple years of training under your belt? Do you have a university degree in education or another relevant field that sets you apart from others? Are you bringing something special to the table that warrants additional dollars? You’ve invested in becoming a PCI member, so that’s something! What else makes you different?
What does it cost you to coach? Do you have to pay rental fees? Do you have to travel to the lessons? Do you have advertising costs? How much are balls costing you? Your cost to teach people to play pickleball should factor into your pricing decisions.
On their own, none of these questions lead you to a direct answer about how much to charge for your services. But taken together, you can start to figure out a price range that makes sense. One last thing to consider is not just what you are earning, but what people are paying. If you charge someone $10 for a one-hour group lesson, you should consider what group sessions in related activities might charge. If someone was to go to a yoga class, for example, what would they pay per hour? How about a spinning class? Knowing these things can help find a range that is in line with competing activities and can make your lessons more attractive.
The big leap can be tough to take. While there will be bumps and bruises along the way, getting going is vital. Don’t worry if your initial plan isn’t perfect; you’ll learn along the way and improve.
It’s All About the Hustle
If you are trying to make a name for yourself as a pickleball coach, the world is your oyster. The sport is exploding, people are getting used to paying for lessons and the internet can give you some serious notoriety. But the truth is, the same is true for everyone else as well. How are you going to stand out?
A logo? A gimmick? A catchy tagline? Maybe. But the thing that will make or break your chance to have a lasting impact on the pickleball workd is your ability to deliver great lessons and your willingness to to put in effort to get the word out. Like any entrepreneur, you’ll need to put in long hours — often with no pay — to build a reputation and gain trust with your customers. Dropping flyers. Showing up at events. Offering demos at farmer’s markets. Whatever. The market is there, but the competition is too. You’ll need to hustle in order to be seen.