Kids all around the country have private coaches. Private hitting lessons, pitching lessons, private quarterback coaches, private hockey lessons, the list goes on and on and on and…well, you get the point.
And when thinking about the amount of private coaching currently out there, the question I have is complicated—actually, it’s complicated questions, not just a question.
First, what’s the endgame or purpose of taking private lessons? I get it; your kid will (probably) improve mechanically. In some cases, a lot better…for now. But then what? At what sacrifice?
Second, does your four-year-old, six-year-old… eight- or 10-year-old child even want to take lessons? I’m sure some do, but I know for a fact many don’t. I know this because I asked them while trying to figure out—both the long term and short term—if taking and paying for lessons is worth it.
Third, and maybe this is the best question to ask: How, as parents or guardians, do we find, acquire and set the right agenda for lessons with a private coach?
Like I said above, it’s complicated.
I’ve spoken to many high school coaches—and just as many college coaches—and a lot of them say that kids today don’t have the instincts for the game like past generations. For instance, I was speaking to a Division-I softball coach at a top 10 program, and he told me this story.
I was coaching third base in one of our first fall games. I had one of our top incoming Freshman at third base, and a ball was hit in the air to right field. The girl comes back to the bag to tag up and is looking at me. The right fielder catches the ball, and the girl is still on the bag looking at me. I don’t say anything during the play. (The ball was plenty deep enough for her to tag and score pretty easily.) After the play, I asked her ‘why she didn’t tag?’ Her reply, ‘I was waiting for you to tell me to go.’
My jaw damn near hit the ground. I have a big-time high school recruit, we’re a top 10 program, and I have to teach a player how to tag up? I calmly explained to her that the ball was in front of her and that she doesn’t need me to tell her to go or not. I’ll put up the stop sign if need be. I’ll be two-thirds the way to the plate. All you have to do is read the play and react. I’ll stop you if I need to.
That, to me, is an example of a “Lessonized” athlete. All mechanics but lacking instincts or understanding… how to play the game without overthinking.
As we continued to chat, he started talking about how young players aren’t allowed to make mistakes anymore, how they spend most of their time practicing in private lesson environments which, for the most part, only focus on individual skill development—and that’s not rocket science; it’s an individual workout, you don’t have a team there.
Then he said something that completely rang true:
It seems like most players in this generation judge their success by whether they are (or are not) doing something mechanically correct. We’re in this hyper-mechanical-focused environment now. Players have lost the ability to be creative, spontaneous, and take risks. Everything is carefully crafted, molded, sculpted and controlled. Our game is getting rigid. As athletes, are we not artists? Aren’t our actions supposed to be reactions, without thought? Unconscious? I’ve never seen more consciousness before in my life.
That conversation was a real eye-opener for me. It started to validate, albeit on a small scale, what I’ve been thinking about, and why I’m writing this post.
Are lessons really worth it? Or is the particular private coach you see worth it? I know lots of folks who give lessons. A small percentage of them meticulously study their craft. They take real responsibility for what they are doing and how they service their clients. Unfortunately, I also know many more who give lessons because it’s the only way they can make $50, $60 or in some cases $100 per hour while being able to sleep in until noon… workout…have lunch…and then, finally, work for four hours in the evening without accountability.
Long story short, it’s an unregulated industry with zero accountability. And, as I said, it’s complicated…and we haven’t even begun to discuss the “psychology” aspects of this trend.
Until then, I have one more question: What are your thoughts—your concerns, your experiences—with private lessons?
Contributor: Lou Birdt, YSPN360 CEO