Discover more from Profluence Sports by Andrew Petcash
The Coach in Your Pocket: How Digital Coaching is Transforming Sports Training
Life is becoming a "subscription" and digital training platforms are starting to gain steam in sports.
Prior to the internet, if you wanted to get better at something you had to attend personal 1-on-1 training sessions.
It could have been:
or learning a new language
And then we got the internet, followed by smartphones, which brought about the ability to get training digitally from anywhere in the world.
2020 saw COVID — and digital coaching skyrocketed (especially in the fitness space with companies like Tonal, Peloton, and Hydrow reaching absurd valuations).
But it also exposed a major flaw…
Which was that the digital coaching market for sports was MASSIVELY underdeveloped.
Over the last few years, this market has significantly evolved & is only going to get better with advancements in AI.
Let’s Dive In 👇
The Market Is Ripe For Digital Sports Training
Digital coaching platforms for sports aren’t a new idea — but the market conditions have never been better.
This is fueled by three main factors:
1. Digital comfortability post-pandemic
A Pew Research study found…
81% of people rarely did video calls before 2020
40% started using digital technology in new or different ways
90% of Americans now consider the internet integral to their daily life
2. NIL legislation
In July 2021, legislation was approved allowing college athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness.
This created 500,000+ qualified new coaches eager to get paid (and looking for ways to monetize their athletic knowledge).
On the flip side, millions of kids dream of playing college sports (so learning from someone who achieved their goal is optimal).
3. Entrepreneurial Shift
This factor is hard to define, but has been bolstered by the pandemic, NIL, and democratized knowledge…
The entrepreneurial mindset has gripped the sports world:
trainers want to earn passive income (instead of just trading time for money)
athletes, now able to make money, want to capitalize on the short window they have
Digital coaching marketplaces for sports have always been valid ideas…
But the question of “Why is now the time?” has never been as ideal as it is today.
Market Size: Digital Sports Training
Only 7% of high school athletes will go on to play a sport in college (and that % will continue to drop year-over-year as the international talent pool continues to improve).
So what does that mean?
In a nutshell, private training has become a necessity if you want to separate yourself from the competition.
This has led to…
$19B spent on youth athletics in the US (estimated to reach $77B by 2026)
Thousands of dollars per kid each year
This chart was one year of AAU + offseason basketball expenses for me in 2016:
I decided to use percentages over dollar amounts but it was over 4 figures in just AAU + camps alone.
And while I had an incredible experience at Boston University and was blessed to earn a full athletic scholarship, it certainly wasn’t free for my parents to help get me there.
My point is…
As youth sports continue to commercialize and become more expensive — the appetite for high-quality digital coaching/training increases.
Sports Digital Coaching Marketplaces
Retired from competitive sports, I wanted to see what fit adults do for cardio, nutrition, and lifting.
The perfect digital solution was the Playbook App (which was also the basis behind my investment in them).
But going back to my high school days, I would have loved the ability to…
See what a Division 1 basketball player does for shooting workouts.
Garner access to nutrition templates used by world-class athletes.
Learn how an NBA player improved their vertical jump.
These digital sports coaching marketplaces are finally here.
And while there are 30+ of them in the market, I want to highlight a few of them here:
Naturally, the most obvious thing to build is private access to instructional coaching videos and online sports courses.
Versus is the biggest in the entire space in terms of valuation — having raised a $20m Series B last year.
They’ve also recently built conversational AI, so it’s like you’re chatting with Albert Pujols or any of the athletes/coaches on their platform.
Centered around baseball, The Futures App was created by 3 high-level former players to garner access to how some of the best pros in the world get better.
TopCourt is labeled as the first e-streaming service to learn from the most inspiring players, coaches, and icons in tennis.
There’s also eCoachSports which focuses mostly on high-level basketball coaches providing instruction to other coaches.
Trainers are continually trading time for money — and for most of them setting up a system is like learning a foreign language.
CoachIQ is a subscription service for the actual trainers/coaches themselves to manage their business all in one place.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
With AI being the current buzzword, it’s natural to expect digital coaching applications to be embracing it.
Whether it’s answering training questions or learning how to do a new drill, AI is helping to assist in the process.
All of these platforms typically choose between subscription and 1-off pricing.
subscriptions garner access to a wide range of content and functionality
1-off pricing buys you a specific course or training session
One of the problems with these businesses is that it can require a lot of upfront capital to pay athletes/coaches to shoot the content.
This is why the emergence of college athletes will help add more content (and at a lower cost).
Other ways these platforms make money:
selling directly to teams (B2B)
creating sports certifications
advertising within the content sections
Over The Top (OTT) and SaaS to streaming companies
Housing custom content provides companies with a lot of unique opportunities.
Life is becoming a subscription.
High-quality coaches, trainers, and teachers are becoming highly sought after (and technology has created 24/7access to them).
The world is shifting to monetizing people’s value, not their time…
This is especially evident in sports (and with AI getting better it’s only going to accelerate).
While nothing beats an in-person training session, there’s certainly room for these platforms to grow.
It will be interesting to see how consolidation plays out in the space and what major sports entities scoop in to acquire some of these digital coaching marketplaces.
Exciting times ahead 🥂
Today’s guest is Jake Hirabayashi, CEO & Co-Founder of The Futures App (they raised a $2.65M seed round last year).
The Futures App is focused on sports & team management with most of its core features revolving around digital coaching — including the world's largest MLB drill database from star players.
You’ll enjoy this episode as we discuss:
Jake’s transition from pro baseball to entrepreneurship
obtaining content from some of the best players in the world
overview of the app and how they’re building the infrastructure for coaches and players of the future
Check out the podcast episode here.
Thanks for reading (and listening today)!
I’ll see you back here on Friday.