College sport coaches in the USA can earn up to $500,000-$700,000 a year. But that’s another story. Let us instead look at how endurance sports coaches are paid, taking into consideration that there is much less money in these sports compared with “TV friendly sports” such as football, hockey and basketball.
The coaching job has become attractive due to the rapid rise in popularity of amateur sports and recent technological developments. Coaching is a chance to do what you like while having clients all over the world.
A lot of former and active sportsmen along with people far removed from the professional sports (like myself, an ex-CEO of a publishing house in Russia) have started doing coaching. There are about 3,000 triathlon coaches in the USA alone and 2,500 of them are certified by the American Triathlon Association.
Is it possible to earn a decent living doing this? Is it possible to create a sustainable earnings model? Usually there isn’t much money left after all the obligatory expenses if you do your job properly.
Typical coaching expenses include:
- self-education and training;
- IT-accounts at Training Peaks, Best Bike Splits, Zwift, Coacheseye, Drop Box, Trainer Road, hosting, etc;
- access to sport clubs and equipment;
- your own website creation and support;
- a license and insurance;
- bank fees;
- communications etc
Besides, coaching is a profession rather than a business. It can’t be sold or willed to someone else in contrast to a publishing house or a bakery.
Nevertheless, in my opinion you can build a sustainable model which allows you to do what you like and make a decent livelihood.
A coach has several potential sources of income.
Earnings that take time.
1. Remote coaching.
- Unfortunately this has its limits. You can hardly provide a high quality service to more than twenty clients, even if you use all kinds of technology and work all day long, which means that you do not have time to invest in your own education/training. Increasing your fee is the only way to earn more. You are only limited by consumer demand. The highest possible fee in the US is about $1500 a month.
Some sports are difficult for remote coaching (e.g. swimming). Nevertheless it’s possible to provide swimming techniques video-analysis and select error-corrective drills for your clients.
One-on-one individual and group training.
There are even more limitations to this option. Very few people are ready to pay more than $75 for 1-hour of training. Besides, individual training takes a lot of time. Logistics makes any effective fee even smaller.
I do free open trainings with my clients when I happen to visit their home-towns.
Dave Scott (6-time Ironman winner) works with several open groups (running and swimming) in Boulder. Running trainings are paid by participants ($35 a month), whilst swimming classes are at the club expense. These classes are free for the club members. Dave’s name attracts new members.
- Organization of training camps. I’m doing my first triathlon camp in May 2016 in Boulder. Fifteen people have already paid the participation fee, which includes access to athletic facilities along with other coaches’ fees. Nevertheless, it brings a return and new clients. I’m conducting 2 more training camps in September 2016 in Boulder. I’m also planning to do 4 training camps a year, in both Europe and the USA.
Now I also have a request for a private camp. It’s time consuming but, if client can afford to pay your fee, why not?
- Public speaking fees.If you are a highly qualified coach or a famous athlete (an Olympic champion, for instance), you are likely to be invited to some companies as a motivational speaker. Famous coaches’ charges in the USA are $2,500-$5,000 for an event.
An experienced coach such as Leonid Shvetsov (ex-marathon record holder of Russia and coach of top marathon runners) is doing natural running technique workshops that attract up to 50 people.
- Share of pro athletes’ money prizes.If you are a good coach, you will train professional athletes and get from 5% to 20% of both their money prizes and sponsor contracts instead of a monthly fee. This source of income isn’t stable, but it should be also taken into consideration.
Daniela Ryf has won all major long distance triathlon races in 2015. I believe her prize money and sponsor contract are about $5 million a year altogether. Her coach Brett Sutton has earned a part of it.
- Share of equipment sales. Sometimes I help my overseas clients to buy either a bike or some other necessary equipment in the USA. They pay for my time and expertise. Some coaches are affiliated to some brands, so they recommend those goods to the clients. I do not like this model, but it’s a matter of taste and brand loyalty.
A swimming coach Eney Jones has invented some unique buoys and paddles that are selling successfully.
- Private counseling and commercial webinars.
- Sponsor contracts.Dave Scott is supported by Hoka (training shoes), HUUB, EAS (sport nutrition) and others.
- Supporting clients at races.
All these opportunities to earn mentioned above need time, but you have only 24 hours a day to sell. In fact, much less.
2. Earnings that depend on your experience rather than your time?
There are several sources of income that do not require your everyday personal engagement. These projects should be made to earn money “while you are sleeping”.
- Books royalties. It’s time to write a book if you have anything to share with people and understand your audience well. It shouldn’t be a traditional paper book, but an electronic one so that you will be able to get feedback from your current and future readers. Traditional publishers are not much help for publishing this kind of book. They aren’t able to provide you communication with your readers. Writing a blog is a good start to communicate with your readers and thoroughly understand their interests.
A very interesting crowd funding project is being conducted by my friend Leonid Shvetsov who is collecting pre-publishing orders for his book “Major Marathons Guide”.
The dozens of books by Joe Friel that have been translated into other languages are a valuable source of income.
- Sales of training plans.I have 3 training plans for Ironman 70.3 distance in Russian. Every month about 10 people buy and use them. They cost from $125 to $195. I sell them via the Training Peaks platform that charges 30% interest. Nevertheless, it’s a stable source of income and I will continue creating plans for definite competitions. I believe the training plans can be practiced in other sports and types of physical activity, such as strength training, swimming and yoga.
Joe Friel, Dave Scott and Siri Lindley have dozens of plans for different distances.
- Video lessons. Chris Lieto, one of the fastest bike riders in triathlon history has video lessons for triathletesfor $49.99 a year.
Schools and Certification
Swimming coach Terry Laughlin has solved the riddle of teaching swimming. He has divided swimming into very simple elements, movements and techniques and created a methodology called Total Immersionwhich is used by hundreds of coaches all over the world.
Dozens of companies in the USA teach and certify personal fitness coaches. We have got accustomed to the system that only independent agencies (ministries or departments) are allowed to certify specialists. But as a matter of fact an owner of a unique method can teach his followers and become a certification agency.
Pavel Tsatsulin staged a revolution in strength training when he brought kettlebells to the US market in 1998. Now his method is taught and certified on 5 continents.
You can make good money if you are able to scale up your work by means of IT.
Joe Friel used to coach up to 50 athletes by sending workouts via regular mail. He has become a co-founder of the Training Peakscompany, which provides a training platform for athletes and coaches.
Coach Chad TIMMERMAN is a co-founder of Trainer Road, a platform that helps cyclist to use their indoor training time more efficiently. It has thousands of users all over the world.
To create such a business you need an analytical mind, one which is able to understand and summarize the needs and processes that suit both athletes and coaches. It is no less important than being a coach yourself.
I have sent the draft of this article to dozens of coaches. The main comment was usually that I’m neither Joe Friel nor Dave Scott. Let me reply to all skeptics: all your limitations are in your mind.
Firstly, modern technologies allow you to work with clients from all around the world. If you are a good coach, you will be able to find clients in more affluent countries.
Secondly, no one can become “Joe Friel” at once. It is no wonder that training and IT costs are my top-priority expenses. If you are a good learner who is able to process and summarize large amounts of information your experience will be in high demand. Besides this, to have the talent to really listen to your clients and followers will help you find the various solutions they need.
Nowadays there are two major global trends in our industry: the increase of interest in amateur sport and technology development. You can no longer make money by just standing by the pool deck or a running track. You should use technology in your job. If you don’t learn to combine technology and training today, tomorrow you will start losing your clients.