And of these athletes, we’ve also heard about the downsides of coaching:
Expensive: the average online coach costs about $200/month, or $2400/year, which makes coaching cost-prohibitive for most athletes.
Inflexible: even at that price point, athletes typically only get two plan updates per month, so athletes are hoping that nothing unexpected happens at the start of those two-week training blocks.
Requires “all-in” mentality: If they’re paying the money, athletes are inclined to stick to the plan and end up making sacrifices in other parts of their lives to make it happen.
All that said, we’ve heard from plenty of athletes that are absolutely thrilled with the experience they’ve had with their coach. But these athletes often have coaching packages that are closer to the $300/month range which includes weekly or near-daily attention.
Bereda wants these positive coaching experiences to be more accessible to more athletes, because not only can coaching produce better results, but also more confidence and enjoyment for the athlete along the way.
So, how much does it cost to get daily attention? Weekly? Monthly?
We decided to get a firm grasp on what we’re dealing with here.
Evaluating a Coaching Package: Price per Service Frequency.
A good place to start is with Trainingpeaks’ Coach Match program. They have over 3000 coaches on their platform and have a standardized pricing model for services:
You can see how Trainingpeaks breaks coaching down into a few basic services:
When we started looking at coaching websites we saw that most follow a similar framework, listing the frequency of each of these services for each of their differently priced coaching packages.
So, armed with this, we analyzed 271 coaching packages across 109 difference endurance coaching websites to find the standard price per service frequency.
First off, we made sure that we were always evaluating monthly 1-on-1 coaching packages, not one-time custom training plan offerings.
Every time we looked at a coaching package, we checked its price and how frequently it offered each of the four core services. Sometimes frequencies were listed a bit differently from one site to the next, but generally, they fell into these buckets:
If something was listed as “twice per month” it fell into Bi-Weekly, and we used Regularly as a catch-all for other terms like “daily”, “unlimited”, and “on request”.
Also, if a package said they do “monthly plans” with “one update per month”, that means the coach is setting an athlete’s plan at the start of the month and adjusting it halfway through, which we considered a frequency of Bi-Weekly plan updates.
Lastly, we converted all prices in USD.
For each of the four core services, there was a range of packages and prices that hit each frequency. From these distributions, we were able to get a median price:
But median prices only tell part of the story. You can see how tightly grouped or spread apart the pricing distributions were for each service and frequency by looking at the box plots below where we show the first, second (median) and third quartiles along with “whiskers” for the min and max values:
Our observations after hours spent on coaching websites:
Coaching websites can be quite difficult to consume, and in the end, only about 35% of the ones we visited had pricing that was clear enough to extract for our research purposes. Vague websites and packages were not included.
Some coaches require minimum term commitments from their athletes (example: Athletes are required to work with the coach for at least six months), but we found that the majority have no term commitments.
That said, the majority (70%) had a startup fee associated with their coaching packages. This typically includes an initial assessment phone call followed by the creation of an annual training plan for an athlete’s season.
Lastly, packages at the high end of the pricing spectrum often included other perks: bike fit sessions, vo2 testing, PDF nutrition plans, etc. We decided not to include these products and services in our analysis as they weren’t recurring on a monthly basis, but are worth considering when choosing a coach.
Cost Comparisons between Services
Plan updates and Analysis frequencies were pretty similar in price points, which makes sense, since training and data reviews are required in order to do proper planning. It makes sense that they would appear at the same frequencies in coaching packages, and be so correlated in price.
You can see in the chart above how plan updates and analysis are consistently close in price across all frequencies. Still, the results show that planning is a bit more expensive (time-consuming) than data analysis, and that gap might be larger if it weren’t for startup fees, which help offset the large chunk of planning that happens at the beginning of a coaching engagement.
Phone call availability was consistently the most expensive service offered. Plain and simple, communication between coaches and athletes provides a ton of value, but can also be quite time-consuming.
With that said, email availability — another form of communication — was consistently and substantially the cheapest service. Comparing phone calls and email, it’s easy to see the difference in price points for the same frequency. This is in part because written messages can be exchanged anytime, no scheduling required, and with that flexibility comes cost-effectiveness for the athlete.
But on top of that, it can also be efficient.
Efficiency of Emails
Crafting emails can help athletes ask better, more clearly formed questions to their coaches. The non-immediacy of the exchange also gives athletes time to fully think through their answers to questions being asked of them by their coach. All-in-all, having athletes being more thoughtful in their training helps them increase their knowledge, make better decisions, boosts their confidence, and ultimately improves their performance.
And while more words per minute can get exchanged on a phone call, a benefit of written communication is that its clarity can sometimes cut to the core of a complex topic more efficiently.
Email is convenient for a coach and their time scheduling, but that convenience risks the athlete’s customer experience who appreciates the immediacy of phone call availability but gains the cost-savings.
An interesting middle ground between phone calls and emails could be modern, 1-to-1 messaging, which has already proven to be a widely adopted and dominant form of communication for society today. It’s similar to email in its non-immediacy, but while emails are often bland and lifeless, with 1-to-1 messaging apps its ordinary to recapture some of the empathy and tone of voice through the use of emojis, GIFs, and other playful features.
For athletes for whom cost is no issue and want the best guidance, there exists a plentiful market of highly-qualified coaches offering great services with many happy customers.
For athletes that want great guidance but need a cost-effective option, you can use this research to evaluate which coaches are promising to deliver the value you want at a competitive price.
A good rule of thumb:
$150/month for Monthly interactions $200/month for Bi-Weekly interactions $250/month for Weekly interactions $300/month for Regular interactions
Dennis’s tip: if you find a coach that offers a competitive package by leveraging more email or messaging availability vs phone calls, be sure to exchange written communication with them in the buying process to evaluate their communication style, effectiveness, and timeliness. Don’t get sold to on a phone call, only to have limited phone call availability thereafter. Test their communication via written messages. If they’re performing well in this domain, it’s possible that you just found a coach delivering very cost-effective value.
Coaches’ prices are tightly tied to the amount of time they’re putting into an athlete on a monthly basis. We understand that coaching is (and should be!) a labor of love. Lower level coaches who are just getting started operate on tight margins and charge less for their time. As they gain more experience and credibility, coaches begin requesting higher prices, and rightfully so.
Coaching is the best source of guidance for endurance athletes that want to improve, but unfortunately, not everyone is choosing to access it.
We want to help coaches deliver value more efficiently so they can both enjoy higher margins and tap into the larger market of athletes who would purchase coaching at lower price points. This is a win-win for both coaching businesses and the ambitious athletes in these sports.
This will only happen by making coaches more time efficient through innovation.
We’ve heard similar sentiments from many coaches that we’ve heard from Alex Simmons, the RST Head Coach:
Dennis, for too long data and analytics have been the primary focus of the industry, but the big gaps are in planning functionality and communication between coaches and athletes.
Modern analytics tools already surface insights from athletes’ training data incredibly quickly, once you have the experience to know what you’re looking for.
The more time-consuming and inefficient jobs are in planning and communication, which therefore present the best opportunities for innovation.
And that’s exactly where we’re focusing on our journey. If you’d like to follow our efforts to make coaching more accessible to all, we’d love for you to: