I’ve been videotaping swimmers for over 25 years. I started with an old reel-to-reel video rig with a 35 lb camera – checked out from A/V services. Unbeknownst to the A/V people, we routinely shot underwater video by placing that camera in a partially submerged aquarium. Later I put my own equipment at risk in pioneering the ill-advised use of Ziplock bags as a makeshift camcorder housing. In short order we graduated to EWA bags. Finally, Marty Hull invented the Snooper and that’s what we’ve been using ever since. In those 25 years I have videotaped and analyzed over 10,000 swimmers.
I have a passion for swim coaching. And because that passion I want to be able to put enough time into it to really be effective. I also want to do it for the rest of my life. This means I need to make a decent living from it as well. I’m not unique in that respect. Toward this end, occasionally in the past, I’ve been tempted to grasp at straws.
Have you ever received an email like this??? . Wow! TEMPTING, isn’t it!? I must get five of those a day! Of course the reason we immediately hit DELETE is because it’s just another bogus scam. But then there IS that little twinge of “MAN, but wouldn’t it be nice….”
The world is not yet perfect. Swim coaches, by and large, are poorly paid in relation to the expertise, experience and enthusiasm we bring to our customers. Until 8 years ago I was in that same boat…and really didn’t mind too much. Then I had a life changing, eye opening experience… … I had kids. Now I am motivated with profit incentive. Since that time I have approached swim coaching as a business that I have a passion for. And I’ve met with some success. One of my desires, these days, is to encourage and help as many other Masters coaches as possible to improve and enhance the business aspects of their coaching careers
Videotaping is, perhaps, the single most versatile and valuable tool you can use with swimmers. Scott Rabalais gave a great rundown of why you should include it in your mix of services. Here are my reasons: 1) Your clients want it – I’ve read thousands of clinic evaluation forms over the years. Consistently, swimmers rate video analysis as the most valuable aspect of clinics. 2) Universally applicable – All swimmers, of every ability level, can benefit from video analysis. 3) Your investment account needs it. 4) The income-to-resources ratio is high – Your most limited resource is time. Being profitable is not just about income – it is about the amount of time you spend to earn that income.
So in the next few sequences I’m going to lay out for you the framework and details of how to make some serious income using basic, affordable, video equipment in combination with your coaching and organizational skills. If you saw my presentation yesterday you know I’m involved in a number of coaching activities – each operated with the bottom line firmly in mind. Video services figure prominently in that mix. I currently have 5 different videotaping scenarios, each designed to give great value to the consumer. We know we’re succeeding because over 80% of our business is repeat business. We’ve monkeyed with our processes a lot over the years and pretty much have it down to a science how to offer the most value to the swimmer while optimizing the return on resources for the Coach.
Scenario #1 – Peer VDO
Our only free video service is called Peer VDO. The idea here is have the swimmers do most of the analysis of each other. I want them verbalizing about swimming concepts. We offer Peer VDO on most Saturdays that we are not running one of our other video scenarios. We offer this free of charge to all workout participants. I shoot video either during or after practice for all who are interested. After practice they get 10 min to dry and dress, then we meet on deck for coach-guided peer analysis. I try to keep analysis focused on things we covered and worked on during the practice. We try to keep the analysis to about 2 minutes per person – but usually a bit more with newbies. We do a lot of peer coaching in our program so this is a natural extension of that concept.
Time investment: Equipment set-up
Shoot video 10 min
Dry and dress time 10 min
Guide peer analysis 30 min
Equipment strike and load-out 5 min
Obviously your time investment will vary according to the number of participants – we typically get between 10 and 15 each session.
Profit potential = — 0 —
Yeah, I know – this is kind of an inauspicious beginning for a talk on being profitable.
Snooper Underwater Camera $850
Sony DCR-TRV-27 Camcorder 900
Pay back Period: Infinite
“But coach! You’re supposed to be telling us about making a profit! That’s not a profit!” I included the Peer VDO scenario for 2 reasons. First, to illustrate that if you do not intentionally set out to generate income with your equipment, it takes a long time to pay for itself. Second, there is, in fact, and indirect payoff. As Scott demonstrated, the use of video adds value to the rest of your program. I know in our program, almost 30% of our newbies come to their first H2O practice because of our video sessions.
Scenario #2 – Private VDO
I do a lot of 1-on-1 lessons with people. One of the things that has helped to build this part of my business is the use of video in these sessions. I offer private 1-on-1 Video Lessons for $125. Sessions are scheduled “45 minutes”. I call it 45 minutes but I always spend a bit longer. This time includes water time and analysis time. Sometimes we do water instruction, shoot some video then retire to some corner and do an in-depth analysis. Other times it might involve several iterations of shooting footage, looking at it on deck, getting back in to make changes, shooting more footage etc.
Time investment: 5 min load-in & equipment set-up
50 min instruction & video session
5 min equip strike and Load-out
Profit potential: $125 x 1 participant $125.00
Facility Cost – 15.00
Bottom line $110.00
That’s for each lesson you do – more if you already “own” the pool time.
Same as Peer VDO $1750
Pay back time: 16 Sessions
Scenario #3 – Group VDO
Video analysis is particularly well suited to the group learning environment. It gives everyone an opportunity to learn from others mistakes (and successes!). In our Group VDO scenario the coach takes the lead in doing the analysis and we go into more depth than we do with Peer VDO. I use email to sign up a group of 12 swimmers. These sessions come right at the end of one of our H2O practices. While others are warming down we shoot two lengths of underwater video on each participant. Then I give them 10 minutes to dry and dress. We meet in an adjoining classroom to review the video in a group setting. We use a combination of coach and participant feedback to give a “snapshot” analysis of each swimmer’s stroke. We keep this analysis to around 5 minutes for each person, and allow for about 10 minutes for Q&A at the end. Since everyone sits through the whole session they each get to see and hear a lot about swimming in general. There is only enough time to properly address one stroke during the session. I often have people sign up for two back-to-back slots so as to cover 2 separate strokes. We also allow “spectators” to participate at half price – we don’t shoot tape on them, they just get to sit in on the analysis session.
Time Investment: E-mail promotion & sign-up 10 min
Load-in & equipment set-up 5 min
Check-in & fee collection 5 min
Film two lengths each swimmer 10 min
Dry & dress time (pack Snooper) 10 min
Analysis (5 min per swimmer) 60 min
Q&A 10 min
Equip strike and load-out 5 min
1 Hr 55 min
Income: $25 x 12 participants $300.00
Facility cost – 25.00
Positive cash flow each session $275.00 (more if there are spectators)
Do one every 2 weeks and add over $7000 to your annual income.
Same as Peer VDO $1750
Sony 13in monitor 120
Payback period: 7 sessions
Scenario #4 – Project VDO
Now, I’ve always had a gripe with videotape. Here we have this wonderful tool that we spend so much time and money on so that we can shoot footage and show our swimmers 35 different details in a few minutes. Then all they remember 5 days later is 2 or 3 details from the whole experience. I wanted a way to make the payoff bigger in terms of retained information and learning. We developed Project VDO to be able to let the swimmer take home a tape of the entire analysis session.
What we do is sign up 6 people via email for a session. We give them each appointments 20 minutes apart. This is what time they are to be in the water, warmed-up and ready to get videotaped. Session includes video analysis of one stroke, its turn and its start. We plan sessions either for right after a workout or for some other marketable time slot. This is my only scenario that requires an assistant. I schedule my assistant to arrive about 15 min before the first appointment. This is the same assistant I’ve been using for 3 years. We talk over any special situations. My assistant uses the Snooper and one camcorder to shoot a short series of pre-planned angles of swimming and turns above and below the surface. The assistant sends the swimmer to dry and dress. Then my assistant brings me the tape. All this takes about 10-15 minutes for each swimmer. Then the assistant goes and begins working with the next swimmer. The first swimmer then has 10 minutes to get dried and dressed and come to me in an office or classroom where I have the rest of the equipment set up. As soon as he gets there I attach lavalier mics to each of us and begin the review. We go over the tape in detail, using slow-motion and stop-action to identify what they’re doing right and pinpointing what needs to change. This analysis session lasts generally about 15-20 minutes. The entire thing – everything we see on tape and everything we say is recorded on a VHS videotape which we send home with the swimmer. While I’m doing one analysis session my assistant is taping the next client. This, of course, requires the simultaneous use of two camcorders.
There is only enough time to properly address one stroke and it’s turn during the session. I often have people sign up for two back-to-back slots so as to cover 2 separate strokes. I once had a girl buy 4 slots and do all 4 strokes. She paid for it all in 1s and 5s. A year later we found out she was a stripper. Repeat Customers can bring their previous tape, queued up to the end of the previous session, and we append the new session to it. If clients wish, they may sit in on one other person’s analysis session.
E-mail promotion & sign-up 10 min
Load-in & equipment set-up 20 min
Analysis (20 min per swimmer) 120 min
Equip strike and load-out 10 min
2 Hr 40 min
Income: $75 x 6 participants $450.00
Assistant (cash for 2 hours) – 75.00
Facility cost – 50.00
VHS tapes – 15.00
Positive cash flow each session $310.00
Do just 15 in a year and add over $4500 to your annual income.
Same as Group VDO $1870
Additional Camcorder 900
Good quality VHS VCR 200
2 good quality lavalier Mics 100
Sony CD player (background music) 50
Radio Shack audio mixer 35
Payback period: 10 sessions
Scenario #5 – Postal VDO
I used to receive tapes from people with a letter attached asking me to analyze their strokes. I’m the kind of guy who just can’t say “no” to helping people with their strokes so I would do an analysis and send it back. But I was beginning to get so many of these things that I was getting swamped. Since I’ve had kids I’ve become the kind of guy who has no trouble saying “Here’s how much it’ll cost” to help people with their strokes.
So now we offer Postal VDO. The client mails videotapes to me for analysis at $75 per submission. The analysis portion of this service is just like the Project VDO scenario – except the swimmer isn’t right there to ask questions. Each submission includes video analysis of one stroke, its turn and its start. I use the second camera on a tripod to film the screen of the monitor while I’m doing the analysis. This allows the client to see me point to things or draw on the screen with my dry-write marker. Because of the way it is lighted, the hand appears to be a superimposed image – high tech in appearance – low tech, but effective, in actuality.
Prior to submission of a tape for analysis I provide detailed instructions to the client via PDF file. Either they grab it from my web site or I send it via email. The submission form includes an area for the client to let me know about any specific or special topics he wants addressed during the analysis. I generally handle Postal VDO submissions the day they come in. I send tapes back via Priority Mail. I offer a free follow-up phone consultation for Q&A.
Send PDF instructions either 0 or 10 sec
Equipment set-up 2 min
Analysis 15 min
Label and mail tapes 3 min
Income: $75 per submission $75.00
VHS tape – 2.50
Postage – 3.95
Positive cash flow per submission $ 68.55
(That’s over $200 per hour)
Do just 3 per week and add over $10,000 to your annual income.
Same as for Project VDO $3155
MINUS the Snooper – 850
Cheap tripod 25
Payback period: 34 submissions or 12 hrs
You’ll note in all my examples that I have an amazingly small investment in promoting all of these sessions. I’ve moved to marketing exclusively by email and web site. I use canned information and confirmation messages that I simply use over and over. Usually, all I have to do is change the date before it is ready to send out. I’ve been using e-mail since before it was “cool” and have built a sizable database of swimming-interested people in my area. So, in the blink of an eye, I can send my info to about 800 people inside a 25 mile radius and another couple thousand within a few hours driving distance. I generally max out every session within a day or so of distributing my announcement of the sessions.
Here’s how to generate your own profitable email database. Capture email addresses from all email inquiries. Host a web site with good information and solicit sign-ups to receive notes about web site updates. Write articles for local and regional publications and include your email address for questions. Give talks to triathlon and fitness groups. Pass around a pad asking for name and email address. Include your email address on your business card. Ask for an email address on all phone inquiries. Always ask before including someone on your distribution list. The overwhelming majority of people will say “yes”.
In the past few minutes I’ve detailed how you can add over $30,000 to your annual income on investing roughly 5 hrs per week – feel free to do the math for yourself. But you say, “Where am I supposed to get the $2000 or so it takes buy the equipment needed to get started with all this? After all I’m just an underpaid swim coach!” Here’s a step-by-step road to success. 1) Borrow a camcorder from one of your swimmers. 2) Buy a small cheap TV. 3) Utilize the USMS Snooper rental program – $75 for three weeks. 4) Run two Group VDO sessions and four Private VDO sessions in that time to amass a total of $990. 5) Buy a camcorder. 6) Repeat from #3 above. 7) Buy a Snooper.
Now you’re ready to rock! Remember, it’s a matter of your ATTITUDE and your ACTION that will determine YOUR financial future.
Thank you for putting up with me – and have a prosperous Year!