How to decide – Private VS Group Sport Coaching

Updated: Mar 20

Every parent is driven to give his/her child the best he/she can. Parents often wonder if group or private lesson would benefit the child most in learning and progress of a competitive sport.

As a veteran sport coach, I believe the general idealology of developing young sports talents is to integrate the child’s sporting enthusiasm and educational demands into his/her daily life. Some children prefer a collaborative approach of a group class that allows participants to value the shared process of learning from each other and to be motivated by the people around them, while others may prefer a more introverted approach. Group-coaching tends to have a significant positive effect on the scores for social recovery and general well-being. The design of the program (be it group or private) would have a significant impact on a child’s recovery time, stress and motivation level as well as action control. 

To help parents decide which program is best suited for your child(ren), I would like to share the pros and cons in group vs private coaching  of any competitive sport in the following aspects:

(1) Scalability

Private 1-1 program is highly scalable and addresses the child’s needs/concerns. If the child is hydrophobic, focus will be on buoyancy and water-confidence. If the student wants to do competitive, strength and conditioning or circuits will be done. Although 1-1 sessions work a lot on skills with personalized attention from the coach, it does take a lot of time out of the child’s recovery time for self reflection. The child may or may not have the urge to ask questions depending on the rapport with the coach and his/her own level of self confidence. A group program however is a one-to-many model. This means the attention of the coach is more divided, giving the children more time for self reflection and time to ask question should they be unsure of certain skill/technique they are practicing. Private coaching is more customized to your child’s need in the cognitive stage of learning a sport. However, as your child becomes older and progresses to higher levels that are more challenging, peer pressure might help your child achieve better results.

(2) Child’s Mindset

One of the main differences to note between group coaching program and private coaching is that the latter covers mindset more. For example, whilst a group program touches upon mindset, it’s not the main focus. The main focus is more practical and tactical. In private coaching setting, there is more room to explore emotional blocks and thought patterns. This allows for concerns and gaps to be addressed quickly and the child to act on them effectively.

(3) Holistic Program

It is always a joy to see a group coaching session where the coach conducts it systematically. Regardless whether it is a 1-1 or a group class, it is essential for the program to be systematic, allowing the parent, child and coach to see consistent progress, step by step. Both types of coaching should have the same focus on the practical overall aspects.

(4) Learning Phase (Preparation, Intermediate, Advance)

Unless it’s a specific circumstance (i.e individuals with special need), I would encourage most children to go through a group coaching program, with a small ratio and of the similar age and skill level first before encouraging them to consider private coaching. A private program gives a total beginner a brilliant foundation in a sport, but as they get better, a group program puts him/her in a better position to push themselves a little bit more than what they can already do. Group coaching is about expanding what they’ve already done in the private program.

About Michelle Verma:

Michelle Verma is the sport performance architect of the swim school Swimtologist and had served as a former Head Coach of Swim School at the Singapore American School and was previously on board the Triathlon Association of Singapore as a Management Committee Member. She is an honours graduate from the University of Wolverhampton in Sports Coaching and competed in her early adulthood as an Ironman triathlete, Ultramarathoner and a national rower in the lightweight double sculls. Michelle has been coaching vast and varying proficiency levels for over 14 years in the sport of Swimming, Triathlon and Canoeing and had also worked with Sport Singapore as an Aquatics programmer for over 3 years and was also an intern with the Beijing Sport and Research Institute in 2008.


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