Coaching Rates, Amended
I’m sorry for posting my last post hastily. I’ve woken up to many vet coaches either gently or in a diplomatically irritated tone telling me I’m missing part of the picture: the veteran coach part of the picture. I can see their point. Let me elaborate:
A few qualifiers:
1) it’s a free market. whatever you’re paying, if you feel it’s fair then it’s fair. if you’re paying a lot but the coach is good, then it’s good. there’s no hard, fast rules.
2) i run the UCB school but what i’m saying here is NOT official UCB opinion and I am not an active coach. What i express here is my personal opinion. My opinion in general is that coaching should not be prohibitively expensive, but yes that is a subjective term.
Okay, so what made me post my last post was thought of people who are in their third or fourth improv class EVER and they are FIRED UP on improv. Their eyes are aglow and they want to “DO IT RIGHT.” I remember that feeling. You are in a state where you can watch someone do a sound and movement for two hours and rationalize that you saw a real work of art because you just love everything about improv. I worry that these people think they’re doing it wrong if they’re not paying TOP DOLLAR for a coach.
These are the same people that teachers like me tell, all the time, GET IN A PRACTICE GROUP. And we mean it, because you need reps.
NOW, I worry for those people that they are getting taken either by coaches who do not deserve a high rate OR coaches who DO deserve a high rate but maybe aren’t a NECESSARY fit for what you need on a regular basis.
Let’s say there’s two general categories of coaches:
1) COACHES. The newer people. People who do the majority of the work out there. They’re either never been on a team or they’ve been a team for around a year or less, and they’ve been coaching for a year, year-and-a-half. They have some experience, but not an overwhelming amount. These people do a lot of coaching. These are who I”m talking about in the previous post. They should be charging $20-$30 an hour, probably towards the low end of that. And if you’re a new group, you can get a lot of mileage out of these people if they’re devoted which a lot of them are. NOTE that this category is called COACHES not TEACHERS. They don’t need to have the holy grail, they need to have a sense of what a good practice feels like, know the fundamentals, and know when it’s time to say “buckle down on this one and take your time” or “time to just do a harold and get one in for practice.” They’re learning how to coach with the idea of being teachers someday and they know it, so they’re not going to charge an exorbitant amount. They should be humble towards their craft of coaching like you are towards yours of doing improv.
2) WORKSHOPPERS — I don’t have a term for this but it’s for people who have indeed coached a shitload, and have been on a team for many years, like three or more and are really good and you know it. These people may charge more, and I can understand it. We’re talking above $30 an hour. They deserve it, they’ve put the time in. Maybe they have a higher rate, but they come to shows? Coaching with them is kinda like an inexpensive informal class or workshop from someone who has been around.
THREE THINGS FOR THIS GROUP
—They should be good! You should be able to tell in the preciseness of their notes and their confidence and the confidence you feel during these practices that these people have been around the practice/coaching/teaching block. Even one practice should feel a higher quality. Without being hostile, you can expect more from these people. They should remember you from practice to practice and have sense of the individuals pretty early. They should be able to explain why they’re assigning the exercises they are, they should know the general current scene of improv and be able to speak to examples from it. Know that there are more inexpensive options if these people fall short and be willing to expect more from this more expensive group. If it doesn’t feel like this, go back to the first group.
—Some of these people are not really coaching much but they’re good and so they charge a higher rate because it’s not worth their time unless they get paid a higher rate. They’ll tell you that. They’ll be like “i don’t really coach, if you want to pay $150 i’ll do a three hour thing.” This case might be worth it once in a while to work with someone you really admire, but you don’t need this a lot if you’re in that FERVOR of IMPROV I described above. You need reps and these are cool but maybe more-expensive-than-necessary reps. Except now and then, at your discretion.
—If you’re really just getting reps, and you’re new —- like a level 3 or 4 group who don’t know each other well —- you don’t need to restrict yourself to this group ONLY. Not trying to bilk my deserving, veteran colleagues — but I believe they would agree with this: If you’re a newer practice group who just needs reps to get more fluid and relaxed don’t restrict yourself ONLY to this group. That newer league of people can be great.
Now, if you’ve formed an indie group and want a regular devoted coach, okay maybe you’re looking for the “workshoppers” more. Bear in mind your own experience level when shopping around.
POST SCRIPT - TWO/THREE HOURS
I had forgotten that lots of practice groups and teams have just two hour sessions as a regular thing. Three hours is better. But I know that with scheduling conflicts that sometimes it’s two hours or nothing.
But here’s another argument for three hours, especially if you’re drawing from the more expensive coaching level which I’m calling “workshoppers”: If it’s two hours, the second more expensive group aren’t going to come out for just their hourly rate times two. Like if a vet coach is charging $30 an hour or even $40 an hour, and it’s just two hours and they factor in travel time — they’d rather stay home and pretend to work on their spec script (zing!). But for three hours, they’ll keep a lower hourly rate AND your practice will be more effective. If you’re going to pay a high rate for more experienced people — that third hour will add more quality maybe than you are appreciating. I know it’s not always possible.
I do apologize for posting hastily last night. It’s a more subtle issue than I gave it attention. Maybe if nothing else ask your teacher or other people about particular people if they think your coach is giving you a fair deal. I’m not saying this to create an atmosphere of suspicion. But it takes a while in this culture to get a feel for the “norm” and if you’re paying money and investing time it’s okay to get informed.
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