For the longest time, I wanted to test some of the online tennis sites that promise to take you from a beginner to a competition player faster than you can say, "Time, Gentlemen, please."  So, I signed up with ten of them and saw quite a spectrum of web designs and professionalism out there. What struck me as odd is that many of them seem to subscribe to the same marketing methodology: As soon as you sign up for their site, they hammer you with e-mails. And you can't call it spam because you have signed up for something and they offer you the unsubscribe button. Hmmmhh....

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LICENSE TO BLAST

Quality and Ethics of Online Coaching

By Rich Neher

I had a lot of fun looking at those ten online tennis teaching sites. Some of them were extremely professional, others were quite lame and a whole bunch hammered me with an e-mail strategy that was somewhat spammy.

 

Obviously, I couldn't spend many hundreds or thousands of dollars signing up for paid courses, like the $799 Craig O'Shannessy is asking for his collection of 9 courses. I'm sure since Novak Djokovich had hired him as data consultant and since 6 of his 9 courses cost $149 each, the big package is probably worth every cent.

The goal of my non-scientific survey is to find a site I myself would engage to learn a stroke, a technique, or tactics.

I was most impressed by one guy: Brad Hiete. His site dailytennislessons.com is professional, easy to navigate, and if his free lessons are indicative of his style and teaching abilities, that's one to sign up for in my opinion. And since his site name promises daily tennis lessons, you can't really complain about a daily e-mail. It's not a fresh, new lesson every day, of course, he's recycling them around quite a bit, I guess. Brad is an active tennis pro in my area of Southern California. Although I have never met him, I think I'm going to look him up one day. I like no-nonsense teaching pros.

On the other side of the spectrum was Ian Westermann of essentialtennis.com. Lots of claims that can't be verified and 29 e-mails Mr. Westermann sent me over the course of 12 days. One day he sent me 4 - that's a big no-no in my book.

Now, you have to, of course, ask yourself how many e-mails per time frame is too much? I wanted to know and looked up a website called SmartrMail. They write, "SmartrMail has thousands of e-commerce merchants sending emails with us to over 100 million subscribers. Most of these merchants have small to medium-sized businesses, which makes our data perfect for similar merchants to gain smart insights from."

Under 'Email Frequency Best Practices' they recommend:
 

  • Try to send at least one email per week. Otherwise you’re missing out on sales opportunities and your list will become disengaged. 

  • Sending an email every second day (or even more often) will drastically lower engagement levels without generating more sales. 

While you might be able to get away with sending an extra weekly email, pushing out any more definitely gets you into spammer territory. And if you’re still thinking of doing this, remember that receiving too many emails is the number one reason people unsubscribe from lists

So, there you have it, folks. two emails per week is acceptable.  Two a day sounds like a License to Blast, doesn't it?

Here are the ten sites in no particular order. The following criteria were used to determine an OVERALL RATING:

Site appearance - from 0 (worst) to 10 (best)

Spam factor - from 1 (none) to 10 (spammy swamp)

Average Cost of instruction - 0 (free) - 1 (under $100) - 2 (over $100)

Overall rating = Site appearance minus Spam factor minus Average cost

SITE/APP

CONTENT/COST

ASSESSMENT

1.

Optimum Tennis

optimumtennis.net

Owner: Unknown

Location: Coral Springs, FL

Claim: "The world's leading resource for online tennis instruction and articles"

Content: Books and videos from 14 contributing coaches.

Coming soon: 'Find a Pro' and store sales. Some of the content offered is well known, high quality.

Price: Some courses/books are free. Others between $7-$197 (average = $45)

The site looks dated and rather confusing. No follow-up after initial sign-up. No email at all. It almost feels like the business is somewhat abandoned.

Site appearance: 6

Spam factor: 1

Average cost: 1

Overall rating: 4

2.

Coachtube

coachtube.com

Owner: Wade Floyd

Location: Austin, Texas

Claim: "Learn on-demand

from the greatest coaches in the world"

Website lists:

734 Elite Coaches

2814 Premium Courses

50 Sports

Content: The tennis section lists 97 videos from name coaches (incl. some table tennis) and five free instructional articles.

Price: Some courses/books are free. Others between $5-$149 (average = $20)

The site looks professional and is easy to navigate. Lots of high-quality content. They also provide tools and guidance for coaches to get their content online. No follow-up after initial sign-up on the site.

Site appearance: 8

Spam factor: 1

Average cost: 1

Overall rating: 6

3.

PlayYourCourt

playyourcourt.com

Owner: Scott Baxter

Location: Virginia Beach, VA

Claim: "Everything you need to improve your tennis game.

We are a mobile tennis club that sends you certified professional tennis instruction to any court of your choice."

Content: The site sells memberships and tennis lessons via hired professionals.​ Members have access to match-finder and practice-finder tools, Challenge League, and weekly instructions on video.

Price: Membership is $5.99 per month or $49.99 annually. Tennis lessons are 'VIP-priced' for members.

The site looks professional and is easy to navigate. But-lots of promises one can't really verify.

Negative: Almost daily e-mails encouraging to sign up, sometimes twice a day.

Site appearance: 7

Spam factor: 7

Average cost: 1

Overall rating: -1

4.

Essential Tennis

essentialtennis.com

Owner: Ian Westermann

Location: Milwaukee, WI

Claim: "Essential Tennis provides passionate instruction for passionate tennis players so they can improve at the game that they love."

Website lists:

44,269,035 Views

143,978 Subscribers

87,349 Email Readers

7,246 Online Students

152 Countries

Content: The site sells online courses and membership in an "Essential Tennis Academy" explained at length with very wordy content and lots of pics and videos. Claims: "With over 1,600 videos on YouTube, ET is the most-watched channel outside of the Grand Slams. Our free tennis instruction videos have been watched over 56 million times."

Price: Most programs are listed as having coaching values of way over a thousand dollars and being offered for $197.

The site looks professional and has so much content it's almost hard to navigate. 

Very negative: Since signing up Ian has sent me 29 e-mails in 12 days. Five on Wednesday, May 20th. Swampy Spam overload.

Site appearance: 7

Spam factor: 10

Average cost: 2

Overall rating: -5

5.

Gigi Fernandez Tennis

gigifernandeztennis.com

Owner: Gigi Fernandez

Location: Tampa, FL

Claim: "Road Map to Mental Dominance." "Improvement is guaranteed."

Website lists:
Gigi Method Camps in Tampa

Camps During Po Events

Legends Camps

The Gigi Method Clinics

Travel Experiences

Doubles.TV

Content: It's a little hard to see what Gigi is really selling. "The Roadmap to Mental Dominance" is definitely one package, in addition to camps and trips.

Price: The Roadmap package is $97 or $32.33 for 3 months. Camp fees at big venues between $2,500 and $4,500. Camp with Martina Navratilova $3,450. (With Tracy Austin $2,950) "The Gigi Method" clinics $295. Doubles.TV $29,99 per month or $179 annually.

The site looks professional and is easy to navigate. It definitely profits from Gigi's professional successes and her standing in the tennis community.

Very negative: Over 15 emails in 10 days. I didn't really want to know that she was broke at one point. When signing up, Gigi adds you to 7 different types of emails.

Site appearance: 9

Spam factor: 8

Average cost: 2

Overall rating: -1

6.

Daily Tennis Lesson

dailytennislesson.com

Owner: Brad Hiete

Location: Sherman Oaks, CA

Claim: "35,000+ online subscribers. In total, Brady has given over 7 million online tennis lessons worldwide.."

Website lists:
Lessons and mini courses.

Content: A ton of lessons on YouTube, mostly between 3 and 10 minutes long.

Price: Unclear how this site is supported financially. All lessons and mini courses seem free.

The site looks professional and is easy to navigate. The lessons have a lot of good comments.

Neutral: As the name of the site reflects, daily emails for free lessons.

Site appearance: 9

Spam factor: 1

Average cost: 0

Overall rating: 8

7.

Topspeed Tennis

topspeedtennis.com

Owner: Clay Ballard

Location: Lake Mary, FL

Claim: "True, Step-By-Step Online Tennis Instruction.

You'll improve faster because we know how you learn and give you a fun, easy online course layout!"

Website lists:
Lessons and mini courses.

Content: A few free videos and lots of lessons paid through membership.

Price: All-access membership to lessons for $4.97 a month or $47 annually.  Plus referral sale of Topspin Pro training product for CA$199.

The site is a "screamer" with large fonts and no navigation. 

Negative: Once you sign up you'll be inundated with daily e-mails.

Site appearance: 6

Spam factor: 7

Average cost: 1

Overall rating: -2

8.

FeelTennis

feeltennis.net

Owner: Tomaz Mencinger 

Location: Ljubno, Slovenia

Claim: "Tennis Instruction Beyond The Obvious.

The higher level of tennis you're going after, the higher level of instruction you must receive. This is where you'll get it."

Website lists:
Courses and e-books.

Content: courses and e-books intertwined on two sites: feeltennis.com and another Tomaz Mencinger site, tennismindgame.com.

Price: Regular courses $97 (25% off during Pandemic). "Tennis for Beginners" course $47. Plus two e-books $37.

The site looks professional and is easy to navigate. 

Neutral: After signing up, Tomaz sent out 5 daily e-mails, and then it stopped.

Site appearance: 6

Spam factor: 3

Average cost: 1

Overall rating: 2

9.

Online Tennis Instruction

onlinetennisinstruction.com

Owner: Florian Meier

Location: Schwarzenbeck, Germany

Claim: "Whether you use one of our online training programs or you attend one of our OTI clinics, we will give you laser-focused feedback on your individual strokes."

Website lists:
Courses / Blueprint Courses

Content: A few free videos and 13 Blueprint Courses.

Price: Major courses cost $147. Monthly subscriptions are $29.99

The site looks professional and is easy to navigate. The lessons have a lot of good comments.

Negative: Daily e-mails after the initial sign-up.

Site appearance: 8

Spam factor: 7

Average cost: 2

Overall rating: -1

10.

Brain Game Tennis

braingametennis.com

Owner: Craig O'Shannessy

Location: Austin, TX

Claim: "World's number one tennis strategy."

Website lists:
Ten courses. Tennis speaking engagements.

Content: Ten tennis strategy courses.

Price: Ten courses mostly $49.95 and $149.95. All 10 courses $799.

The site looks professional and is easy to navigate. 

Very negative: After signing up, Craig sent out 16 e-mails in 10 days.

Site appearance: 9

Spam factor: 8

Average cost: 1

Overall rating: 0

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