Sports

Steve Kerr and other top NBA coaches are offering virtual coaching during the pandemic

Key Points
  • With sports sidelined, there's a growing demand for virtual training services.
  • eCoach is launching more than 1,000 training videos from NBA coaches.
  • Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr told CNBC this service is needed now more than ever.
Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr is one of 40 coaches in the NBA offering virtual coaching services.
Source: eCoach

As sports of all levels have been disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a growing demand by athletes around the world looking for training resources to keep their skills sharp.

On Thursday, virtual coaching platform eCoach announced the launch of training videos from more than 40 of the NBA's most elite head and assistant coaches. Coaches including Golden State Warriors Steve Kerr, Toronto Raptors Coach Nick Nurse and Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers are sharing shooting tips and their coaching expertise to players of all levels.

Kerr, who helped lead the Chicago Bulls to history with his sharp shooting back in the 90s, joined the eCoach platform three years ago. As the pandemic has threatened athletes' ability to be together to play sports, he said online coaching has proved to be that much more important.

"We're just really looking for ways to spread coaching and instruction to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to get it, especially from NBA coaches," Kerr told CNBC in an interview this week.

The website and app offer access to a coaching database for $9.99 per month. Included in the membership is unlimited access to drills, workouts, plays and tips. For example, Kerr teaches a class on "Shooting with Touch," to help basketball players work on gauging distance, Washington Wizards Assistant Coach and statistician Dean Oliver offers a session on how to use analytics to improve your basketball team and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens teaches team defensive principles.

eCoach's partnership with the National Basketball Coaches Association allows not just access to top coaches but also access to NBA game footage to drill in key points and show their teachings in action.

"We believe that for coaches, this is a perfect way to communicate the game during this unusual period of time," Rick Carlisle, head coach of the Dallas Mavericks and president of the National Basketball Coaches Association told CNBC.

Rich Hempel, who started eCoach seven years ago, said the pandemic has meant a big uptick interest and adoption of this type of technology and content.

"What we've seen from the pandemic is this notion of online sports coaching go from what was a good idea at the time, to all of a sudden now it's mission critical," he said.

With the globalization of basketball, Hempel said that's where the bulk of the eCoach content lies, but the company also offers instructional videos for football, baseball and golf for all levels of play.

Danielle Mathews used virtual coaching apps to learn basketball in India. Today, she's using eCoach during the pandemic.
Danielle Mathews

For 19-year-old basketball player Danielle Mathews, virtual coaching was her lifeline as an athlete growing up in India, and she said it continues to be an integral part of her training.

"Remote training is the reason why I'm an athlete today," she said. Mathews said that when in India, she witnessed people from small villages get drafted into the NBA's G League and be given college scholarships because of the training they got from virtual coaching apps.

Today, Mathews lives in Ohio and is recovering from an ACL injury she suffered in her senior year. She said she's using eCoach to train while she awaits to get back on the court.

"I'm using it to help my basketball IQ and I'm using it to help my shooting form. There's a Steve Kerr video where you can it's called 'Beat the Pro,' and it's just you the ball in the hoop, and there's an intensity that you feel when you play, it's not just a drill," Mathews said.

Hempel said the growth and strong interest they received from the pandemic positions eCoach to raise Series A funding in early-to-mid 2021. eCoach funding to date has been from private investors, including a mix of pro athletes and coaches in the NBA, MLB and NFL, along with angel investors with experience in youth sports and online learning.

eCoach app
Source: eCoach

"The pandemic caused by Covid-19 is only a part of what the children in our society are facing under the current conditions of unrest," said Mike Blackburn, Executive Director National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

Blackburn said among interscholastic athletic administrators he has seen a large increase in virtual efforts to communicate whether through zoom, podcasts, video messages and online messaging platforms and that has helped to ease student's anxiety with the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

The virtual coaching space has grown rapidly in recent years and the pandemic will likely accelerate this trend further as people are spending more time at home than ever before.

As a result, companies like MasterClass are benefiting. The company told CNBC that after the pandemic hit, subscriptions increased tenfold over the average in 2019 and engagement increased nearly two times more in total minutes per month. In May, MasterClass raised another $100 million in funding.

Other companies are looking to cash in on the trend.

In September, NBC Sports' Sports Engine, which has 16 million users, partnered with leading virtual coaching platform MaxOne to boost their offerings.

In August, Nike announced they are teaming with with the NFL and top players including Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham to provide training tips during the pandemic on their platform.

"I think what makes eCoach unique is you get all these different viewpoints of the game from different coaches so it's really a comprehensive look at the game," Kerr said.

Disclosure: NBC Sports is part of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

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