Youth soccer players who look up to professional soccer players can now do something even more exciting than watching them live or through a screen. Now, they will have the ability to book a favorite pro player as a coach thanks to the new startup Coach Next Door.
Triangle-based Coach Next Door was founded last year by a professional soccer player to serve this need and is a part of the seventh cohort of the RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP).
Nazmi Albadawi has spent about eight years playing professionally for the North Carolina Football Club. While doing his MBA at Southern New Hampshire University, Albadawi said there was uncertainty about which direction the club was going to go and he was thinking about what his next steps were. He formed an idea around a coaching and mentoring service for youth soccer players that would give extra coaching opportunities to professional soccer players, all on one platform.
Coach Next Door has begun beta-testing with 20 youth soccer players as of a few weeks ago after officially being founded late last year. Beta customers are testing the drills and have given overall positive feedback, Albadawi said.
One of the services Coach Next Door provides is a drill of the week. The youth players don’t have to drive anywhere to get supplemental training. All they have to do is use the website to view the interactive drill they will perform at home. The professional player—during the beta, it’s been just Albadawi himself so far—gives the players recommendations and tips at the end of each drill.
There also is a challenge of the week, where youth players can see themselves on a leaderboard and attempt to match or beat a pro player’s score.
Albadawi hopes to get more professional players involved, providing their own drills or even, down the line, individual in-person training sessions.
Coach Next Door will operate on a membership fee business model for those accessing the drill of the week, as well as for other pro players to use the platform as instructors. Coach Next Door will also take a small percentage from the drills sold.
“For youth soccer players, the impact is helping them improve as players,” Albadawi said. “They’re becoming better soccer players and they’re learning from this app and from the players on there, and they really feel like they’re improving their game.”
The pros/coaches benefit too
Many pro soccer players try to go into coaching after they’re done playing, so Coach Next Door will give them tangible experience to show what they’re capable of as a coach.
“The vast majority in the second and third divisions are underpaid, very underpaid,” Albadawi said of the players. “For me, it’s an extra income and ways to make extra money, and now we’re providing them a way to do that.”
Initially, Albadawi had a big, if somewhat hazy, picture in his mind for his startup. Now, he has a clear vision on how to move forward, beta-testing the drills on Coach Next Door and developing a consistent consumer base before Coach Next Door seeks additional professional players on the platform.
“We narrowed down the focus to make it a little bit smaller at the beginning, but with that, the business has grown because it’s actually taking off now,” Albadawi said. “We’re actually getting some real tangible evidence of what will work and what won’t work, and that’s the most important piece.”
Coach Next Door is an especially good fit for youth soccer mentorship and coaching during the coronavirus era because all players are able to practice at home. There’s no worry over Covid-19 spread when learning from an app, and parents don’t have to worry about driving their children to additional training, either. All the players can learn right from their backyards or garages, Albadawi said.
Albadawi also says he cannot speak more highly of his experience in RAP, saying he has loved every minute of it.
“All the people that they’re bringing in to to lead the workshops have been unbelievable,” Albadawi said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be accepted to the program.”