Treiner is a sports tech web app that enables coaches and training sessions to be booked on its marketplace in order to aid in the development of footballers – whilst expanding the opportunities for domestic coaches who crave a chance to build their own coaching skills, brand and networks.
Upon spotting a gap in the footballing market, co-founder James Muir worked to build a hub for football coaches. This effort eventuated as Treiner, a Melbourne-based nationally operating platform which is the only football-specific coach-booking app in the country.
With a desire to transform Treiner into the LinkedIn equivalent specific for football in order to better professionalise the coaching recruitment process, Muir spoke to Soccerscene about what separates Treiner from other coaching platforms.
Q: So just briefly, what is Treiner and what do you do?
James Muir: We started Treiner back in late 2017, where we initially launched as a platform for coaches to get a little bit more work. Originally it was just private training and extra training on top of what coaches were doing at club or school level.
The biggest problem [we found] was parents and players were looking for good coaches who were available and, in their budget, and clubs looking for extra coaches. And a lot of coaches wanted to move into a full-time coaching role, but really struggled because of the lack of full-time roles within football in Australia.
Over the last few years as we’ve invested in our tech, we’ve evolved from that private training model to basically being able to build out the tech for any club, coach or academy to run any paid training programs. So, not just private training sessions but also one-off team training sessions, regular weekly training sessions, SAP (Skills Acquisition Program) Program and academy training programs through to school holiday workshops and clinics.
That’s what we’ve been focusing on for the last year, year and a half, and now we’re adding in extra components from the job aspects. So, allowing schools and clubs to actually post jobs there themselves. That should be live for the end of the season.
Basically, what we are building is the LinkedIn for football coaches. So, they can have a proper coaching CV on the platform – something which can be easily shared with clubs and schools. And similar to LinkedIn, they’d be able to apply for jobs and courses through the platform. The courses would be external courses, similar to the ones a lot of coaches are doing at the moment with Barcelona’s Sport Science Institute, English FA for example, as well as Australian-based courses like the ones run by FCA (Football Coaches Australia). Coaches often have a professional career as well outside of football or at some stage will transition to one, so to have a platform specific to football coaching enables them to separate this and prevent any negative impact on their professional career from having too much coaching experience.
Q: What did you see in Australian football that motivated you to set up Treiner?
James Muir: I’ve worked full-time for the majority of my career in football, but initially when starting as a coach I had to do 10-20 different jobs as a self-employed coach with the likes of schools, clubs and academies. I didn’t really enjoy that; having to go from A to B to C to D to E and driving around switching my training top in between as well. And the hours before and after school, and on weekends and holidays as well.
So, when opportunities to work full-time in football came up, I jumped at the opportunity and I really enjoyed moving to Fiji and working with Fiji Football for a number of years and then coming back to Football NSW. However, transitioning back to club football was where I got a shock again of the amateur operations of even National Premier League clubs. Even clubs that aspire to be a part of the National Second Division, they’re still pretty amateur in a lot of the ways that they recruit and handle coaches.
If you look at last year for example with JobKeeper and the number of coaches who were stood down and weren’t handled well, they had to basically take up other jobs or move on to a new career in a lot of instances. Coaches that weren’t Australian citizens or permanent residents were left in the lurch, some of whom were at A-league clubs in the Academy space.
Basically, we wanted to really help improve the standards and benefits for coaching in Australia. And obviously that’s a challenge because people say there’s not much money in the sport, but then if you look at the volume and frequency of transactions that’s spent on the sport there is actually a lot of money there, it’s just spent a lot of the time at the grassroots level and the semi-professional level, and not always within a club environment. It’s not often at the higher end with the A-League clubs and that’s because there’s a lack of connection between A-League clubs and the community.
So, we’re starting to see a lot of A-League clubs moving into revenue-generating activities with their pre-academies and their school holiday programs as well, which I think is fine – that happens worldwide.
There’s definitely a perception of how things are in Europe, but if you go to Serie B/C and most 2nd division clubs across Europe and see how they struggle for fans and sponsors and with finances, you’ll quickly see that not every club is like a Juventus or AC Milan. If you spend time with lower league clubs, you’ll see how things actually work. Having a good understanding of how global football works and relating that back to Australia was important in setting up Treiner.
Back in 2019, Indeed actually found that trying to fill the coaching position was very challenging and that it was the hardest job to fill. And often that’s because the coaching position is not paid well. Generally, it’s $25-$40 an hour for a coaching role, which if you’re looking for a high-quality coach who’s invested $20-$30,000 in their coaching education over a 5–10-year period they would want to be paid more than that. Clubs in the community and NPL space are paying between $2-10k per annum for a coach to coach between 2-4 sessions per week plus a game at the weekend, but when you break this down it equates to between $2-5 per hour for the time spent working. A-League clubs in the academy NPL and WNPL space are paying between $20-30,000 per year for what they expect to be a full-time commitment, so there needs to be more done by FA & FCA as well as individual coaches to drive working conditions.
Q: How successful has Treiner been in expanding the opportunities for Australian football coaches?
James Muir: Since we launched in 2017, we’ve had around 13,000 hours of training sessions booked through the platform. Obviously last year with COVID and at the moment with lockdowns in different states at different times that’s been impacted. A lot of the weekly programs that are the bread and butter of the platform have obviously been impacted but we’ve seen a large spike in one-on-one sessions during COVID, especially last year where we saw a lot of A-League and W-League players jumping on the platform.
Where we really want to go with the platform is assisting coaches to build up their portfolio as a coach. It’s very hard if you’re in a professional career to put in your coaching experience on your LinkedIn. Because if you’ve been coaching for a while and you’ve got a large number of experiences and you’re going for another professional job it doesn’t look very professional to have all these coaching jobs, so it is important for us to create that platform for coaches. Being able to have football-specific qualifications on there and being able to demonstrate your vision and philosophy by showing videos of how your training sessions unfold, alongside reviews and testimonials from players, are the important factors.
[As well as this] payments are a huge area of concern for a lot of coaches across the country. There’s been a lot of disputes even at the professional level, but below that a lot of coaches coach for a large period of time unpaid in a number of roles. And sometimes they’re sacked from clubs and aren’t paid or are paid a small amount that was agreed in the contract. Often there are also delays in payments from clubs for a number of reasons.
In 2019, a UQ & FCA research study uncovered more than 70% of coaches are coaching without a valid contract. Stats like that showed us that there definitely needs to be an automated way and a platform that can handle all these contracts and all of these payments, as often coaches are inexperienced in these matters. So, professionalising that whole experience for coaches is critical and that’s what we are endeavouring to do through Treiner.
Q: As you’ve pointed out, Treiner allows for a more personalised coaching experience, what has the collective response been like from users?
James Muir: Users have found it really easy to choose between coaches, to see which coaches are available and to see which coaches are at different areas. One of the things that we added early last year was a post a job option. When we first started, we had around 250 coaches in the first year and then up to 3,000 by 2019. What we found towards the end of 2019 however, was that there were too many coaches to choose from. It was overwhelming for users to have to scroll through and choose one out of so many coaches.
So, we focused on the main coaches who were active on the platform and responsive. So, now we’re focused on these coaches who are more professional in their approach whilst still bringing on the others as they become more active.
From a user’s perspective, being a tech platform in comparison to a coaching provider, that’s where we differentiate. We focus on that user experience and continually improving that, so, our platform is always updating monthly – we have in-house developers and a Chief Technology Officer that oversees our tech build. That’s our main differentiator to a lot of other coaching providers out there.
And we want to be agnostic as well. We are happy to have any verified coach or organisation on the platform, it’s not about us or our brand it’s about having access to all coaches and hopefully overtime we will see the best coaches getting more work and getting rewarded for that.
From grassroots through to the A-League, we saw there wasn’t a transparent and honest recruitment process. Often it wasn’t just about who you know, but more so who was in the vision of the person making the decision. They wouldn’t have a headhunting process to look for the best coaches in the region and coaches were often promoted in-house after being an intern or volunteer to save costs. So, that process needs to be a bit more transparent and that’s partly why we built our platform to assist those clubs and their academies in their recruitment process.
Q: What does the future hold for Treiner?
James Muir: At the moment we’re trialling some of these new features with selected different clubs, schools and academies. If organisations are keen to join in that beta trial, the benefit of being a part of that trial is that you can get something that’s been built specifically for you. For any other people interested in getting into coaching, starting their own coaching business or even a sports tech start-up, feel free to reach out to us as we are more than happy to share our knowledge and assist in improving the football ecosystem through collaboration.
Interested parties can direct all enquiries to email@example.com.