If you had to guess how much money parents spend on private sports lessons for kids in America, would you come up with $6 billion? The former athletes who founded bookacoach saw the potential for a new platform to serve this market — connecting parents with the right coaches for their children — and their proprietary annual background checking process makes them “the safest place to find a coach.”

Kevin MacCauley and Myles Grote might be familiar names to runners and Indiana University grads, the pair founded the IU Mini Marathon (now called the Hoosier Half Marathon) when they were still students. It was the first ever collegiate-hosted marathon in the U.S. and it generated scholarships for cancer survivors. After college, Kevin moved to Washington D.C. to help his brother start a company called ClassWatch. The pair’s experiences as athletes — and Kevin’s time as a little league coach in D.C — helped them see the the market opportunity to have an impact on private coaching and they set out to build bookacoach.

The company was founded in 2011, and Kevin and Myles quit their jobs to work for bookacoach full-time in the summer of 2012. A beta version of the platform went live in November 2012, followed by a national launch last year. Following an influx of capital from Elevate Ventures in January and the acquisition of Atlanta-based competitor TRAINlete in February, bookacoach underwent a website relaunch, and the company today has a customer base of more than 3,000 coaches in all 50 states.

“We originally built bookacoach to be purely a marketplace discovery tool,” Myles said. “We have pivoted away from being just a discovery tool and have solved other problems, mainly the problem of sports academies lacking software that handles a lot of the back-office administrative burden that weighs on their businesses.”

bookacoach is focused on the parents’ point of view, helping them roadmap and navigate the complexities of development for their athletes — kind of like a travel agency. The platform includes a fully integrated scheduling and feedback platform with each athlete’s history and progress. It’s like a customer relationship management (CRM) system for coaches that offers parents and athletes valuable tracking tools. Myles estimates that there are still tens of thousands of former collegiate and professional athletes nationwide who are capable of and interested in starting their own sports instruction businesses, and that bookacoach is the perfect solution for helping them succeed.

The three most important bookacoach product features are:

  • Platform to manage payments and scheduling for multiple types of training
  • Sharing and storing feedback after training with clients
  • Industry leading customer support to help parents navigate the complexities of athlete development

Additionally, bookacoach’s emphasis on athlete safety sets them apart from competitors. Most platforms conduct a simple background check using national databases when coaches are signing up. Bookacoach does what it calls an exhaustive county-level background check, in addition to state and national databases on every coach and it does them annually because “not everything shows up in the national databases alone,” Myles said. There is no national standard for youth sports background checks, but the bookacoach approach was developed in cooperation with local law enforcement.

bookacoach is not alone in the marketplace for sports lessons. It’s largest competitor has raised $8.9 million in venture capital since 2012 and its starting national branding and expansion into other markets like yoga and dance.

“Our competitors seem to be focused on new business — getting people who have never signed up before to sign up — while bookacoach is more focused on recurring business and strong relationships with our coaches and their parent and athlete customers,” Myles said. “We have expanded into clinics and camps in an effort to be the true destination for sports training and will continue to build additional offerings in pursuit of that goal.”

Raising the profile of Indiana startup companies through stories like this is made possible by Tailwind, a TechPoint initiative powered by the Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.