Monday, October 13, 2014

a different way to pay for private lessons

It started when a parent said to me, "My child's rating hasn't gone up in a year. Does that mean he hasn't learned anything from the expensive private lessons I've been paying for?" And I replied, "That's exactly what it means, with the small caveat that your child might have learned something about chess (like an opening) but is not a more skillful player."
Which led me to think about the problem for parents of not knowing if an expensive coach is worthwhile. Which led me to make an offer to a small group of parents that:
 I would teach their child once a week for free
The child would play in a minimum of 2 tournaments a month and one hour a week at chess club or online.
The child would do all my homework and notate all games.
I would be paid every three months the gain (from the beginning of lessons) in the child's rating times a multiplier X.
My question to you is, what's a fair number for x? I would suggest it might be different for different people, or different ages, and definitely for different ratings.
Take as two examples a 9 year old rated 600 who has played chess for a year and a 13 year old rated 1650 who has played chess for 5 years; both students have previously had private and group lessons.

Thank you.


gurdonark said...

I'll set out a stalking horse, a suggested way to calculate x. First figure out a comparison rate on an hourly basis. Take a reasonable mid-market hourly rate for your time, and multiply it by the number of hours you would spend in 3 months.
In other words, what you would be paid if you worked straight hourly.

Then let's do what I'll call double or nothing, except that
it really is "a sliding scale in which success means double".

Figure out what a stupendous ratings increase would be for the child. That's the double point, i.e., the point at which you get twice what your hourly rate would be.

Then back down y points and plot a course for 1 3/4x, 1 1/2x, 1x, .5x your hourly chart. Make the first small amount of rating points gain free of charge.

It seems to me that each child has a different success point, as you suggest. But the sliding scale leading in double (or nothing, or something in between) could give you a great upside potential while ensuring that parents only pay for the upside results.

My thinking is that if you succeed, you should be rewarded, since you are gambling your time.

I believe that you might hitch in three hours a week of required chess tactics or endgame work on your choice of software as part of the kid's obligation.

I am not chess teacher, but this is how I would structure this contingent fee.

Gurdonark said...

To finish the thought:

Once you have the figures along the sliding scale, just divide the 2x rate by the points for a spectacular result to get x. Or you can use the sliding scale to instead put together milestones (double for spectacular points, and on down in increments. This second alternative lets you go non-linear because 300 points for a kid may be more or less than 3x more amazing than a 100 point gain.

Anonymous said...

What if the kid gains points and then loses them? Does the parent have to pay you back?

Anonymous said...

I mean, do you have to pay back the parent?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't offer a results-based fee structure. Coaches in tennis, golf etc. and college classes offer no guarantees of improvement nor should you. The best you can offer is a high standard of training (which I have no doubt you do) and a consultation with parents before coaching begins to set expectations based on your students' prior experience.

I took chess lessons from a grandmaster at age 50+ and he told me before the first lesson that his experience was that adult students have little or no capacity to improve. I took lessons anyway, enjoyed them, and had a modest improvement in my rating. I definitely picked up specific skills that helped me in my games e.g. not releasing the tension in the center prematurely.

If you must offer this kind of plan I would suggest keeping it simple such as refunding 50% of the fee if there is no rating improvement.

Ashish said...

It is an interesting idea. But do you really want to teach the child, and for that matter the parents, that the (only) point of chess is ratings gain? Because that's what this does.

On a practical level, I think that many factors contribute to chess improvement, and the quality of instruction accounts for maybe 25% of the total. Especially for children, whose focus and dedication will vary widely.

Would such a scheme result in your devoting disproportionate attention to the most promising kids, and ignoring those less talented?

Boris said...

Dear Elizabeth,

I think this approach would be very beneficial for parents. I have ascribed to your theory that one of the most important things about coaching is how many hours a student is getting coached. Most top coaches price themselves at such a high price that most parents at most can afford one hour of class per week. I think a pay for success approach would be very interesting! I would either have a price for every 100 points or a look at a change in rating every 3 months.