Best Practices for Live Sesssions

February 14, 2024
Ann Smiley


Whether you’re new to coaching or a professional coach with years of teaching experience, there are proven best practices that will help your students be more successful. We put together this guide by asking our top-performing coaches to walk us through their strategies.

Coaching a Live Session

Preparing for a Lesson

Before a student’s first session, familiarize yourself with your student’s goals and current ability level, in the notes they included when they scheduled the session. Then confirm that they’ve correctly linked Metafy to Discord and are able to receive messages from you. (Consider sending them a friend request so that you are always able to contact them easily.)

During this initial contact, you should let your student know how you like to hold your lessons, so they’ll know what to expect. For example, if you want them to meet you on Discord via their mobile phone. You can also let them know if there’s anything they need to prepare in advance of the lesson. And if there was anything vague, or even missing, from the answers they provided when booking, you can get some clarification.

Before the start of the lesson, prepare what you’ll need to take notes, for the student’s session summary. For more on session summaries, see The Case for Session Summaries.

Anatomy of a Coaching Session

1. Introduction (5–10 minutes)

Spend some time getting to know your student, especially during your first lesson. Often students have scheduled live coaching because they want to interact with you, not just get tips and feedback. Friendly conversation will help build your relationship with your student. Not only will this make them more receptive to your feedback, it will also make them more likely to book more sessions.

If your lesson is with an existing student, a good place to start is to review the between-session assignments you gave them last time. The majority of the student’s improvement will occur via the games they play in the interim, so when you start each subsequent lesson, it is useful to review their progress on the tasks you set for them.

I ask: How was your week? What did you struggle with? What did you do well? What felt right? What concepts from previous sessions did you apply to your games? I can do that by watching, but I want to know how they see it.


You should also review the objectives they mentioned in their booking request, and find out whether they have any additional questions or goals. Finally, you can tell them what you would like to go over this time so that they understand your plan.

2. Main Lesson (45–50 minutes)

Most coaches spend the bulk of their lessons reviewing their students’ gameplay. One big decision you need to make is whether you play with your student or watch them play. If you plan to play with your student, are you going to play with them (e.g., on their team) or against them? If you plan to watch their gameplay, will you have your student play live matches or review their recorded gameplay?

Depending on your preferences as a coach, you can mix and match these strategies to find what works for you, your game, and for each student’s specific needs.

3. Summary (5–10 minutes)

At the end of the lesson, reiterate the key issues that came up during the session. Repetition is always useful to help people absorb information, but it is especially important at the end of a lesson since your student will no longer be distracted by trying to play the game while you’re giving them feedback.

Although summarizing the key issues from the lesson is crucial, the most important thing you can do at the end of a session is to give your students specific tasks to work on in their own time before your next lesson.

Talking about what you want your students to work on between lessons also gives you a nice segue into the topics you’d like to cover in your next session. Often students have not yet made up their minds whether they are going to book another lesson with you, so giving them goals for the next session will plant the idea in their mind that they should rebook.

In fact, the summary is the best time to remind the student to book their next lesson. You and your student both lead busy lives, so it is just practical to get the next session scheduled during the current one.

Although building a client base of ongoing students is a key part of success as a coach, you might be uncomfortable with the idea of asking students to rebook. But here's the thing: Excellence is the best sales tool. If you’re a great coach, give them an assignment, and tell them what you want to work on next, odds are your student will be eager to schedule the next lesson.

80% of my students want to come back, because I do a good job. People straight-up say they want to re-book, at the end of a lesson.



After a lesson, you may want to make some additional notes — or even keep a spreadsheet — on the student's progress, important concerns, interim assignments, or other details about the session. You may not have trouble now remembering the details from session to session, but as you get more and more students it can be easy to get them mixed up. Which is definitely not ideal for building student relationships.

Also, if you didn’t have time to give your student an assignment and your goals for the next lesson, send them a message with those things after the session ends.

Essential Tips

Build Relationships

There are a number of reasons to make a connection with your students. From a business standpoint, students who feel that their coach cares about them and understands their needs and play style are more likely to return for ongoing lessons. From a learning standpoint, students who feel comfortable with their coaches are generally more receptive to feedback and more likely to retain it and put it into practice.

Although some high-profile coaches (e.g., famous streamers or top-five players) may not feel like they need to spend time building relationships with students — and they may be able to get rebookings without doing so — it is still valuable as it is often in the best interest of the student. For example, some fans may be nervous around a high-profile coach, so putting in some effort to chat with them and make them feel comfortable can help them focus on actually playing the game well instead of just being starstruck.

Of course, there will always be students who don’t want to waste any time on social pleasantries, so it is important to discover what works best for each student. But even just getting a feel for your student’s personality will require you to do a bit of relationship building at the start. Some specific tips we received from our coaches were:

  • Talk to your students about their lives and remember what they tell you. Even recalling minor details, such as a pet’s name, can help ensure your students feel heard and valued.
  • Make it a goal to touch base with your students once a week, either via a scheduled lesson or just by messaging them through chat. If they’re not on your booking calendar, then checking in with them will give you an opening to bring up the subject of having another session together.

Understand Your Students’ Goals & Motivation for Booking

It’s important to figure out what your students’ goals are for your time together. Some will be single-mindedly focused on improving. Some may just want to chat while playing a couple of games with you. And others may be interested in you looking over their shoulder and dictating every move.

Of course, it is ideal to try to make it a learning experience for the student regardless of their motivations, but the way you present your feedback (and how much you give) can shift depending on the student’s interests. It’s important to be flexible and adapt your coaching style to whatever serves your student best.

One of the best ways to preserve your student base is to make them better. If they get better, they maintain their enthusiasm. Getting discouraged kills the fire.


How to Give Feedback

When you are giving feedback to your students, there are two competing concerns. On one hand, you want to give them your feedback as quickly as possible so that they can use it to adjust they way they are playing their current match. On the other hand, you don’t want to go too far into the weeds explaining why this is the correct way to do things right then because you can distract them from actually playing the game.

So, as you are observing or playing with your student, it is often best to keep your immediate comments brief. You can take notes, and use breaks in the gameplay (or even pause if that is an option in your game) to go into more detail. You should also revisit your comments in more detail at the end of your lesson when you are summarizing the main takeaways and what the student needs to work on.

Although each student is different, students generally learn better if you ask them a question, rather than telling them things outright. Whether it is an error or a great move, asking a student why they made a certain choice in a game will give you a better understanding of their thought process leading up to the decision. Is your student making great moves on purpose or at random? The way to find out is to ask them.

I’ll often stop the game and ask them “what would have been a better move?” So they can calculate, think things through, think ahead. It’s more helpful than me saying, “you should have done this instead.” I guide students to find the better move.


If your student’s main goal is to get better at the game, then it is crucial to discover what their thought process was, leading up to key decisions. You can only fix a student’s mistakes if you get to the root of the problem, which will almost always have something to do with the way they are thinking about the situation. Only after understanding why they made a decision can you make progress in preventing it from happening in the future. Thus, for improvement-focused students, your goal should be to change the way they are thinking about the game.

Of course, it’s easier to just tell your student what the right decision is in the circumstances. However, making decisions for your students is not a particularly effective strategy for helping them get better. It may help improve their rank during the session and they may learn some things, but once the lesson is over they will largely revert to their old ways. As a result, for improvement-focused students it is generally better to work on changing their approach so they can make the right decisions on their own.

Even students who book lessons just for the chance to chat or play a few matches with you are in a position to learn. If you spend even a small amount of time explaining your own thought process as you play and making suggestions for things they could be doing differently, you will be helping them improve.

Work on Your Student’s Mindset

Closely related to the importance of understanding your student’s thought process when playing is the need to help improve their general mindset when playing. Players who are frustrated, anxious, or angry when playing won’t have a good game. Obviously getting better at the game will help, but adjusting their attitude will help, as well. For example, in games with ranked game modes, most students will experience “ladder anxiety,” where they become overly fixated on their in-game rankings and stats. You can help them get over that anxiety by helping them to feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes.

As a coach, I’ve noticed one of the biggest flaws people have is ladder anxiety. They worry too much about their rank. But once you get good at a game, you stop caring because you know you can get your rank back whenever you want to.


Being comfortable making mistakes connects to another important aspect of having the right mindset: being positive/optimistic about the game. Dwelling on mistakes, worrying about what their teammates are doing (in team-based games), or getting mad about RNG will all impair your student’s performance and keep them from being positive and focused on what they need to do to win their current match.

Our Pros have also told us that they prefer that their students get used to playing against other players so that they are comfortable playing against human beings (especially in games where it is easy to just play against the computer). Although playing against the computer might feel safer, it’s also more predictable and can be ultimately be counterproductive. They might get bored or they might give up. Or both.

Always Assign Homework

It is important to resist the urge to quickly end your lesson after the last match finishes. Instead, set aside a block of time at the end of the lesson to talk to your student while they are not actively playing the game. It gives you an opportunity to reinforce key takeaways and lay the groundwork for the next lesson. The best thing you can do for your student is to convert these takeaways into an explicit assignment for what they should do on their own time before the next lesson. Consider assigning your student tasks like:

  • Play at least X matches and really focus on prioritizing Y, avoiding Z, etc.
  • Play at least X matches and try using a different build/strategy Y to expand your repertoire.
  • Play at least X ranked matches and try not to be so anxious about making mistakes (or have a more positive outlook while playing)
  • Watch at least X replays of matches by top player Y. Focus on how they correctly do Z.

Assignments like these will give your students the chance to put your teaching into practice between lessons, which reinforces learning. It will be a practical test of whether they’ve internalized your coaching. It will establish continuity between sessions and keep their gaming goals at the forefront of their minds. And it will give you something to talk about at the start of your next lesson. Even learning that a student wasn’t able to get to their between-session assignments is helpful information for you as a coach. It all goes toward building your relationship with the student. For further reading on the role of homework in learning, check out Turning Students into Experts.

The Bottom Line

Every student is different, but taking the time to polish your coaching strategies will make you a successful, in-demand coach. That means preparing ahead of time for lessons, structuring them in a way that best serves your student, giving targeted, effective feedback, and laying the groundwork for students to return on a regular basis. Regardless of each student’s individual goals and learning style, they’ll improve. And your Metafy will grow.

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