Connecting athletes, instructors one request at a time

Ryan Wallace, Staff Writer

1:46 pm PDT July 18, 2014

Ideas for business ventures never stop swirling inside the head of Ryan Van Alst.

The Orland Park resident has always wanted to create his own small business, and two months ago, the 37-year-old turned words scratched on a piece of paper into a reality.

“I’ve always been sports-minded and entrepreneurially-minded,” Van Alst said. “I watch shows like ‘Shark Tank,’ and I drive my wife crazy with all my ideas. With Sports Tutoring, I finally took it all the way.”

Sports Tutoring is a business that connects athletes of all ages with trainers and instructors who are to help them achieve their athletic and academic goals. The company offers clinics, private and semi-private lessons, and tutoring sessions along with birthday parties and corporate events.

Clients can make requests with Sports Tutoring by calling (708) 814-2323, visiting or emailing

“We find the individuals for the clients,” Van Alst said. “If someone requests a tennis lesson, we find a tennis instructor. Our goal is to find someone to go out and provide that service. We’re trying to build a client base that way.”

Van Alst grew up in Anderson, Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis. An athlete all his life, he went on to run cross country and track at Division III Anderson University. There he earned his teaching degree, and his passion for starting a business began.

The father of four moved to Lemont in 2005 and taught in the Chicago area for a few years. For the past five years, he has been a physical education teacher at St. Joseph School in Lockport. His wife, Meghan, is a math teacher in Plainfield and Van Alst’s chief business partner.

“I’ve been involved in sports all my life,” Van Alst said. “What clicked for me is helping those who are motivated to be successful — to help children and adults in the sports world who want to improve their fitness and keep getting better.”

Off the ground

Before opening at the end May, Van Alst spent a lot of time asking questions of other small business owners, making contacts with family, friends and former schoolmates.

After that, he developed a business plan, established a budget to finance advertisements and a small staff for clinics, and got the website up and running.

“We’re literally just getting started,” Van Alst said. “I’m reading articles, and I’m coming up with other ideas. The juices are flowing.”

For clinics, Van Alst rents out a gym or facility. Everyone is insured, and all the instructors have had background checks. One-on-one lessons could take place at a park or another public setting. They are also offering tutoring — led by Van Alst’s wife — in reading, math and foreign languages, as well as personal training for adults.

The opening of the business coincided with the start of summer.
“Kids are going to clinics and camps, and my wife works at a tutoring place in the summertime,” Van Alst said. “That’s how the basic concept came about. We offer sports training and, on the flip side, tutoring.”

Sports Tutoring held its first camp Wednesday, June 25, at the Orland Park Sportsplex. Van Alst said 14 students from St. Joe’s participated in the two-hour clinic.

“It was good,” he said. “The one complaint I heard is that they wished it was more than just one day. That’s a good thing.”

Sports Tutoring is hosting a soccer clinic Friday, July 25, at the soccer fields near the 153rd Street Metra station, as well as a volleyball clinic for third- through eighth-graders Thursday, July 31, at the Sportsplex.

Van Alst said they are also hoping to have a football clinic in the coming months. “I’d like to have something every day,” he said.

‘Not going to give up’

Van Alst said to get the word out, he has been putting up door hangers and sending out emails about upcoming events.

“I’ve had a good response in the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re telling me it’s a good concept. A lot of people have said they’d love to do it, but they don’t have a lot of time, and other people have told me their kids are all grown up. That’s the negative.

“I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep trying.”

Danielle Pugh of Lockport had her 10-year-old twin boys attend Van Alst’s basketball camp.

“I saw the advertisement from Ryan, and I felt this was a great way for them to get started, and they were really excited to do it,” Pugh said.

Pugh said she knew it would be a safe and positive environment with Van Alst running the clinic.

“It was a no-brainer,” she said. “I trust him, and I know his family. They [her sons] know how he teaches, and he’s very calm and organized and he puts a lot of thought into the program.”

With park district clinics overflowing with children and expensive club teams, Pugh said it is nice to have another option where children are going to have a great experience and do so at a reasonable price.

“There’s not much like that here,” she said. “This is a smaller group where you know the instructor and you know the kids are going to have fun and learn something. It’s a nice place right in the middle.”

Van Alst said he hopes to expand the staff and eventually move into other states.

“In the next year or so, I hope to have an office and have a whole team that can work on developing and recruiting,” he said.

In two years, he said he hopes to have a well-developed network of instructors and tutors who can assist clients instantly.

“My goal is to have a directory where I get back to [the clients] in a couple of minutes, either through the website or over the phone.

“It’s been a fun experience.”
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