Subscription software allows immediate feedback on athletes’ performance
By Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal
SAN RAFAEL — Professional and college sports have never been more popular, but for years the playing field has been littered with failed sports apps.
But applications for coaches and players are seeing a resurgence now, fueled by smart, mobile devices and software developers like Gregg Jacobs in Marin County, who has created an electronic toolset for college sports coaches and recruiters.
The longtime developer of productivity software for the transportation industry has launched SportsBoard (415-322-1049, sportsboard-win.com), a cloud-based Apple iPad and iPhone application that rates athletes’ skills during play.
Shot charts of courts and playing fields make it easy to follow a particular player’s scores and misses, and the information is fed automatically into statistics sheets on SportsBoard’s server, where it can be shared by program coaches. Performance videos can be recorded by coaches for analysis and accessed almost immediately by players.
”I saw the need for it 10 years ago when my son was playing lacrosse for his high school team,” said Mr. Jacobs.
He noted there were coaches and assistants taking frantic notes on clipboards, jotting down plays and other data that might be added to spreadsheets after the game.
“There was definitely room for efficiencies, but the device technology wasn’t there to support them,” he said. “Laptops were awkward, and smartphones didn’t exist.”
The advent of the iPhone and iPad, with their portability and video-shooting capability, changed all that. Mr. Jacobs, who had been casting about for a money-making app, brushed off his idea and took it to some local coaches.
One of them was Philip Billeci-Gard, men’s soccer coach for Dominican University.
“We’ve used it for two years and watched it become more and more streamlined,” said Mr. Billeci-Gard. “As a recruiting tool it’s given me greater access to more kids. I used to go to tournaments, get an info sheet on the players, and then watch them play. Now the information is all on there on the iPad before the game. We just renewed our subscription.”
Subscriptions to the software cost $300–$420 a year per coach. SportsBoard has about 500 subscribers currently, a number that’s growing as coaches hear about the system from other coaches.
“The competitiveness of college sports works in our favor,” said Mr. Jacobs. “If your opposing team has an edge, you’re going to want it too.”
SportsBoard has applications for football, basketball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and nine other college sports. Mr. Jacobs targeted colleges rather than high school or pro sports.
“High school programs are constrained financially and Bloomberg Sports and SAP are going after pro teams with very expensive, proprietary systems.”
He’s grown the company — it now has 13 full-time employees — with about $2 million in angel funding.
”I’m always looking for capital to grow it faster,” he said. “We could easily be profitable by next year, but we prefer growth at this point. A logical trajectory for a small company like this is acquisition by a large company.”
He said he already has had nibbles from members of the Fortune 500 but declined to name them.
“We’re having fun developing the software,” he said. “We just launched a new component — Chameleon — that allows coaches to customize their skills and stat data models. We’re already seeing a big bump in interest in SportsBoard as a result of this flexibility.”
In addition to subscription fees, SportsBoard revenues come from sports camps, where its tools have proven valuable to players, who pay an additional fee of about $50.
Selling coaches on using technology is not difficult, he said.
“They hate those spreadsheets,” he said. “And with the constant influx of younger, tech-savvy coaches, programs are likely to adopt technology.”
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