Conceiving a Game-Changer
The central idea that grew out of those insights and experiences — combining the need for greater visibility into child-coach interactions with the known advantages that feedback loops (such as continuous grading and reporting in academics) deliver in terms of positively influencing behavioral change — presented an opportunity to create a new way for coaches to deliver continuous assessment, instruction and encouragement to their athletes, and to simultaneously provide meaningful insight about a young athlete’s progress to that child’s parents.
As an added benefit, the rich, cumulative data/feedback picture created by the system over time could be combined with self-reported information relating to academics, honors and other personal attributes to provide exactly the kind of in-depth athlete profile that colleges and, of course, athletic scouts and recruiters, look for.
After framing up and detailing out the basic concept, we connected with some like-minded partners, developed proof-of-concept models and presentations that met with favorable interest from people in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and national and regional youth hockey and baseball organizations, formed a new entity, raised just shy of $1,000,000 in a private placement, and set out to see if we could change the youth sports game.
Because we wanted to create an athlete-first system — the opposite of traditional scouting systems in which data is collected on very few athletes by very few people for the benefit of the organizations that collect it — we faced a number of challenges. Designing a robust and secure permission system through which to ensure that authority over read/write privileges on any account rests with the account holder was critical.
We also designed a data collection interface that would enable quick and easy input by numerous distributed individuals, and developed an algorithm to translate complex, dissimilar data types into simple numerical ‘scores’. Working with advisors with NHL, AHL, Junior and National Team playing, coaching and scouting experience (for numerous reasons we elected to focus our initial efforts on hockey), we also developed a suite of dimensions — the various ‘things’ a player might be assessed on in both quantitative and qualitative terms — in order to deliver a meaningful picture of a hockey player over time.
With those core elements conceived, articulated and framed, and vetted by our advisors, we began the process of:
- naming the company and its products
- developing financial models
- executing a private placement
- developing and proving out the algorithms that underpin the system’s ‘scoring’ structure
- designing and testing user interfaces for account creation, permissions, data input and viewing
- designing and testing data visualization models
- working with very, very smart tech people to build a system that would deliver the goods
- executing an IP strategy (7 patents filed to date)
- designing a brand communication system
- developing and implementing Beta-test and go-to-market strategies.
Operating in stealth mode for some months but launched publicly in mid October of 2015, PowerPlayer has already attracted the attention of numerous forward-thinking hockey organizations in Canada and the United States. Their use of the system — establishing baseline metrics and ratings and inputting ongoing game and practice-related data — is providing us with a significant body of data with which to test and refine the data visualization aspects, and with valuable feedback relating to the overall system. Feedback from coaches and parents has been extremely positive, with many noting that they’ve seen a marked increase in the intensity and effort put forth by players during practices that involve PowerPlayer drills.
We’re treating the 2015-16 hockey season as an extended Beta test — a training camp of sorts — during which we’ll continue to refine the system and introduce new features. We’ll also be ramping up marketing and advertising efforts and continuing discussions with interested organizations in youth baseball, with an eye toward adapting the underlying model to that sport over the next months.