What do we know?

06.01.16
Dave Mason

I grew up with sports. And, oh yeah, of course… school!

One of those things was arguably more fun than the other, and the rewards they offered differed, but for any real chance of success, both required not just attention but commitment. They both demanded the steady acquisition of knowledge and proficiency, personal growth through success and failure, and progressive development in order to attain the next level.

But only one of them was measured and tracked in any meaningful way.

As a kid, I never thought twice about that. Sports were sports and school was school, and school was naturally the more serious pursuit. It wasn’t until I began coaching high school football that I began to understand how my own experiences in sports had shaped me, and how the experiences of the kids I was working with might be helping to shape them.

Coaching requires connection.

My best coaches — like my best teachers — were the ones who actually got to know me. One in particular was not only a great technical instructor, but a guy who somehow knew how to get the best out of me. As a CJFL quarterback in the late 70s / early 80s, my basic stats were tracked (By hand! On paper!), so he knew, for example, that my success rate throwing from a seven step drop was not as high as it was throwing on the run after play action. He knew my in-game instincts so well that he basically let me run the offense he’d designed around my teammates and me. And he knew my demeanor well enough to know how to alleviate tension or get me headed in the right direction with just a few words. We did pretty well together. (Thanks Vince!)

As a coach myself I tried to emulate his ways. I kept stats on my players as best I could (By hand! On paper!) and tried to design an offense to fit their strengths and tendencies. We too did pretty well together and I enjoyed the experience, but after a few years I moved on from coaching to focus on my business and family.

Fast forward to my own kids growing up with sports and, oh yeah… school. Despite advances in technology, their report cards were still printed on paper, but at least my wife and I got some feedback on their progress as students. We got practically zero feedback on their progress as athletes.

Feedback matters.

When our son climbed into the back seat after virtually every hockey practice we’d ask him the same questions: “How was practice?” And “What did Coach Bob / John / Steve say to you today?” And every time he’d answer the same way: “Good.” And “Nothing.” Apparently, over the course of years, no coach ever said a word to him! Sure, we might have received one or two rudimentary checkbox skill evaluations (usually from camps), and might have had two or three brief coach meetings here or there, but what did we really know about his athletic journey? And what did he know?

When as a 15-year-old he began to get approached by junior hockey coaches who’d maybe seen him play a couple of times, and who, in an effort to quickly understand him at least a little as person and as an athlete, asked basic questions about the kinds of things I felt should have been measured and tracked as he developed, the concept for PowerPlayer was born.

My partners and I have all been involved in sports our whole lives: youth, high school, junior and college hockey, baseball, football, basketball and lacrosse. A couple of us have actually been paid to play and coach. We have kids involved in sports. And we all think the same way.

Thinking ahead.

PowerPlayer makes it possible to do for our kids what we all wish had been done for us: to collect a substantial body of knowledge related to athletic development — physical attributes, proficiency and knowledge levels, personal intangibles, game play tendencies, etc. — that has value to everyone in the sports ecosystem.

So what do we know?

We know that sports are steeped in tradition, but we also know that the world is changing. We know that technology is impacting virtually every facet of life, from banking to travel to fitness. Our kids’ report cards and test scores are accessible online, and we get regular email or web-based communication from their teachers.

We know there are forward-thinking hockey organizations that have already gathered more than 28,000 PowerPlayer data points on their players. We know there are coaches who are excited about using that data to better understand and teach to the strengths and weaknesses of players and teams, and we know they see value in creating better communication with players and parents. We know there are young athletes and parents who are excited about acquiring a credible body of personal athletic development knowledge that until now has been unattainable. And we know there are scouts and recruiters who are anxious to see the rich, deep insight that PowerPlayer data might reveal.

We know the game is on. Wanna play?