SDSU women's head coach Mike Friesen (L) and assistant coach Juan Pablo Favero have joined other college coaches in using the new Soccer Scout app for iPad. Photo Credit: SDSU
College Soccer News: San Diego State University Lady Aztecs Go High-Tech with New Recruiting Technology
Over the past few decades, most of the technological advancements in soccer have given players a better chance at success—lighter, more comfortable shoes, moisture-resistant clothing and synthetic soccer balls. Now it’s the coaches’ turn to use technology to their benefit.
This summer, college coaches began arriving at recruiting events with a fun new toy to help them evaluate players—the iPad.
Plenty of college coaches still scout the old-fashioned way—scribbling comments on notepads from the sidelines. But now a growing number of men’s and women’s programs are finding it easier and more efficient to note players’ strengths and weaknesses using an iPad app called Soccer Scout.
“This isn’t the future, it’s the present,” said Juan Pablo Favero, associate head coach of San Diego State University women’s soccer. “Recruiting with an iPad is not some science-fiction movie. It’s here and it’s available, so why wouldn’t you use it?”
As the Aztecs’ coaching staff hit the recruiting trail this summer, they put away the paper and pens and handed over recruiting to SportsBoard Soccer Scout, an iPad- and iPhone-based app developed by Bay Area startup West Shore Technologies. The app allows coaches to rate players, type notes, record voice memos and keep stats, just by touching buttons on the iPad screen.
Soccer Scout has gained traction in the soccer community, and West Shore has enabled its customers to sync their iPads with the SportsBoard Server to populate tournament rosters, eliminating the need for coaches to lug around bulky tournament roster packets.
Favero said he’d been waiting for an app like Soccer Scout since receiving an iPad as a gift a few years ago.
“When I was contacted by someone at West Shore, I thought ‘Man, you beat me to it. This is exactly what I was looking for,’ ‘’ he said. “Once I did the demo, I knew the app was going to help our program.”
More than 20 college soccer programs are now in a paperless recruiting world, including the men’s programs at Santa Clara, Clemson and Denver and the women’s programs at San Diego State, Cal and Stanford.
“Soccer Scout is streamlining a paper-driven process that has been around for decades,” states Gregg Jacobs, Founder of West Shore Technologies. “The time savings that coaches are realizing can be applied to more effective recruiting or other areas of their operation where more time would produce more and better results.”
Still new to the close-knit soccer community, the iPad is looking for acceptance from old-school coaches who might resist change. SportsBoard Lite, the iPhone version of SportsBoard, enables coaches who are comfortable with their iPhones to capture text notes, voice memos, photos and video. Jacobs continues, “For the coach who texts his players and recruits with his/her iPhone, SportsBoard Lite is a great way to start realizing efficiency gains from just note-taking.”
“One coach told me at tournament in New Jersey that the iPad was the future of recruiting,” Favero said. “But I could tell he was very hesitant to try it. I remember thinking to myself, ‘If you keeping thinking that way, you’ll stay stuck in past.’ ”
Mike Noonan, men’s coach at Clemson, said he saw plenty of head-shaking this summer on the recruiting trail as he pulled an iPad out of his bag.
“There is definitely a lot of curiosity because it’s not every day you see an ACC coach walking around with an iPad,” he said. “But as soon other coaches saw that the tournament’s rosters had been downloaded to my iPad, they were immediately intrigued.”
One of the latest additions to Soccer Scout is a schematic with each player’s number placed on their field position. With a click on a number, the player’s profile is pulled up on the screen.
“SportsBoard seemed to be able to develop these things on fly,” Noonan said. “I suggested the schematic and a few weeks later, it appeared on the app.”
|SDSU women's soccer coaches confer. The iPad has become an integral part of the recruiting process with the development of SportsBoard Soccer Scout. Photo Credit: SDSU
College coaches aren’t the only scouts who’ve turned to iPads to streamline the evaluation process. NorCal Premier, one of the nation’s largest youth soccer organizations, deployed Soccer Scout last month to rate and ultimately choose the top players in their Player Development Program. Nine coaches armed with iPads accessed some 1,500 boys and girls (ages 10-16) in six regions of Northern California, rating players in physical, technical, tactical and personality areas.
“We were using a web application before Soccer Scout came along,” said Paolo Bonomo, the PDP’s technical director. “It was efficient on the field, but inputting each score into the computer off the field was very time-consuming. Before, there were two steps; now there’s one. We probably had 150 hours of administrative work. This year, we barely have any.”
A drastic reduction in paperwork was far from the only advantage of being automated, Bonomo said.
“I can’t be everywhere during these tryouts, so I used SportsBoard’s server to stay updated with every other region,” Bonomo said. “Just by logging on to the server, I can see how every player is doing. It’s like a check and balance system for all the coaches.”
After the month-long tryouts, NorCal Premier emailed detailed feedback with helpful comments to each player and club coach with the touch of a button.
“SportsBoard is a no-brainer for clubs and camps that have a lot of numbers,” Bonomo said. “This is all new to us, but we’ll expand the app’s use next year. It’ll help us communicate more efficiently with parents and club coaches, too.”
San Diego State, off to its best start in 16 years at 7-0 and currently ranked No. 16, might use Soccer Scout next year to evaluate and give occasional feedback to its own players. For now, Favero said he is simply happy the entire coaching staff is using the same language to rate players.
“Recruiting is subjective, no doubt about it,” he said. “The beauty of this product is that we are all using the same rating system.”
Joining the technology revolution isn’t cheap—iPads go for at least $500 and SportsBoard’s app and server run between $600 and $1,200 a year.
“It can be expensive, but we are looking at the long term,” Bonomo said. “And these are fixed costs that won’t rise.”
Said Noonan, the Clemson coach: “The price is pretty high. But the efficiency factor is where the value is for us. And you can’t put a price on that.”