Launched in October of 2016, Techne Futbol is a cutting edge personal training program for soccer players of all ages and experience levels. Developed by Yael Averbuch, who currently plays professionally for FC Kansas City in the NWSL, the app-based service has seen remarkable growth in the few short months since it launched. With a few months of app-activity logged, we checked in with Averbuch to learn what she has learned in the time she’s spent developing and operating a business while also maintaining her place in the FCKC lineup.
Dike Anyiwo: Yael, thanks for carving out some time to chat today. Can you tell us a bit about what prompted you to launch Techne in the first place? Did you envision it taking off quite the way it has?
Yael Averbuch: Thanks for having me. For a while, during the first few years of my professional career I was really just playing and then I started to work on building my brand and connecting with youth players. One aspect of the game that I’ve always loved is the stuff you can do with the ball just in your backyard, and I had a bunch of people over the years who would say, “hey try this” and those kinds of things obsessed me and I loved that.
So I started to connect with youth players all over the U.S. and the world, pretty much using YouTube and social media and started setting up these little backyard skill challenges, posting videos with training ideas. That’s been really fun and I still do stuff like that all the time.
But really I had a vision of creating something a bit more solidified. I had an idea of an actual program for players to follow, because a lot of people know you’re supposed to spend time with the ball, but some people don’t know what that means or don’t have the ideas.
So what I’ve done with Techne was put together all the things I’ve been shown over the years, or made up, or been challenged to do in session with the wonderful coaches I’ve been fortunate to have and put that into a blueprint for other players to follow.
In this day and age everyone has a smartphone so making it into an app was kind of a no-brainer. We launched in October what really is just the first version of a long-term vision I have for something that could eventually be a cool piece of technology and also a just an extensive training program.
Dike Anyiwo: Talk to me about bit about the technology behind the app. You’re not in the app store yet, but individuals can subscribe to your services through your website, correct?
Yael Averbuch: Eventually it will be in the app store, but yes, you have to subscribe through the Techne website. Even when it’s in the store, you may be able to download it and have some free trial samples, but subscriptions will be still be through the web and to actually participate in the training program and access the leader boards and things like that you’ll want to access the online portal.
Eventually I do want the website to be a place where players have tons of resources. That will always be the hub. We’ll house tutorials and training ideas and that’s how and where you subscribe and ultimately be able to set goals and view the trends in their performance and things like that.
I’m not a business person by trade, but the decisions we’ve made so far are largely based on how technology functions. One thing I learned in the process of trying to offer something that would be cool and valuable for players is that building technology is a really slow and complicated and expensive process.
For example, there are so many things like utility bills that can quickly get out of control if you don’t keep them in check. Fortunately, I was able to use websites like Utility Bidder to help me find energy suppliers who offer competitive rates for businesses like mine so I was able to save some money. It is no secret that the technology we use requires electricity to keep it running, so it was imperative that I did my research into some of the different power suppliers first.
My long-term vision is to create something where it feels like your personal coach is out there on the field next to you, and that’s essentially what we’ve created, but in order to get something out there and get a first version that worked, I had to pare it down to a pretty basic version of the technology that I think that eventually we can build.
Technology-wise, its new and it will be scaled up over time. There are tons of features currently there that I use to interact with my subscribers. There are tons of features people have suggested as well that are in queue. I have a lot to add in terms of functionality and really awesome ways players can be interactive with their training.
In addition to that, I’ve spent upwards of thousands of hours listing/filming/editing the actual training content. I have this massive drill library that will continue to grow over time. Things that will be offered for players in terms of flexibility with respect to how they can use the training and the ideas that are offered through app itself will continue to grow as well. It’s a two-fold up: the technology and the training content. I launched in October and there hasn’t been one day since that I haven’t spent hours trying to make all those things better and more exciting.
Dike Anyiwo: Can you tell me about the feedback you’ve gotten since launching?
Yael Averbuch: It has been really interesting. One, I feel really thankful for the subscribers. We originally opened it to only 50 people and I’ll always be indebted to those early users who believed in this since day 1 before this was even a thing. There are people who have been using the app since we launched and on the leader board we can see there are people who have put in over 100 hours of training since October which a lot a lot of work.
When I look at the weekly leader board there are people doing 5-6 hours of training a week using this app and that makes me feel worthwhile. Those are the people I have really been in contact with to get feedback from. Some of them have had games in the area where I’m based and I’ll go watch their games when I’m able to. I feel like I have a long-distance coaching mentorship relationship. Not only am I supplying a resource that they are finding valuable, but I’m also getting feedback.
I ask them often what they’d like to see added one thing people really want is to be able to listen to music while they train so that’s one thing we’re looking to add.
Things like that. People have awesome ideas or they’ll say, ‘I use this other app when I lift weights and it does this – can you do that?’ So I’m just always sharing ideas. That’s why my list is always growing.
Dike Anyiwo: What have you learned about the business of soccer and how do you see this company you’ve now created taking you forward in your post-playing career?
Yael Averbuch: When this idea first came to mind I thought I was going to be working in the soccer world. I’ve very quickly realized what it means to be an entrepreneur and have a start-up business and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned.
Whether its simple functional things like keeping track of a database and sending emails, to creating graphics, to the way technology works and talking to developers for hours and hours. Accounting – I can’t even begins to list everything. Creating the actual session is maybe 5% of the work. I have gained such an appreciation for business and entrepreneurship. The reason I started this is because I wanted to supplement my income as a player and start to work on something – when we train we have a couple hours and then a lot of downtime that I can be by the computer.
This will be the business I devote myself to when I’m done playing. I’m already devoted! (laughs)
What it means to be a business person. How to eventually find employees and I’ve got my first couple employees and it’s really important to me to continue to support female players. The list goes on. My goal is to give work to as many female athletes as I possibly can. So as I move forward there will certainly be more to learn. Talking to other people who are helping and defining the company. It’s been a wonderful leadership and business experience for me so far.
Dike Anyiwo: You mention wanting to supplement your income and also wanting to provide outlets for other female players. Can you talk about why it’s so important for NWSL players to think this way? People who have followed the league recognize how much its grown, but there is still a long way to go before players can rely on their salaries alone.
Yael Averbuch: It will be a while before people don’t feel the need to supplement in some way. I think it’s so important for players to continue building their individual brands and to do camps and clinics and start businesses. The league is going to rely on that. Recognize that it’s not that we don’t want to make improvement. I think every facet of the league, from the front office to the coaches the owners and the players obviously think our salaries should be bigger. It just takes time. The minimum salary was raised significantly this year I think its more than double now. That’s a huge step. The Lifetime deal and our games being on TV and Lifetime supporting the league was a huge step. There are steps being taken but realistically its a slow process so I thinks it’s so important that we as players feel empowered to supplement our incomes and to build things on the side for ourselves to make this career sustainable.
We’re in a really interesting time in women’s soccer. Never before has a league lasted as long as NWSL has, which is phenomenal. but also never before were any of those other leagues as scaled down which is why they didn’t last. We’re in an interesting period where now we’re in a place where people haven’t been making money for a long time, and it’s getting into year four, five, six now so I think that we as players recognize that if we’re not on the national team it takes an aspect of grittiness and creativity to continue to do what we love. I have so much respect for the non-national team players who have made this career work year in and year out. Especially in this league because it’s very very tough.
I think there is an understanding and a mutual respect among those players – whenever someone launches a business or starts a camp does anything then everyone is supporting each other in those things. By now we all know each other so it’s a close-knit community of friends, barring when we play, there is that understanding and respect that to be doing this for so long and to be making it work – we’re there for each other.
Dike Anyiwo: With the business experience you’ve gleaned in building this company, what would you say other sorts of maybe non-monetary resources can be leveraged to support players? Where can the league realistically make changes and what things are a little bit more long-term?
Yael Averbuch: Everything I’ve been doing in the league and as a veteran player, it’s all sort of inter-connected. I think the empowerment thing is huge. I’ve empowered myself to start a business and hopefully can employ some fellow professionals but also if not, just showing that it is possible to do this while you’re playing. You don’t need to wait until it’s over.
That gives people a nice buffer. You don’t need to consider retiring if you’re doing what you maybe would be doing if you retired, but you can do it while you’re still playing.
And I think also as a veteran player I’m more comfortable taking a leadership role in terms of offering suggesting creative solutions and thinking creatively about what we can do as players and what we can ask the league for in terms of what is available. Instead of saying ‘we need more money next year’, can we get things like coaching courses that are paid for or discounted so we can continue our education? Can we all attend the NSCAA convention so we can continue to learn and make connections? Things like that, the creative thinking is key. If the resources aren’t there in terms of money, what is there and what can we ask for in terms of solutions?
Can we as players come up with solutions and bring solutions to the league instead of just talking about problems? I think that’s where we can really make progress.
Dike Anyiwo: Lastly, what do you make of the conversation of development in this country?
Yael Averbuch: No matter what players age, I’m not sure if it’s an American thing specifically, but we rely a lot on our environment for development. I think that if you’re somewhere like Barcelona’s youth system that has been in place for a long time and is proven to work then you can rely on that environment.
But in the U.S. there are so many people growing up in all different places, playing high school or not playing high school, switching clubs all these things.
I believe its up to the individual player to take control their own development. Hopefully you can find many wonderful environments to help with the development, but you can’t just go with the flow. You should consciously intentionally choose where you play and take the responsibility to do the work outside of those places to master the basic skills of the game.
That’s a big thing when it comes to development in general. It pertains to professionals as well. Say you’re a young professional and you’re just coming in. Watching the senior players, seeing what the do, asking questions, spending the time before or after training to master a new skill, that’s vital. To feel that ownership over your own development and not just hope that the coach will do it for you.
— Techn? Futbol (@technefutbol) July 31, 2017
To learn more about Techne and Yael Averbuch, visit their website technefutbol.com