SBJ/20100329/This Week's News

‘Techno-geek’ develops tool for coaches, scouts

Mark Swindle, a 42-year-old self-described techno-geek, has built a technology business out of his knowledge of girls volleyball.

Swindle had noticed during a tournament that coaches and scouts spent a lot of time lugging around heavy books containing player profiles and coded, often indecipherable schedules. So seven years ago Swindle, an assistant coach at the Air Force Academy, a club director of a 200-player nonprofit volleyball organization and a coach for a New Mexico juniors team, launched  University Athlete and introduced UA Recruiter, a tool that pulls together all of that information.

He launched his system on Palm Pilot, giving it a trial run with 50 coaches one morning at a Las Vegas tournament. By the end of the day, Palm Pilots were hard to find in Vegas, and coaches were having them overnighted from other parts of the country.

Today, UA Recruiter boasts a database of more than 100,000 girls volleyball athletes ages 12-18. More than 1,500 clients pay $125 to $500 annually for the system, which is used at more than 25 girls volleyball tournaments a year, including all 10 of USA Volleyball’s junior qualifiers.

The Albuquerque company has become his full-time job for eight months a year, and has three full-time programmers and about a half-dozen part-timers. University Athlete has moved from the PDA format and is accessible on BlackBerrys, iPhones, Windows Mobile and, soon, Android.

New this year is an iPhone app that allows coaches to capture video of athletes and upload it to their notes. And what’s next? Swindle plans to enter the basketball market next year.

— Theresa Manahan

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