SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/In Depth

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  • How Little League scores big with sponsors

    To consider what attracts sponsors to Little League, consider that:

    More than 400,000 people attend the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania each summer. Of those, 70 percent are married.

    Little League counts more than 2 million players around the world.

    And what sells like the wholesomeness of kids playing ball?

    Those are among the reasons big league companies such as Gatorade, Hilton, Honda, Kellogg’s and Subway have become sponsors of the best-known brand name in youth sports.

    Young players participate in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Baseball Factory experience at the Little League World Series.
    Photo by: Catalyst
    Companies like the Little League audience and Little League likes the combination of promoting the game while bringing in crucial revenue. Money from sponsorships accounts for 30 percent of the nonprofit’s operating revenue, money that Little League executives say is used to help keep affiliate fees more affordable.

    “We really look at the marketplace in a way that considers the family audience we have and the volunteer base we have,” said Liz DiLullo Brown, vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships for Little League International. “There is a commonality. When we are digging into sponsorships, we look at what themes will support the program? Education, valuable offers to save our families money, or some benefit to the league itself.”

    One thing sponsors and Little League executives share is a desire to make sure alliances extend beyond the World Series. To be sure, that event, televised by ESPN, remains far and away the No. 1 asset of Little League.

    But much of the rest of the year, from sign-ups to the regular season, gives companies many chances to work their way into the minds and wallets of coaches, players, families and fans alike.

    Brown said the scale and the local reach of Little League are enticing for companies. From late winter to fall, teams
    and leagues are fundraising, organizing, practicing, playing games, or all of the above.

    “Our goal here is to help identify opportunities, come up with new ideas to help [the sponsors] reach their audience,” she said. “It’s a unique place in youth sports.”

    Dick’s Sporting Goods became a Little League sponsor six years ago. And while there are obvious ties for a sporting goods retailer and a youth baseball and softball league, taking advantage of those opportunities requires more than just hanging a banner in Williamsport and buying ads on ESPN. (All of the TV ads are sold separately from Little League sponsorships.)

    Dave Natale, Dick’s director of sports and events, said the sponsorship involves a number of local and national pieces.

    For the Little League affiliates, the local league administrators and coaches, the retailer offers team sale programs on uniforms, bats, balls, gloves and other equipment. As the season approaches, Dick’s concentrates more on individual players and equipment.

    Sponsors such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes can activate at events throughout the year, culminating with the high profile Little League World Series.
    Photo by: Little League Baseball
    The retailer has 50 community marketing managers around the country tasked with the responsibility to raise awareness of local stores and getting to know league coaches and organizers. That includes local Little League coaches and administrators. Dick’s stores also play host to Little League registration days.

    Earlier this year, Dick’s and another Little League sponsor, player-development company the Baseball Factory, joined with Little League coaches for an 11-city tour providing free clinics. The two-day sessions in each city were held at local baseball fields and included hitting sessions, skills instruction and drills. About 500 youth attended in each city, Natale said.

    The tour started in California in February and ended in Pittsburgh, Dick’s headquarters city, in May.

    At the World Series, the company started a kids day last year, filling four buses with a total of 200 players and coaches from teams and Little League affiliates within three hours of Williamsport. The idea was to give players who may never reach the World Series a chance to experience the event: watching some of the games, visiting the Little League museum and going to clinics. This year, the program will double to 400 guests.

    Last year, Sun Products, makers of All laundry detergent and Snuggle fabric softener, became a Little League
    sponsor. The laundry theme ties in with the family-friendly audience and, of course, baseball and softball itself.

    Or, as Teresa Bello, the company’s marketing director, put it in ad-copy-ready language, “There is always a need for uniforms to look clean and fresh.” All and Snuggle target families because families tend to have infinite laundry demands.

    Bello said the company targets volunteers and coaches with email blasts promoting the laundry brands starting in March, just as baseball season begins. Little League is also a prominent part of print, digital and TV ads for All and Snuggle. Sun Products has the rights to use the logo on packaging and in store displays.

    The baseball theme dovetails with a recent push for All’s in-wash pre-treaters, brand-speak for a revised formula aimed at removing grass and dirt stains. A Facebook promotion offers moms a chance to win $1,000 for their hometown Little League affiliate by submitting a photo from a game that shows an outstanding play, sportsmanship, character or enthusiasm. Ten Little League affiliates will win $1,000 each.

    At Williamsport’s baseball complex, All and Snuggle are used for the Little League World Series as well as baseball camps held there throughout the summer.

    Of the partnership, Bello said, “We tested the idea [of sponsoring Little League] with consumers and it fit fantastic. It’s a no-brainer.”

    The sponsorship attracted Sun because Little League covers the entire country and beyond. And, Bello added, the organization stands for core values that resonate with families: doing your best, participating and not a win-at-all-costs mentality.

    “You put a quality brand next to Little League and you will get a lift,” said Harlan Stone, co-founder and managing partner at SJX Partners, a Connecticut marketing firm that helps Little League with corporate sales. “We like to remind people of the scale. It’s not just 350,000 people at the Little League World Series in Williamsport. During the season, you can have 10,000 games going on. It’s the sheer scale.”

    The family audience and strong brand affection borne out in a recent study by Sponsorship Research International has given Little League executives confidence to explore other marketing ideas. Little League recently hired Atlanta-based Fermata Partners, a company with deep roots in licensed products. Clothing and novelties with a Little League theme would resonate with families, said Brown, the Little League marketing executive.

    The organization expects to decide on a strategy within the next year or so, she said.

    Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.


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  • MLS steps up its game with youth academies

    When Dan Hunt sees 22-year-old London Woodberry playing this season for FC Dallas, he starts to dream big. Woodberry, a midfielder from McKinney, Texas, started playing for the youth teams of the MLS club when he was 13.

    “I look forward to the day when our roster is made up of at least 50 percent home-grown players,” said Hunt, vice president of FC Dallas’ parent company, the Hunt Sports Group. “It will be coming — and faster than you think.”

    United Healthcare sponsors the New England Revolution’s youth academy.
    Photo by: New England Revolution
    Nurturing local talent has been a priority for MLS since 2006, when the league announced that clubs could retain the professional rights of players developed within their own youth academies. The “homegrown protected list” enables clubs to sign those players directly from their youth programs or after they end their college soccer careers. From that moment on, it benefited MLS franchises to run the best programs in their markets.

    Over the last seven years, MLS has only increased its dedication to youth soccer. The league has mandated that, beginning this year, the soccer academies of all MLS franchises must have under-14, under-16 and under-18 teams competing in the U.S. Soccer development league.

    MLS also has upgraded the quality of coaching at team academies. In a partnership announced in February, the French Football Federation provides MLS academy coaches with a 16-month course in which they can earn Elite Formation Coaching Licenses.

    “For years in the U.S., the sport had been mostly recreational,” said Alfonso Mondelo, director of player programs for MLS. “The goal was for kids here to make it to college and that was it. As our clubs become more sophisticated about the process of taking players as young as 8 or 9 years old and showing them the technical and psychological aspects of the game, there’s no ceiling to how good these players can be.”

    Youth typically are invited to the academies through open tryouts. In some cases with older youth, players are scouted and invited to join. The MLS club typically covers a large portion of the cost to participate.

    Chris Hayden, vice president of FC Dallas Youth, estimates that the MLS club invests $14,000 per player each year for teenagers on its academy clubs. FC Dallas also has teams as young as under-7, with more than 5,000 players in club programs.

    “When we started seven years ago, there weren’t any examples of players that we could cite to kids as role models,”
    FC Dallas signed London Woodberry from its academy program.
    Photo by: Getty Images
    Hayden said. “Now we have London Woodberry and plenty of players coming through our ranks, so we can say, ‘Look, they did it. You can make FC Dallas, too.’”

    The New England Revolution has seen a pair of players, Diego Fagundez and Scott Caldwell, graduate to the MLS club after playing in its youth academies. The Revolution run the only fully funded youth soccer program in New England and pay for all player expenses, uniforms and travel costs for its under-14, under-16 and under-18 academy teams. The academy is sponsored by U.S. Healthcare.

    “We want to lead MLS in minutes played by our own academy players,” said Revolution President Brian Bilello. “There’s always a bit more affection for a player on your roster who’s a hometown guy. Players growing up in New England, they don’t want to move across the country and play for L.A. and the Portland Timbers. They want to play for the Revolution.”

    The Los Angeles Galaxy has four players from its academy on its roster this season: Jack McBean, Oscar Sorto, Jose Villarreal and Gyasi Zardes. Villarreal and Sorto are on the U.S. roster for this year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup. In April, seven Galaxy academy players signed letters of intent to play for Division I soccer programs. There are currently 140 in the Galaxy’s academy and another 1,400 players in its affiliated youth soccer programs.

    “If you look at Barcelona and the rest of the world’s biggest and most successful clubs, they all have their own academies, invest in them heavily and keep most of the top players in their system,” said Galaxy President Chris Klein, a former MLS player. “The area our league was most behind in was player development, but now we’re catching up. In L.A., we have access to an incredible amount of local talent. The potential is unlimited. If we continue to do this right, I believe we can be one of the global leaders in player development.”

    An added benefit of MLS’s blossoming youth soccer initiative is that it not only develops players, but future ticket buyers.

    “When kids wear a certain uniform and dream about playing for the first team, even if they don’t make it, the connection will remain,” Mondelo said. “Maybe their friend makes the MLS team. When they grow up, they can proudly say, ‘Hey, I played against that guy,’ or ‘I was once a part of that team.’ With the academy programs, you definitely win fans for life.”

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  • Observations from SBJ’s writer/coaches

    Our 14U baseball team from Charlotte rolled into the hotel on Thursday evening, an hour after having played our opening game in the Impact national championship. In travel baseball, every tournament is dubbed a global championship, a world series, a national championship or a state championship. The fancier the name, the more teams might enter, even though the name of the event really doesn’t matter at all.

    I coach and manage a team called the Carolina Express, so making out the schedule is one of my responsibilities. Until now, I had not really thought about the combined costs of traveling to a tournament, but it’s an interesting exercise.

    We entered this late-June tournament for the promise of playing quality competition from North Carolina and Virginia at nice facilities in the Raleigh area. The promoter advertised that the University of North Carolina baseball field would be among the facilities in the rotation, along with historic Durham Athletic Park, Louisburg College and some local high schools. Sounded good to me.

    We, like the other 20 teams in the field, paid a $750 entry fee, a pretty hefty price tag but really not that out of line these days. Friends of ours paid $1,500 per team to play in an East Cobb tournament just outside of Atlanta. By the way, it’s not unusual to drive hundreds of miles to these tournaments and then face a team that’s based in the same town you’re from.

    Part of the team’s obligation is to use the tournament-sponsored hotel. In this case, it was a SpringHill Suites.
    Smith knows firsthand how pricey youth sports can become.

    Perfect, Marriott points. Rarely do we get so lucky.

    We played our first game at Louisburg College against a team from Maryland. One of the quirks of this tournament is that the teams must supply the baseballs. It’s standard to put about three new baseballs into play at the start of a game, so you typically take a dozen baseballs to a tournament. A dozen high school-certified baseballs cost about $60.

    On the first pitch, the batter fouled one over the first base dugout, deep into the woods behind a fence. One pearl gone. This became a trend.

    We were rummaging through our baseball bucket for decent balls by the third inning. That’s not how you want to spend your afternoon after paying $750 just to enter. A visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods became part of the postgame plan.

    We also learned that the UNC field would not be part of the rotation because the Tar Heels were playing in the College World Series, which created a staffing situation. That left us playing three of our four games at Louisburg, a 50-minute drive each way from our tournament-recommended hotel.

    In all, we spent $750 on entry fees, $2,600 with the hotel for our 13 families, $120 on baseballs, $2,000 in the area restaurants and hundreds more in gas. Multiply that times 20 teams and you can begin to see the type of money these teams pump into a tournament and the host’s partners.

    That’s the nature of youth baseball these days. Baseball, in many ways, is now mimicking the travel basketball circuit. The number of miles logged each summer has become more important than the won-loss record.

    Michael Smith (msmith@sportsbusinessjournal.com) covers college sports and golf for SportsBusiness Journal.



    By far, most of the adults associated with youth sports are normal, well-adjusted people. But stories of normal, well-adjusted people are not as much fun as the ones of grown-ups behaving badly.

    In the past eight years of coaching my son’s baseball and basketball teams, I’ve seen fans threaten officials, fathers berate their kids and coaches lose their cool.

    At a baseball tournament in Maryland last summer, the father of a 12-year-old boy screamed at me after a game my team won in the last inning. The man was enraged that I made some managerial moves to speed up the game. (Had a time limit taken effect, we would have lost.) The man was so threatening that I worried he might get physical in front of my kids. I didn’t engage and walked with my boys to the outfield while parents from the other team intervened to get the man off the field.

    One of my favorite stories involves a Little League coach in his 20s, who decided to try a bit of gamesmanship by staring me down between innings at a rec league game in Washington, D.C. He was the third-base coach and walked over to our dugout, stood and stared directly at me. It was creepy enough that my heart started racing, wondering if there would be a confrontation in front of the kids. There wasn’t.

    Another of my favorite stories occurred this past spring during Washington, D.C.’s Catholic Youth Organization
    Ourand stresses winning the right way.
    baseball season. A gray-haired coach from a rival team that I had never met before refused to speak to me. When I asked him a question or notified him of a lineup change, he wordlessly would point to one of his assistants, who would come and deal with it. I’m still not sure if it was gamesmanship or a social tic, but I clearly wouldn’t want my son to learn some of life’s lessons from that type of coach.

    There’s a push nowadays to moderate fan and coach behavior during youth sports games. That’s obviously a good thing. While these types of stories are the exception, they shape how people view youth sports.

    In fact, they shaped how I viewed youth sports before my son started playing. These types of stories are exactly why I became so involved in my son’s teams. I wanted to shelter him as best I could from the types of coaches and fathers who were prone to lose their cool.

    I think involvement in team sports is an important part of growing up. It helps kids figure out how to be successful in a team environment.

    As coach, I stressed sportsmanship and fun above everything else. Everybody played on my teams, and everyone sat. But I coached to win. (Or, as I told parents, I would put their kids in positions to be successful.)

    This year, some of the boys on the eighth-grade CYO basketball team I coached noted that I’ve never received a technical foul or even argued with officials. They begged me to run out on the court and argue a call, any call.
    I didn’t, and that team made it to the finals of the postseason tournament. I hope the lesson the boys took away from the season is that you don’t have to yell, scream or behave badly in order to win.

    John Ourand (jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com) covers the media industry for SportsBusiness Journal.


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  • Sports properties target childhood obesity

    Let’s Move. Play 60. NBA Fit. From the first lady to the best-known sports leagues and beyond, everyone wants to get children off the couch and, well, moving.

    Childhood obesity and sedentary habits have become epidemics in the United States. During the past 30 years, childhood obesity has tripled to 18 percent, said Michael Gray, an exercise expert and longtime executive board member at the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

    Children play during an NBA/WNBA Fit court dedication in May at a Boys and Girls Club in Washington, D.C.
    Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images
    Gray, after decades of trying to reverse the trends of poor nutrition and lack of exercise, sees the campaigns by high-profile leagues, teams, athletes and equipment companies as a mixed blessing.

    “I like them because at least they’re showing people the need for activity,” Gray said. “But when you look at the statistics, kids are getting fatter. I think it comes down to mom and dad.”

    The NFL started Play 60 in 2007 with the mission of getting children to play an hour each day. Peter O’Reilly, NFL vice president of fan strategy and marketing, said the original goal was to reverse childhood obesity by 2015.

    “That is the next checkpoint,” O’Reilly said, referring to a partnership with The Cooper Institute, a preventive care research and education nonprofit. NFL Foundation grants totaling $4 million are paying for programs and studies in schools to figure out what works best when it comes to making children healthier.

    Greg Welk, an Iowa State exercise and public health professor, is working with the NFL and Play 60. He also leads
    FitnessGram, a Cooper Institute program used in schools to assess children’s physical health.

    “We’re not focused on obesity and weight loss,” Welk said. “The real epidemic in our society is inactivity. The key point is to be fit.”

    Experts and sports executives working on the obesity and physical fitness programs say they are monitoring and measuring trends, but they are also pragmatic.

    Reversing societal problems with a single awareness campaign is unrealistic. Instead, the focus is on incremental gains and long-term focus.

    “There is no number target,” said Anna Isaacson, NFL director of community programs. “We’re taking all the data to make sure things are moving in the right direction.”

    Those involved in sports-themed health and fitness campaigns say smaller steps in the right direction can help make a dent in what has become an overwhelming problem.

    “From our perspective, there is no one way to attack this problem,” said Drew Nannis, chief marketing officer at Washington nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America. “You double-down. It’s as simple as that. The epidemic does continue.”

    Nannis sees some cause for optimism. According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report released last year, Mississippi, the unhealthiest state in the nation, lowered the percentage of overweight or obese children to 37.3 percent in 2011, compared with 43 percent in 2007. Other slight decreases were found in California and in cities including New York and Philadelphia.

    Partnership for a Healthier America counts Nike, Reebok, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Tennis Association among its sports partnerships.

    Play 60 and other campaigns tend to follow a similar formula. Spread the word through public-service ads shown during game broadcasts and other high-profile events. Create local grassroots spin-offs with individual teams and players. Call on league and team sponsors to join the effort, often in partnership with schools and other groups. Help build playgrounds, fields, courts and other places where children can play and exercise in a safe environment.

    The NFL and its teams have built 150 playgrounds, fitness trails and refurbished gyms since 2007. Like other sports-driven programs, Play 60 has worked with first lady Michelle Obama to combine exercise, nutrition and the combined star power of her with top players. In 2010, Obama appeared in New Orleans with Saints quarterback Drew Brees to start the season. A Play 60 ad was filmed on the White House lawn with President Barack Obama.
    Under Armour and the National Dairy Council also have worked with the league on the campaign.

    “Getting the right partners is the way to go,” said Todd Jacobson, NBA senior vice president of social responsibility.

    NBA/WNBA Fit was developed with the American College of Sports Medicine and the Nemours Foundation’s KidsHealth.org. It encourages fitness and healthy lifestyles for children and families through programs and events across the country. Current and retired players, coaches and trainers also promote the Fit program, which is showcased during a Live Healthy Week including NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League teams.

    The first lady also has worked with the NBA, including invitations to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
    Partners on the NBA fitness drive include YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers and Boys & Girls Clubs. Jacobson says a leaguewide playground-building campaign is among many examples of trying to make sports and play more inclusive.

    Partnership for a Healthier America uses written commitments by partners to target clearly defined goals. The USTA, for example, has promised to invest $1 million in 3,200 new tennis courts, train 12,000 coaches and volunteers to teach the game to children 10 and younger, and donate $150,000 worth of equipment to schools and recreation centers.

    In 2012, the USOC, the Paralympics and national governing bodies including USA Gymnastics used the attention of an Olympic year to encourage beginner-level participation in various sports. The groups targeted a combined 1 million children to participate. They met the goal and then some, attracting 2.2 million children to give sports a try.

    “It’s the first time we’ve done something on this scale,” said Desiree Filippone, USOC managing director of government relations. Governing bodies came up with their own programs, from track-and-field in-a-box, a kit taken to schools to demonstrate track skills and sports, to Gymnastics Day, where children can be flipped upside down to get a taste of the acrobatics of the sport.

    Even if such campaigns involve a fair amount of friendly media glow and self-interest, experts say the message and the spotlight can still help raise awareness. And, perhaps, encourage better habits.

    “I’m sure a lot of it’s for [public relations], a good image,” said Gray, the youth sports alliance board member. “I think [the leagues and players] are doing a lot. It’s out there all the time.”

    Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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  • Youth sports apps put to the test

    Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

    The apps being reviewed are just a sample of the many available for use by coaches, players and parents of young athletes. The apps were reviewed on an iPhone and iPad. They do not include ads unless noted in the review.

    — Compiled by Amie Sheridan

    Instructional apps

    COACH’S EYE

    Price: $4.99
    Average user rating: 4.5 stars
    Our rating: 5 stars
    Developer: TechSmith
    Who it’s for: Coaches, parents, athletes
    What it does: Coach’s Eye is a video analysis tool that allows users to capture clips and review them in controlled slow motion. Once a video is uploaded, graphic call-outs and audio can be added. Analyzed videos are sharable via Facebook, Twitter, SMS, YouTube and email. Staff picks and a leaderboard demonstrate the versatility of this app, featuring analysis from golf to jiujitsu.
    Notable features: Users can choose from three camera settings: SD, HD and HD+. A side-by-side comparison feature allows simultaneous review and analysis of two videos.
    Added value: If GPS tracking is enabled, users can view video analysis from local area members. You can analyze someone else’s public video by downloading it into your videos. After you analyze it, you can share the video in a variety of ways. You can also open it in other apps that have video capability.
    Biggest problem: While this app renders well on smaller devices, the experience may be better suited for a larger screen, such as a tablet.
    Available on: iOS, Android
    Bottom line: Anyone can upload, analyze and share instructional video like a professional with this app. The side-by-side comparison technology and editing tools are impressive. For athletic instructors, Coach’s Eye is an excellent value proposition.

    PITCH LAB

    Price: $4.99
    Average user rating: 4.5 stars
    Our rating: 5 stars
    Developer: Ryan Olson
    Who it’s for: Coaches, parents, athletes
    What it does: PitchLab provides the tools needed to analyze and improve pitching performance by collecting statistics such as average pitches per batter and strikes by pitch type. By tapping the screen, users can record pitch count, location, strikes, balls and hits over the course of a game. Data can be analyzed and emailed or downloaded as a PDF.
    Notable features: The analysis tool includes seven filters that allow coaches to narrow down pitches for review. Filters include count, pitch type, inning and right/left batter.
    Added value: Users can track pitch velocity by entering pitching distance and holding down a button while the pitch is in the air.
    Biggest problem: Accuracy of pitch location and velocity is questionable, as these functions depend on user entry.
    Available for: iOS
    Bottom line: PitchLab provides a convenient way to capture pitching data for future analysis. Filters and tools such as the velocity tracker give users a closer look at their pitching performance while creating a downloadable data record. Simple and user-friendly, this app is a solid investment for coaches at $4.99.



    Video highlights apps

    BURST

    Price: Free
    Average user rating: 4.5 stars
    Our rating: 4 stars
    Developer: Burst.it
    Who it’s for: Athletes, parents, coaches
    What it does: Burst provides a platform for private sharing of video clips. Media can be uploaded from a mobile device or captured directly within the app. Clips are grouped into “bubbles” that can be sent in “bursts” to invited group members. All media lives in the cloud, and each bubble has an expiration date.
    Notable features: Users can add special effects to their video clips by tapping the screen. Slow motion, spotlight and zoom are particularly relevant for athletic highlights. Burst also offers sharable compilations called “burst digests” and “year-in-review bubbles.”
    Added value: Video can be instantly uploaded and embedded on team or private websites and then monetized.
    Biggest problem: Users cannot log in with Twitter.
    Available on: iOS, Android
    Bottom line: Burst provides a simple, effective solution to uploading and sharing video on the Web and mobile. Savvy users can create athletic highlight reels and share with recruiters, family and fans without leaving the application’s user-friendly environment. Those who have the means to monetize can get great value from this app.

    HUDL

    Price: Free, but membership fees for Hudl.com start at $99/year for youth teams.
    Average user rating: 4 stars
    Our rating: 4 stars
    Developer: Agile Sports Technologies
    Who it’s for: Coaches, athletes
    What it does: The Hudl app creates a members-only platform for athletes to view game video that their coaches have posted to Hudl.com. Rather than waiting for the team meeting, players can view video on their mobile devices instantly upon upload.
    Notable features: A library hosts clips by game that can be searched using filters including defense type, possession end, and period.
    Added value: Professional grade highlight reels can be created using the Web-based tool and viewed within the app.
    Biggest problem: Hudl users can conveniently view game video, but they cannot comment or discuss with their teammates within the app. This is a missed opportunity.
    Available for: iOS, Android
    Bottom line: Hudl is a Web-based athletic video editing and distribution service that smartly brings its offering to mobile, making the sharing of game video seamless. While the service is costly, teams can benefit by saving time and money on more efficient processes. This app makes sense, but leaves something to be desired with the absence of a commenting engine.

    VIDDY

    Price: Free
    Average user rating: 4.5 stars
    Our rating: 3 stars
    Developer: Viddy Inc.
    Who it’s for: Athletes, fans
    What it does: Viddy is a social media-focused platform for video creation and sharing. Users can log in with Facebook, Twitter or email and see short clips from members in their network. Instagram-like special effects can be added to clips for sharing on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Tumblr. Private sharing via email is also available.
    Notable features: A friends-only feed is available for a more personal experience.
    Added value: Individual profiles can be promoted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email or SMS at no cost.
    Biggest problem: The home screen pulls in some arguably unwanted feeds and there does not seem to be a way to avoid them.
    Available on: iOS, Android
    Bottom line: Viddy seems to touch on all of social media’s favorites. For athletes, there is a talent section where members can showcase their skills. While the features are all there, this app is less about sharing serious content with coaches and more about building a following with friends and fans. With the right audience and a little less social noise, this app could work for youth sports.



    Recruiting apps

    MAXMOBILE2

    Price: Free, ad supported
    Average user rating: 2.5 stars
    Our rating: 3 stars
    Developer: MaxPreps Inc.
    Who it’s for: High school athletes, coaches, parents, fans, college recruiters
    What it offers: Sports team information for more than 22,000 high schools nationwide; schedules, rankings and statistics for boys and girls varsity, JV and freshman teams. Football, basketball and baseball are the predominant sports offered, but it also includes golf, lacrosse, soccer, wrestling, field hockey, softball and volleyball.
    Notable features: Registered users can report scores and upload media within the app. A live scoring service, Qwixcore, offers real-time game updates for top 25 ranked football and basketball teams. The app even includes a searchable game database with an interactive map.
    Added value: A reasonably priced selection of merchandise for every high school is offered for purchase within the app.
    Biggest problem: Navigation is confusing and clunky.
    Available on: iOS
    Bottom line: This is an info-packed high school sports app with smart features that are unfortunately lost in a poorly designed navigation. It feels more like a glorified mobile website than an app. The ability to upload media is nice, but the footage can only be viewed on the MaxPreps.com website. Functionality aside, subtly placed advertising, which doesn’t disrupt the user experience, is a strength, making this a convenient app that’s worth keeping.

    NCSA SPORTS

    Price: Free
    Average user rating: 2.5 stars
    Our rating: 2 stars
    Developer: National Collegiate Scouting Association
    Who it’s for: High school athletes, coaches and parents
    What it does: NCSA gives college sports hopefuls information on more than 42,000 coaches at 1,700 schools nationwide. Sports offered are: baseball, football, basketball, field hockey, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track, volleyball, water polo and wrestling. By creating a basic profile, athletes can search for schools by state, find information on specific programs and fill out a survey to determine their recruiting score. NCSA includes schools from all athletic associations.
    Notable features: A coach request section delivers sport-specific team information, and, in some cases, includes a message from the coaching staff describing their ideal recruit.
    Biggest problem: The coach request section is disorganized and inconsistent. Some school listings are complete, and some contain little to no information.
    Available on: iOS
    Bottom line: NCSA underdelivers with this app, excluding features that would have made the experience more compelling and maybe even worth paying for. The recruiting score is based on six objective questions rather than individual athlete stats, and schools are searchable by state only. The creators should have spent more time streamlining the school listings and less time promoting their recruiting services.



    Tracking apps

    iSCORE BASEBALL

    Price: $9.99
    Average user rating: 4.5 stars
    Our rating: 5 stars
    Developer: Faster Than Monkeys
    Who it’s for: Coaches, league managers, parents and fans
    What it does: This app allows users to record pitch-by-pitch data and more than 350 statistics for any youth, high school, minor or major league baseball game. Scorecards, batting spray charts, team and player statistics can be emailed and printed from within the app.
    Notable features: At no extra cost, users get iScorecast, a Web-based simulation of live play-by-play that can be shared with those not at the game. Data updates within 10 seconds of entry. For the major league stats junkie, seasonal roster packages can be purchased for $19.99.
    Added value: For $19.99 per year, iScore provides users with a fully functioning website containing team, player and game data. Options for embedding or raw XML are available for teams that already have a website.
    Biggest problem: Because of the range of features, this app may require a tutorial.
    Available on: iOS, Android
    Bottom line: iScore Baseball is as impressive as it sounds. The bells and whistles in this app will far exceed the expectations of most users. iScore is also available for football, basketball and soccer.

    GAMECHANGER

    Price: Free
    Average user rating: 4.5 stars
    Our rating: 4.5 stars
    Developer: GameChanger Media
    Who it’s for: Coaches, league managers, parents and fans
    What it does: GameChanger is a game-scoring tool for any level of baseball, softball or basketball. Users can create teams, rosters and schedules and record more than 150 statistics. A digital scorecard mimics the traditional scorecards used during live action.
    Notable features: For basketball, heat maps show the areas from which shots are made or missed. Game data can be shared instantly via email, Facebook or Twitter, directing recipients to a Web-based game recap containing up-to-date scores and statistics.
    Added value: For $7.99 per month, or $39.99 per year, users can upgrade to GameChanger Premium to get live game streams, in-game alerts, season stats and more.
    Biggest problem: Scorecards cannot be emailed or printed from within the app.
    Available for: iOS, Android
    Bottom line: GameChanger is a simple, user-friendly scoring tool equipped with ample functionality for the average coach or fan. Not only is it free, it offers three sports in a single download. Ideal for sharing real time updates with the at-home fan, this is a nice app to have on game days.

    Amie Sheridan is a writer in Philadelphia.

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