SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/In Depth

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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