The Value of Technology for Youth Soccer - Soccer Parenting Association
technology in youth soccer

The Value of Technology for Youth Soccer

I'll go ahead and say it, I have my hesitations when it comes to all the "products" available in youth soccer these days. Do we need more technology for Youth Soccer such as teaching gadgets, skills training devices, or coaching systems? Most of the time, the answer is no.  

While I certainly went into this conversation with Michael and Tom from Beyond Pulse with a very open mind (they are great people, with an amazingly strong background in the game, who have been consistent supporters of the Soccer Parenting mission since I met them last year at the United Soccer Coaches Convention)....I brought my "product" hesitations along with me.

What I found during this conversation is that Beyond Pulse technology has far reaching, positive and significant influence for clubs, coaches, parents and, of course, players.

Our conversation covered the value of technology, coach accountability, using data to motivate and teach, parent engagement, motivation and much more.

You'll find a quick bio of Michael Sup, Co-Founder of Beyond Pulse and Tom Shields, Global Director of Club Development and Coach Education at Beyond Pulse at the beginning of the video, audio download or transcript. Enjoy!

Join the parent education and engagement platform brought to you by the Soccer Parenting Association

Transcript

Skye:
Welcome to the Soccer Parenting. I am thrilled to be joined here today by the Beyond Pulse gang, Tom and Michael, just to talk a little bit about Beyond Pulse, and the technology that they're bringing to the table. But larger than that, I'm really interested to dive in with them, just about technology and youth sports in general. As we have grown the game, some might say we've professionalized the game, the good and the bad of that, I want to dive into the technology that's available to see what the good resources are that are out there, when it makes sense to use technology. I'm really looking forward to this conversation. Tom, Michael, thank you for being here.

Michael/Tom:
Thank you Skye.

Skye:
Just want to take a second and introduce yourselves, and Michael - does everybody call you Suppy, not Michael, or is that okay?

Michael:
Yeah, that was my nickname playing soccer a few years ago, and it seems to have just stuck. In fact, a lot of people don't know my first name is just Suppy.

Skye:
I run into that a lot. Well, why don't you take a second and tell people maybe just a little bit about you and your background in the game, and how you came to Beyond Pulse and then Tom, why don't you take a stab at it?

Michael:
Okay, thank you Skye. Very quickly, I guess, I was a failed soccer player around 17-18. I figured I wasn't going to make much out of the game, but was really interested in coaching and loved working with kids, I think more than anything else. I just started coaching at a young age, took that into my studies at University in England, and then came to graduate school out here in the US. I did my masters recently, finished up my PhD in education. And it was around the time I was starting my PhD, when I met one of the other co-founders of Beyond Pulse, Marc-André Maillet, and that was really where the idea of Beyond Pulse formed, and yeah, I guess we can get more into the details of that later.

Skye:
Excellent. All right Tom you're up.  

Tom:
Similar to Michael, obviously born and raised in the UK in England, moved over to the US after finishing my undergrad and postgraduate studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, so what was the UK Center for Coaching Excellence, taught as I guess an adjunct professor there for three semesters while finishing my graduate degree back on the sports coaching program that I was a student of previously, and then since moving to the US, obviously have been full time in the youth soccer space ever since so, a plethora of different roles as a director of coaching, Division One college coach, Id2 national staff coach, and obviously now, layering into the educational piece with Michael and the rest of the Beyond Pulse guys, so yeah, in a snapshot that's where we are.

Skye:
Great. I think it's really fascinating that you have this education background and then the coaching background, and I think layering the education, research and knowledge that you all have into this technology has the potential to make it really, really effective. I would imagine you would agree. Can you all dive in and just let us know like the quick elevator pitch about Beyond Pulse, just for those people that aren't aware of the technology, or even what it is and then we'll dive in a little bit deeper to just technology in general.

Michael:
Yeah, totally. Beyond Pulse was born out of an idea of wanting to simplify the wearable technology process in a way that made it accessible, understandable and affordable ultimately for the youth sports environment. And the goal isn't really to focus on individual player performances at the youth level, but to bring a greater awareness to what we're doing at the youth level in sports with some very simple objective data and to ultimately promote best practices in coaching education and youth development is the goal.

Skye:
Great. I love that you're talking "simple". I love that you are talking "best practices". I think those are all key takeaways, but let's kind of dive back and start big picture just about technology in general. What do you think is important for coaches and finding the balance between utilizing technology and getting distracted with it?  Whether that be a wearable, like you're talking about or whether that be just diving into game video, and those types of things. Where do you find that balance?

Michael:
I mean, I think you nailed it with the word balance. It's the humanistic side to coaching, and to sports and to teaching in general will and should always be front and center of the goal in youth sports. And I think what we're seeing now, in youth sports in particular, and of course, this is also parallel to what you're seeing in public education, is an increase in how we're using digital technology to engage kids given the time that we live in, but also to bring a new perspective to teach and coaching in general. And with that, we're very much I think still on the cusp of what technology can can really do, especially as it relates to learning. So with that, you're going to get a lot of things. Yeah, that's kind of cool, but is it really relative?  Versus yeah, that's really insightful, we would never have seen that with our own eyes.  So I think we're wrestling with it right now.

We're in a time where we're wrestling with how do we best utilize technology without going too far in one direction and striking that balance ultimately with, again, the humanistic side, the social side to teaching and learning.

Skye:
It's funny, I hadn't really thought a lot about it, you and I have all talked offline. And I have my issues sometimes with like just the cost and adding these layers, and the infrastructure, and what we're doing to use sports when we start adding technology or other products that are out there. But I had never, in all of these conversations thought about this from the point of view of the player, which is my own fault. Thinking about how the player right now, like kids these days, that 13, 14, 15 year olds and how they learn, the way they learn, the way they process things, and how actually effective this really could be in a way that I couldn't necessarily relate to as a player myself.

What are some things that coaches need to think about in terms of when this is most effective, or what are you seeing with the level, and the ages of players?

Tom:
I'm using the technology in my everyday space. Ultimately, I think you touched on the subject earlier Skye that there's a fear factor of over professionalization of the youngest players. And for us, the youngest that we have in the system is U10. And that's more, as we'll touch upon in a little bit, it's more to manage the coaching performance and less to manage the players. So obviously, we've got a whole team of sports scientists and academics behind us who learn a lot of the research and applied work, and obviously from simply a wearable technology and heart rate perspective, that data is going to be impactful kind of once they enter out of PHV and 14, 15 plus.

But from a coaching perspective, the insight that it can afford us with all of the groups in terms of how much time on task we're witnessing, the frequency and duration of interventions, how long is the coaching stoppage, how are my progressions from the start of a session to the end of the session? Who is involved, who isn't involved? All of that data is and can be so alarmingly impactful and eye opening from the very early stages, that I don't really think there's a there's a right and a wrong, obviously it's the older groups we're going to dig more into the physiological piece and link it to physical periodization blended with rest and recovery work, and how we're set and we're structuring sessions to maximize our contact time and to eliminate risk of injury in some occasions at high school, and junior sophomore or senior level, there's a portion of the platform where we can get an athletic profile of the players. So, there's a layer of supporting potential collegiate recruitment because it gains a snapshot of objective data about what the player is capable of performing.

So, I think it's the word that you referenced earlier, the balance piece, I think it's finding the right time point for what you're looking to get out of it, knowing that we can dig really deep and go complex, or we can keep it just simple and how much of a 90 minute session was a player engaged and active on the ball? I think the beauty of it, is that there's something for everybody across the age ranges.

Skye:
You said that Beyond Pulse poses a wearable technology where you're just trying to make it accessible for the youth. Tell us how it works, and how the data is processed, how the coach receives information, how the players, parents, maybe even club directors receive information.

Michael:
Yes, we spend a lot of time, energy and effort on again simplifying that whole process. The typical way in which technology is being used is, you have these sort of fairly big cumbersome pieces of kit, they have to be brought to a field, I don't know if you've seen them in a suitcase, they get set up, and there's this image of a guy on the field with a laptop monitoring it live, and then it takes several hours to then upload that data. So, we removed all of that in the sense that the players simply have a belt. It's theirs, our model is that the belt belongs to the player, so they bring it with them just like they bring the rest of their uniform, their kit to practice. They put their belt on before the session, the coach then just has an app on their phone. It takes 10 seconds to connect with the belts at the beginning, and at that point the phone goes away because we don't want coaches on their phones during the session, and the belts are just recording.

Everything, every step that plays take, every heartbeat, it's just recording. And then at the end of the practice, the coach opens up the phone again, they hit a stop button, and in about 30 seconds, it just sinks the data from the belts, immediately uploads it to a Cloud, which is where the information is unfiltered for our databases, and all that sort of thing. But ultimately, what it means is, a minute later, you get an email, coach gets an email with everybody's data, the average of the team, and every player's data, and then the players also get an email themselves with just their own data.

That Cloud is really the most interaction, that users give right now, is just checking email at the end of the session. It gets some instant feedback right at the end of the session, but then we do have a platform, a website that they can then log into, whether it's a DOC, to see every single teams data within the club, a coach that can see their team or teams. And then a player has a dashboard that they can log into, where they can see all of that training history over time, whenever they've worn the belt, whether that's been with the team, or they have the ability to use the belts on their own.

They also have the player app, where if they're doing their own workouts, if they're playing on a different team, as in high school, whether it's during the off-season, and they're not playing and they're doing stuff, so they can also record their own sessions. And the cool thing is that the coaches can see when they've done their own session as well. There's a platform that connects everything, but ultimately, it's two presses of a button on an app. It takes less than a minute to grab it from a practice.

Skye:
And is the only measurable that you have heart rate. Tell us what you're measuring, is it any GPS technology as well, or is it, just give us some understanding on what the measurables are?

Michael:
Totally, yeah. We use an accelerometer, and our main metric is active participation. Tom, touched on it earlier. Active participation basically shows how much time in a session was the team actually moving, versus being stood still. And originally, we did call that metric standing time, because we wanted to highlight exactly how much time players were stood still in a session, but we felt that was a bit too negative. So, rather than trying to decrease spending time, we wanted to spin it and try and increase active participation.

We based it upon the research, Tom mentioned, time on task. I know in England we call it "ball rolling time". The French call it "effective time", but it's all connected to the same idea, how much time it is actually moving. That's our number one metric, that we feel is the biggest way in which we can have the most impact on youth sports in general. And again, not necessarily at the elite level, because we know that that is one of the biggest issues in youth sports, and it's intimately connected to the research out there around a lack of fun for kids. Kids enjoy it more if they move more. It's that simple. Not only that, they actually learn better when they move more. It's also, those connections are real.

We really wanted to turn everything back to this active participation metric. But additionally, it's a heart rate monitor, so we track their heart rate. We also show their distance, pretty standard, we also total what distance that they ran, and then high speed running. Of that distance, how much of it did they spend running at high speed? And what's important to know about high speed is, we're not showing who's the fastest player, who's the slowest player. What we show is the highest speed is relative to me as an individual. So, it takes my high speed, and it shows me how much time I spend running at what's relative high speed for me.

So really what we're doing, is we're highlighting effort, and not who's the quickest and who's the slowest. Which is really important again, as it relates to the youth. I might not be the quickest player on the team, but if I'm really pushing myself, I'm going to get a pretty good running score, versus I could be really fast, but if I'm kind of lazy, and I'm not really doing it, my high speed running is going to be a little bit lower. Those are the metrics that we have right now.

Skye:

A lot of these metrics are based on the idea, and maybe if you all can not get too specific, if you don't want to dive that deep, but into just the research about activity, like because not every practice has to be high speed moving, moving from place to place. I know that's more fun and enjoyable, and I always enjoyed those practices too. But that's not necessarily or are you saying that that should be the reality of every practice?

Michael:
No, I think on a base level, because there's a number of studies I have shown that inactivity is a real issue in new sports across the board, simply because as coaches, we have no idea how much time we're talking for, how long we're stopping, we're making these stoppages for - everything that Tom spoke about and he sees as well. Initially it starts there. If we can just raise that awareness around activity time, but for sure you nailed it, for those teams that are playing 4, 5, 6 times a week, especially if they're playing High School soccer, and we know how crazy the high school season is. We don't want them crushing it in terms of high metrics every session.

That's when we want to use the platform to say, "Hey look, if they've just played a game, the next day, if you're getting them train the next day, we want it to be a lighter practice." And here's the metrics you can use to make sure that we're doing that.

Tom:
Can I interject that Michael? And on that note Skkye, when we've got education at the foundation of what we do, that idea is designed to help Directors of Coaching and Technical Leads support, and that staff. So, that ultimately the health, and well being of the players is protected. And ultimately, we referenced through out the time, how do you know? If it's just subjective insight, you don't. It's just guesswork, and a number of people have been around the game for long enough where their intuition is probably quite accurate. But obviously, to reference a number more of more studies the accuracy of recall across the board is not 90%, it's not 80%. Many of us are a significantly lower than that metric, or that number, sorry.

So, the metrics allow us, and the tools allows us to say, "Hey, Michael is my coach, and he's got a recovery session game day plus one, game day plus two." And what I don't want to see returned is a session that has got players that have spent 45 minutes in what we classes the red zone, where they're above 80% of their maximum heart rate, and they're covering 10,000 meters, and as opposed to, hey - directors, can you support your staff, and coaches can you accurately plan to make sure that your web to rest ratios are more appropriately balanced? That your space and area that you're operating in, we don't have to reduce the intensity, but we can manage the practice size, we can manage the practice numbers, we can manage the duration, and with appropriate preparation and conversation and dialects between staff members? We're going to be more likely to afford them a positive and safe experience that supports their ability to maximize performance later down the line, than it is if we just assume that what we're doing is accurate or appropriate.

Skye:
Yeah. I've interviewed John Cone a number of times for Soccer Parenting, he's been a great supporter of this work. And obviously, John focuses a lot on periodization. And I think the key thing that you were mentioning was something that I thought about, as I talked to you historically, and brought it into my personal coaching, even though I wasn't even using your technology, was what I thought to be true versus what really was true on my time for interventions with the kids. I mean, I really, really, once I put some real thought to it, I noticed immediately that one, the kids were having more fun, were more active, it was more enjoyable session for me and for them.

And just putting the thought to that, I imagined that your technology could be a tool for coaches with that, but are you seeing that with coaches that they're like that's resonating with them, and that they're bringing that into their sessions?

Tom:
Yeah. So, I think the biggest impact that we've seen, kind of collectively, whether it's at the collegiate, the high school, the youth level, across all the kind of the users that we get to interact with, is exactly that kind of self awareness of what I'm doing, when I'm doing it, how I'm doing it, and ultimately why I'm doing it. And it's been really both exciting and refreshing to see coaches kind of take pride in their ability to sometimes give the game back to the players a little bit, to also hide in the degree of preparation relative to how they're structuring sessions. So that obviously yes, they still play a large role. We're not suggesting that simply the game is going to teach, but the skill of good coaches is to manipulate a learning environment that through games can afford learning moments.

Personally, I've had my staff come back and be absolutely delighted when they get a score of 80% or more with active participation. And you see in this kind of inate level of competitiveness with themselves, and then a little bit across the staff of, "Oh, well, this was your score. This was my score. What did you do differently to me, how long did you play for, how many times did you step in? When you stepped in could you have staggered your coaching points, could you have layered information?"

So, it's been really nice to ultimately understand that from a DOC perspective, I'll make no apologies about wanting to increase the level of accountability to which our professional staff operate. But in the same token, it's been great to see that they are rising to the challenge of wanting to try to reflect on action to be better, because ultimately, that's what we're asking the players to do.

For us, from a cultural perspective, the biggest thing has been staff across the country, embracing the same ideology that they espouse to their players in terms of look, find ways to continue to be better tomorrow than you are today. Be brave enough to receive and embrace objective feedback that's designed to help you improve. And it's been fascinating. It's been, I think what we get the most enjoyment out of is hearing those stories about coaches trying to intentionally offer more opportunities for play and commit to getting better for the betterment of their players, their team, their club and the game in general.

Skye:
I was wondering what problems you were trying to solve by the creation of this technology as I was putting my thoughts together for this, and obviously we've talked about player safety, just in terms of like periodization, overuse and those types of things. We've also talked about player health, like being more active, participating more...was, two questions, was this coaching side of it, something that you were, like cognizant of, just wondering when you were developing it, and what else are you trying to solve?

Michael:
Yeah, absolutely. That's myself, and the other two Co-Founders of Beyond Pulse, we're coaches, we're not in exercise physiology. We're not sports scientists. We're okay with technology, but I would not say I was the best. We're coaches, so we wanted to build something that coaches could relate to, identify with, and improve with, and obviously Tom has been a huge part of that journey with us as well, and we're all coaches. The coaching pieces always been at the core of why we're doing what we do. And I think as it relates to another big issue, we connect a lot of what we do to the dropout rates in youth sports, and the connection that we make is that yes, there's a number of reasons why kids are dropping out from youth sports. We know that the number one reason is because it's for a lack of fun, and fun for kids is intimately connected with movement and engagement.

And so, if we can help coaches see that more clearly, we feel that sessions can be more active, more engaging, and ultimately more fun for kids. And therefore we can try and keep them in the game for longer, which is why it's really interesting right now I have to bite my tongue when we get asked a question: what's the youngest ages you would use this with? I want to say that the very youngest, because if we're not making sure that they are participating in active sessions, where three quarters of the session isn't active, we're doing it wrong, we're doing a disservice. Really for us, it's about that, that's the biggest piece. We want to use this technology to combat the horrible statistic that's been around forever, and only seems to be getting worse actually, with the recent publications from Aspen Institute of Sport, with kids not participating against the number of barriers to that.

But I think just connected to what Tom, Tom just gave a whole range of ways in which we use the technology connected to coaching. And I think it's really important that what we're saying isn't necessarily new. The messages that we're kind of connecting back to coach education, and things like federations, independent coaching groups, any educational enterprise has been trying to say for a long time. It's just that we're trying to bring some data to it, so we can really highlight it to coaches and say, "No, it's important that you make your transitions fast, that you're planning, that you're not stopping it too often." These aren't new ideas. We're just bringing it, we're highlighting it and bringing it to the surface in another way that objectively engages coaches, and that's what we want to try and do.

Tom:
Yeah, and I think Skye, all right, I think you're such a huge advocate of championing, "we can do more, and we can be better" kind of across the youth space. And the conversations that we had on, when this product was in its infancy, was how can we support people whom we understand especially in the 'Power Clubs' or the larger clubs that are expanded over various different satellite programs, or 10 fields or, there's one director, or there's two directors or maybe there's a few different directors, but those people have got one sets of eyes.

And that inability to stay connected with, and touch upon what's happening in every area of that programs is limited, because quite simply we're humans, and I think where technology, and where we came from, can help combat some of those issues, as it provides a layer of environmental management and performance management and gives us a set of insight that previously before was unwitnessed. And hopefully with that feedback, it's when intrusive embrace in the correct way people want to do better.

And collectively we were able through the use of, as Michael's explained eloquently very simple technology, we can raise the standards for everybody, that ultimately when a parent is listening to a club coach, or a DOC say, "Hey, we are standards driven, we will guarantee inclusive high intensity environments, where the players are afforded the opportunity to be at the center of their own learning journey, and coaches are a huge advocates of them being independent and their holistic development, that we can now demonstrate that that's actually being witnessed." And that's a pretty cool thing to be able to do.

So, it's all to raise standards of education from a coaching perspective, but also the player experience as well. I didn't want to-

Skye:
No, this is all really well said and I think, important for us to see like the bigger picture of what technology can be as a tool to use sports. And I mean, I think these this is a great demonstration of that. Michael, you're on this tour, you were telling me about before we started recording, you've been traveling across the United States in this Beyond Pulse RV of some sort, meeting with coaches and clubs. What's been the response that you've received from coaches, and then also from parents as you've been meeting with people face to face, in person, demonstrating with technology?

Michael:
It's been fascinating because it's almost the experiences have been very similar regardless of which club it's been. Initially there's almost like a skepticism, there's like a wearable technologies cool, but do we really need it like-

Skye:
Yeah, that's  one of the conversations that I've with you guys.

Michael:
Absolutely right. When we get to go, we show them first of all, we have a running joke in Beyond Pulse, and first of all, "we never have a bad meeting". And also the reaction we get from coaches, is like when we set it all up is like, "is that it?"And yeah, first of all the reaction to the technology process, and how simple in an easy it is. It always gets me with a disbelief of like, "Wow, that was that fast, and I get all this data?" And we're like, "Yeah, that's it." And then when we have the opportunity to speak afterwards, and we make the connections between the data, and what's going on in the session, that's when it's almost like a penny drop moment for everyone to be like, "Now I see the value. Now I can see how this relates." And the biggest impact we get is with parents.

Parents initially, I always open up my conversations with parents, and I know what you're thinking, why on earth do we need wearable technology for 10 year olds? But by the end of it, they're our biggest advocates. They become our biggest advocates, because they completely get it. I think all parents have an inkling about, "Yeah, should they be standing around that long? I don't know if that was if that was right. The coach hasn't watched the session for the last 10 minutes, he's just talking to the other coach over there, and they're on their phone. But should I say something?" it was Aspen Institute of Sport again, who published the data, what was the biggest concern for parents injuries, injuries is the biggest concern. A lot of that is tied to concussion, but injuries is a concern.

Then number two on that list was the quality of coaching. When they were asked what's your biggest concern about your child playing competitive sports? Number two was quality and behaviors of coaches. So parents know. And when we demonstrate how we're connecting the data being collected from just what their kids are doing, but our message is that that data is a direct reflection of what they're being asked to do from a coaching perspective, that's when people start to make the connections, and see the value. Especially when that they're investing heavily in an inexperience for their kids. And I think they quickly realized that this can not only improve the experience, but also bring some accountability to it, whereas before maybe there isn't much of that, other than just what they're told or what they see. I think this can add to that, and what is already a really significant investment in both time and money, of course.

Tom:
The conduit, Skye, to coaching accountability is equally - player accountability. So at the older age groups were, obviously there is a significant amount of time, money, travel for the family at large, not just the player, but as we said, the parents are receiving data about what their child's doing. And ultimately, we've said, we're not parents so we can't quite wear the second heart in terms of looking, "Is my child doing his or her best? It's like, is she really trying?" And a lot of youth clubs are espousing the concept of hard work, and attitude and effort as somewhat non negotiable, but entirely controllable by that that young person.

Ultimately, the data that's being returned, can now demonstrate whether or not they're able to embrace that. And in games, we speak from a coaching perspective all the time, should it take a coach to ask for more for you to work harder? Well, sometimes the answers should be no, the answer should be that, if in a club level, where there's this sort of significant financial investment and a demonstration of a desire to kind of elevate their performance levels, that this is also a way of holding them a little bit more accountable, and just be accountable, be responsible, and if it shows that you can do more and work harder and be better, then want to be.

And again, it's not a subjective conversation because can see what you've done, versus what may have previously done or, and that's been interesting for us, from a staff and the player's perspective. And obviously, there's got to be a level of education where parents aren't expecting it to be all the way up here every single session because that comes back into the conversation we had earlier.

Skye:
That was sought of my question for you about this concept of like working harder, it's funny to talk to two English accented people about this, because that's what they always say about Americans. Like, "You guys just think working harder is what it's all about, and you don't think enough about the game." So, working hard is not necessarily the solution to performing well. What is your response to coaches or parents even that kind of have that thought process?

Michael:
If I can just connect it to one of the several of the experiences here on this road tour...we want to be really mindful of that in saying that having the highest in any one of these metrics, doesn't necessarily mean the best, but the assumption is, it is. And so, the example I would always give, once we've done a demo with the team, and the kids, they see their data, and they see that they're the highest, and they're like, "Yeah, I was the highest." And I was like, "Wait, so why do you think Messi compares in terms of distance covered in a game, to the rest of the team? Other than the goalkeeper, he's the lowest. Does that mean that Messi is not effective, that he's not really good?" We're constantly, it's awareness raising. We're really careful in saying that the data doesn't necessarily mean good or bad, just by what it shows, you it's, it's so connected to the context, it's connected to what the coaches are asking the players to do.

Skye:
Position they are playing...-

Michael:
Definitely. Just generally, that's been a fun experience on this tour, having the chance to interact with a lot of people, is trying to make that really clear. And I know Tom has countless examples that he sees within STA, where that comes up as well.

Tom:
Yeah, and it's more Skye, I think it's complimenting working hard, with working smart, but also understanding what type of practice environments would support successful development. If it is stagnant, if it is modestly paced, then I'm not preparing myself or my teammates to the demands of the game. That's was kind of more where my reference points were going. It's not necessarily, as Michael said, "The best is not at the top scores, it's more, if we know that we've got more to give, then we can train it, in intensity, that better prepares us for making decisions in the time that we would need to, and again making, managing our decisions in terms of, I'm not just going to try to press or counter press, and just keep doing doggies backwards and forwards because it's not smart, You're not going to get part on the back for having three times the distance covered as somebody else.

But it is an awareness that, if we were here in terms of our aggregate intensity, and we could have been here, which one might have afforded us a better opportunity to maximize learning in that session, and it's depending on where we are in a periodization plan, obviously would answer that, but maybe it's this point.

Skye:
What I love about this conversation...And as I'm doing all this work with educating parents, and is that the data has the potential to provide a really intentional need, like an intentionality about understanding the game better. About understanding your child's data, if they're playing the seven, or if they're playing at centre-back or, like a parent, just being aware of that, and having those thoughts, because frankly, this possibly hasn't been something in an area of the game, or they haven't broken down the game to that level.

And that's one of the values of Soccer Parenting, is Soccer Knowledge. We want parents to understand the nuances of the game, and that we do believe is important when it comes down to player development. So, this just opens the door to having those conversations, just by seeing that data.

Are you educating parents along those lines? Like what are you providing to parents, so that when they are getting this data, they know how to evaluate it, and maybe how not to have the conversation with the child if they want to, or how to have it properly.

Michael:
Yeah, I mean, obviously the educational efforts need to be ongoing, and we're still a fairly young company, so we're, we're going through that process daily, but we've every club, especially that we start to work with, we always host either a parent webinar, or if geographically it works. We go in person and we present, and I know that Tom had that at STA, when they first started, and we go and address these points exactly. Why are we doing this? What is the data mean? How should we be looking at it? We go and we present as often as possible, with some clubs now more than once, because the discussions are almost endless.

There's a lot of different directions that you can go in, which is the beauty of it. That's why it's so cool, that's why there's a constant learning process involved here, with what the data can show, and how it relates to youth at different stages of their youth sports experience, because obviously, 8, 9 and 10 year olds is different to the 14, 15, 16 year old. So yeah, that there's an ongoing conversation with parents. We host open webinars every week. So, I'll just post it later in the day. Parents from all clubs, all environments can jump on, I'll out send out a topic that we're going to sort of touch on. But really, it just opens up into a pretty organic conversation.

So yeah, we're really mindful of that, and that's so, so important, which is why we love the message of Soccer Parenting Association, is because parents are a huge part of the kids environment in youth sports. And so, what we want to with the data engage with everybody. It's the players, the parents, and the coaches. It's not one or the other, and that's kind of the platform we built in those layers to allow that to happen. And again, the beauty with the data is that it allows you to ask questions, it allows you to, or invites you to open up a dialogue where there may not have been a dialogue without seeing these numbers before. That's really the beauty of it from our perspective.

Tom:
And I think you missed as well, Mike, the Learn Platform we have, which will share blog content from all kinds of experts and obviously that, some of the webinars as well where we're just raising a kind of a greater awareness about the youth soccer space, and so maybe less relative to their specific son or daughter, but as you nicely put it, it's raising collective understanding so that they're more aware of what they should expect to see, or what best practice might look like.

Skye:
Where do you see the future of this technology, or Beyond Pulse? What is your vision down the road?

Michael:
Yeah, it's a fun question. I mean, I see the technology becoming even more simple. We're working on a couple of ways right now, in which coaches don't have to do anything and still get the data. I think simplifying the process from a hardware perspective is definitely in the future. And it's interesting, as we spoke at the beginning of the call, there's going to be a lot of lesson involved with how much technology is too much, where's that balance between, again, keeping the human, the social side to youth sports in particular, in the center, and how do we use technology to compliment it, not to not overrule it.

And yeah, I think, speaking more generally, in terms of technology, you're seeing a lot of different platforms now that are encouraging kids to practice skill, and I think there's one that you use STA, Tom, right? Where were kids at home, they can do these different skills challenges. I think technology is trying to engage them to do more on their own outside of their commitment with the club, and trying to get back that play factor, which we're at a danger of losing, given how other technologies that aren't connected to sports are consuming our kids' lives. So, how do we try to not go against technology? How do we use it to try and re-engage kids back into physical activity? Physical education is going through the same journey right now. Physical education is trying to also engage with technologies in the classroom, to inspire kids to be active.

Tom:
I think the coaching piece of that, is that you hope it's a vehicle through which we can establish a culture shift, and one that coaches embrace the fact that the technology is there to support them. And obviously, if you look at the game in general, it's very different now than it was 10 years ago, and 20 years ago, and 40 years ago, and the prominence of the Sport Science and Data Analytics, and the video, it's there all through the desire to help maybe experience and the education better. And for coaches, I think it's just, it's simply the opportunity to either get on and enjoy that ride or continue to fight against it. But if we continue to fight against it, and other people are embracing it, then those who perhaps don't want to engage or are too stubborn to upskill, then maybe they get left behind.

And ultimately, we're all in it for the betterment of the players, and the experience and the collective growth of the game in this country. And that's where I really hope it goes, the micro level of impact that I've seen it have, obviously in my environment, and then over the environments in the clubs and the colleges that we work with, but that same mentality being witnessed nationwide? I can only imagine that's going to be something that positively drives the game forward in this country. So, it's not there to tell you off, it's not there to be a hindrance in your life. The fact that it's accessible and functional within seconds, or a couple of minutes where you want to just get a review of your performance.

Again, we referenced the mentality that we said earlier, if we're asking players to be prepared to do more, and to embrace feedback, and to challenge themselves to grow and develop, then we're ultimately the example for that, or we should be the example for that. I think if we can do this effectively, then we will be over the next few years.

Skye:
For coaches, as we're wrapping up, for coaches that have never heard, like this is their first foray into this technology, and to Beyond Pulse, how can they connect with you? What is the best way for them to learn more?

Michael:
Yeah, we obviously have our website, it's sort of the main spots or go, BeyondPulse.com, or just google Beyond Pulse, and it takes everybody there. That's really the place where we have different our avenues of contact, whoever is reaching out because they're interested in trying out the product, versus just trying to get more general information, or just wanting to call up and have a chat. We have our various contact numbers on there and pathways to reach out to us.

Tom:

Social media platforms as well, so obviously, we have a presence and both independently and collectively on Twitter, obviously we're quite prominent in terms of trying to share both product centric information, but also coaching, and educational content, and then obviously, via email, all the email info is listed on the website.

Skye:
Excellent. Michael, I feel like the parents who are like, they have their reservations, and then by the end of your talk, they're like, all bought in, I feel like that now. I do always want to protect the financial interest of parents considering how much you're already paying, so I think once we dive into the bigger picture, and see the health benefits for our children, and the ability for this to drive a better environment, in a pretty simple way. I think that you all are on to something, so I really, really appreciate your time today and you lending your voice to the work that we're doing with Soccer Parenting. So, thank you both for being here.

Michael:
Thank you, Skye. May I, you almost, I wanted to ask you a question actually. And you were sort of answering that. From your perspective, given that we've seen so many different products and things being put out there in the space that are claiming to support the youth sports experience. As a parent, what do you think would help parents see through the noise of so many different things and innovations that are out there now, that really helps them to understand what's cool, and kind of neat versus, wow, this can be really impactful for my child. How do you think that message could be better?

Skye:
I think that the biggest challenge that parents have, is that we're making decisions when we don't understand the research. We're making decisions about things for our children when we don't understand what motivation really is and the value of autonomy to develop motivation, as an example.

I think the biggest driver and helping parents understand what is potentially the best when it comes to proper products, or things that makes sense, is probably making sure that they really do understand the research, which is important, and why I asked you about that, everything you've done is based off of that. That would probably be my short answer.

The biggest challenge that I'm having, and that we're having in this youth sports space is getting parents engaged. Is actually getting them to realize that they do play a role here - that sports are different, the demands on our children are different than they were years ago, and you do have a role.

It doesn't have to be an over the top role, but you do need to take part in being a more active member of your child's sporting experience, and that's why I was really kind of clued into your data driven, like it gives parents a tool to be able to do that and in a really effective, simple way for them to understand. I think that could be just a driver just for engagement in general.

Michael:
Right. Yeah, cool. Thank you.

Skye:
Alright. Thanks, folks. Thanks, everybody for listening, and be sure to catch up with the Beyond Pulse guys at BeyondPulse.com. Thanks.

About the Author Skye Eddy Bruce

Founder, SoccerParenting.com Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

follow me on:
>