Soccer PDP

Bringing pro-level infrastructure and development to grassroots youth football clubs

Introduction

The challenge

Soccer PDP set out with the goal of giving every football player the opportunity to be the best they can be. Professional players have for years been assessed to produce detailed statistics on their physical and mental performance, allowing coaches to hone their players' performance for peak match performance.

Existing problem

Elite level club academies suck in much of the best talent from grassroots clubs, from ages of 12 and above. The vast majority of these players are then released, with no support around them, to deal with the disappointment. Many of these players, who were considered among the best in the country for their age, feel unable to continue playing after such a set back and their talent is left unfulfilled and lost to the game.

Proposed solution

Develop a web app and suite of services to include physiological, psychological, technical and nutritional assessments and a dashboard that presents benchmarked, individual player & team results, along with analysis and bespoke player development plans.

Workshop sessions

The idea started out as an app where young players could sign up to be recruited by mid-level clubs, but Soccer PDP founder Jake, quickly realised that this meant that they had to develop a method of benchmarking the players to create accurate CVs.

In order to benchmark the players in a science-backed way, Jake approached the University of Stirling to fund a PhD research project with the university’s sports science department. As this research progressed, Jake realised that the benchmarking would be a great starting point for helping the players improve, something that he is passionate about. As proof of concept for their youth-focussed assessment tool, the data obtained from the PhD research project was integrated into a spreadsheet based system, but needed a scalable solution that this system didn’t offer.

Having an RPF (request for proposals) ready when they approached Bad Dinosaur meant that Soccer PDP had quite a clear image of what the app was going to look like when they came to us. Having employed a technical project manager, Soccer PDP posed a unique challenge for us as they were approaching the project in a very structured and planned way, whereas at Bad Dinosaur projects are usually approached with a more lean attitude, where some necessary features are often discovered when development has already started through our weekly co-design sessions with the client. To satisfy everyone, we adopted a hybrid solution by creating a week-by-week development structure of how the project would evolve.

The hardest thing was finding someone that we could build a relationship with. With Bad Dinosaur we found someone who spoke the same language and developers who speak human. The rest has been relatively painless.

Jake Gordon, Director, Soccer PDP
Jake Gordon, Director, Soccer PDP

Design

Soccer PDP posed an exciting challenge for us. Designing a user flow around an existing spreadsheet-based system and incorporating all of the existing data from 500 players into the app, presented challenges at both the design and development stages.

Once settled on the user flows, we began to develop the user interface design. We focused on making the app look and feel appealing to the 8-16-year-old target users with strong colours and gamification. We worked with badges, rankings, and other gamification elements to mimic things like Xbox games that the users would probably already be using. We also drew on inspiration from FIFA and football spaces in general to make sure the app visually fit into that space. This wasn’t entirely straight-forward, as the app had to be very data-heavy as well as child-friendly. However, our in-house UX experts were able to create an engaging product that satisfied both Soccer PDP’s existing branding and our ambitions for the app's aesthetic.

As the research progressed and Jake realised that he wanted to expand the app project to give the players recommendations on how to improve, we have worked closely with him to develop ways to give recommendations and track improvement. This has meant that we’ve had ongoing design and functionality chats with Jake as the app has slowly become what it is today.

Development

One of the core functions of the app is that the user can see their progress in a graph and on that graph also see the benchmarks of their peers and how their future progress might look. However, this was also a challenge, because the app needs data to create the graph.

As users progress and complete more benchmarking tests, the graph becomes more interesting, but it had to look great from the start. If it doesn’t look exciting with one data point, the app wouldn’t be attractive to stay on long enough for users to generate more data. The way we worked around this was by inputting the data of others in the same age group so the user has something to compare their own benchmark with.

The coolest thing is that, if I’m a 13-year-old kid, I look at a professional footballer as a god. And with the app, I can compare my progression to that of my peers and see how I can progress, which is exciting. It also motivates kids to practice the things that you need to do to be better, the things that might feel less exciting.

Nicky Holloway, Developer, Bad Dinosaur

The coolest thing is that, if I’m a 13-year-old kid, I look at a professional footballer as a god. And with the app, I can compare my progression to that of my peers and see how I can progress, which is exciting. It also motivates kids to practice the things that you need to do to be better, the things that might feel less exciting.

Nicky Holloway, Developer, Bad Dinosaur

The future

The app has already been released and has attracted a lot of users. Initially, it will be rolled out in Scotland, where there’s around 100,000 kids who might use it, and from there, Jake plans to use the knowledge he’ll gain from working with the Scottish clients to continually improve the app.

Hopefully, the project can expand from there, further down across Britain and to Europe, the States, or further abroad. ‘The interest is definitely there,’ Jake says, ‘but I’m being a bit cautious and holding back. I want to be sure that we know what works and what doesn’t before expanding anywhere else. But yeah, I hope we’ll get out there in the future.’

Working with Soccer PDP was a great learning experience for us as an agency, as it posed many unique challenges. The end product is something we’re very proud of.

Kyle Whittington, Director, Bad Dinosaur
Kyle Whittington, Director, Bad Dinosaur

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