With quarantines and social distancing, the virtual world has expanded. Technological innovations abound in healthcare, entertainment and telecommunications. Even virtual travel and tourism have introduced new concepts over the last few months. Therefore, it’s no surprising that the pandemic is also serving as a catalyst for other areas of innovation. With physical barriers in place, virtual solutions make the most sense. And virtual coaching in athletics is one such area where these technologies are expanding.
Technology is already playing a role in a variety of sports since COVID-19 affected the world. Digital audiences now attend major sporting games where matches are enhanced using advanced technologies. Likewise, new fitness platforms have emerged so people can avoid risking their safety in gym environments. And now, new coaching apps and platforms are emerging offering expert virtual coaching to anyone. For kids and parents specifically, these coaching apps are a dream come true.
“We are out to revolutionize coaching. There is a huge problem with kids not being able to play sports because they don’t have access to coaching. We put the coaching in kids’ pockets.” – Ricky Collis, Cofounder of Mustard and former Minor League Baseball Pitcher
The Demand for Coaching Apps – Before and After COVID
Unfortunately, the need for virtual coaching existed before the current pandemic overtook the world. Studies have demonstrated that as many as 70 percent of kids stop playing sports by the age of 13 years. One might assume that this is due to a lack of interest or competing responsibilities. But in actuality, the biggest factors accounting for this lack of participation and cost and poor access to coaching. Virtual coaching and coaching apps help address these issues by not only pairing kids with coaching experts. But they also make these connections much more affordable.
Of course, the situation has worsened somewhat since COVID-19 hit the scene. Kids and adults alike have improved their digital skills with the pandemic. However, school and gym closures have reduced access to high-level athletic coaching. Because of this, the demand for expert coaching and personalized fitness plans have actually increased. Coaching apps and virtual coaching platforms offer a great solution to the situation. Thus, it’s not surprising several innovative companies are now offering such innovations in this time of COVID.
“[Tom House’s] coaching and mentorship have played an integral role in my success in the NFL. His scientifically-designed programs, extensive knowledge of throwing mechanics, and cutting-edge training techniques are unparalleled.” – Drew Brees, NFL Pro Bowl Quarterback and Mustard Investor
Mustard – An Innovative Virtual Coaching Platform
One interesting startup company involved in virtual coaching app platforms is called Mustard. Overall, Mustard has received over $1.7 million in funding, and it is led by some high-profile individuals. Cofounder Dr. Tom House has served as a throwing coach in both the NFL and MLB. Likewise, Jason Goldsmith is well known as a mental performance coach for professional athletes. These and other sports professionals are advancing a virtual coaching app that replacing in-person coaching with motion analysis. And though it is focused on baseball only currently, it will soon expand into all types of athletics.
In essence, Mustard uses artificial intelligence and machine learning as part of its virtual coaching platform. It combines over 40 years of biomechanical data from the world’s top athletes with a computer vision system. And it does this via a person’s mobile device to allow personalized motion analysis and instruction. Customized performance plans are provided in real time that also include actionable steps and inspirational content. Given the talent and level of technical sophistication, Mustard is expected to be one of the premiere coaching apps available.
“This isn’t about the hard-core, getting them to specialize in the sport. This is really tapping into what we’ve heard from some of our parents—that they just want to expose their kids to sports at a younger age and have it be fun.” – John Kelly, CEO of CoachUp
Other Coaching Apps Already Available
While Mustard represents one of the most innovative coaching apps, it certainly isn’t the only one. Several fitness apps now exist that provide instruction, inspiration and motivation for athletes and sports enthusiasts. But also, a variety of coaching apps designed for all types of individuals are also on the market. For example, Lucid is a virtual coaching platform that provides mental skills coaching for users. The coaches on Lucid have notable experience having coached players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant previously. Volt is another coaching app that provides sport specific training plans for users. In partnership with Gatorade, Volt develops these plans based on scientific research.
One of the more popular caching apps today goes by the name of CoachUp, which is now based near Boston. Though this exists on a virtual coaching platform, CoachUp connects individuals of any age with the right coach. After users provide specific information about their coaching needs, age and location, CoachUp connects them with the perfect coach. In doing so, access barriers are reduced, allowing greater participation and satisfaction. Individual, group, camps and clinics are all available settings as well. Stephen Curry is also one of CoachUp’s key partners. Though less of a virtual coaching platform compared to Mustard, CoachUp nonetheless is filling an important void.
The Role of Technology in Athletic Coaching
With artificial intelligence and machine learning advancing, new coaching tools will definitely appear in the coming years. Motion analysis and comparisons to historical data will create a brave new world for athletes of the future. At the same time, these technologies lend themselves well to virtual coaching opportunities. Coaches will still be in high demand. But their expertise in guiding the development of coaching apps may be increasingly needed. These trends were already in motion well before the pandemic. But it’s clear that COVID-19 has accelerated these developments greatly. It’s just evidence of another paradigm shift that will at least in part be attributed to the coronavirus.
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