Why A 50-Year-Old Club Soccer Organization Turned To LeagueApps
Ballistic United Soccer Club (BUSC) is an out-and-out institution in California. In 1968, BUSC was founded to serve the humble footie needs of the Pleasanton community. The organization started with seven club teams. Today, it serves 154 separate teams, with over 1,600 registered players.
Here at LeagueApps, we want to facilitate conversations, connections, and collaborations between our partners because that’s how we all win. That’s why we’re proud to provide our audience with insightful Q&A sessions with leading minds in the youth sports space. This week we sat down with BUSC’s Darryl Watson to discuss why a club team, a half-century in the making, turned to LeagueApps to take their organization to the next level.
For those who don’t know your organization, could you walk us through Ballistic’s history and the programming you now offer?
Ballistic United is a youth soccer club out here in California in the Bay Area. We’re located right outside of San Francisco. Our club has been around since 1968, and we’re a boys club. We have a pretty successful history, a number of our athletes play in college all the way up to the pros. We’ve had kids go out to Europe and recently had some sign with the (San Jose) Earthquakes so we’ve been pretty successful. In addition to our club success, from a program perspective, we’re always trying, on and off the field, to be as progressive as we can be — while sort of pushing the envelope.
Right now, from an offering standpoint, we have our traditional recreation program, which is for our youth athletes. That comes with a three or four month commitment and local games. We also have a competitive youth program that is more of a traditional travel program. Within the competitive program, we have many levels depending on where the athlete is at that point in time. We offer a Futsal program as well that kids can take part in. We even go into adult programming where we have a U-23 team which is more college-aged soccer players and we have an adult program as well which is more community based co-ed league. Some of the moms and dads of the younger kids play in that. In addition, we have a developmental academy program comprised of U-12s to U-17s. Even though Ballistic has been here since 1968, we are continuing to push the envelope by trying to offer more to make the club better. In the end, we want our athletes to be proud of Ballistic and for prospective players to want to come here.
Given your rich history, you can step back and evaluate how the game has progressed over time. To that end, how has technology impacted your business in the last decade?
It’s a huge deal. Given that we’re in the Bay Area, which is the hub of technology, it’s so important. Our user base is using technology, and we have customers that are more tech savvy. I came from a tech background as well, so over the last five or so years we’ve been re-focusing our efforts on trying to figure out how best to leverage technology for the club. That’s anywhere from how we use social media and to how we get our name out there, to attract athletes and families to our program. It also includes the management of the data. When it comes to soccer, if you think about professional athletes and professional clubs they have reams of data to track. We are a community-based club, we are not there from a pro perspective, but we do want to track our athletes, we want to provide evaluations in a digital format. These on-going evaluations, we want to be able to have that communication between the club and the coach or the athlete, and work in real time with updates and things that the athletes are going to respond to. That’s important to the young boys we serve because they are used to iPads and mobile devices, and they are very tech savvy so how can we connect with them and how can they receive better feedback? Because, at the heart of this, when we talk about coaching and youth sports, you have to understand there are differences in the way people receive input and how they consume input and we are finding more and more that the younger generations are very tech savvy so how can we tap into that.
The other side of the coin for us is how do we manage our business. It’s a community-based club, we have a very limited staff and we don’t want to spend our time and money on just managing paperwork, so we need to fully embrace a digital platform. That’s why when we look for solutions, as we have with LeagueApps, we’re looking for something that’s really gonna support our long-term vision, so that’s first and foremost. The second thing is how can we cut out processes and paperwork and make our lives easier so we can spend less time worrying about the “back office” stuff and more time worrying about the stuff that’s on the field. Time is money, you don’t want your staff worrying about the back office stuff as much, and also from the process standpoint the technology can make us more efficient. That efficiency saves us time, which saves us money so we can start funneling that money into the programs we have within the club. It’s critical for us because we are constantly re-evaluating our software choices trying to consolidate and make our lives easier from the coaches on the field with iPads to tackling the back office stuff and streamlining everything in between.
Once you decided on the LeagueApps software, what was that transition like for Ballistic?
It was pretty seamless. We went through a thorough evaluation process when it came to what software solution we wanted. We met with a couple of stakeholders within the organization and said “hey come up with a list of requirements.”
How beneficial have you found the LeagueApps’ communication tools to be?
It’s something we’ve never had in the past…a place for our users to go. We do have a website, like most clubs do, but it’s just the basics of who we are and our programming. But we understand as the user, you wanna see the full picture. When you log-in, you want to see your son’s schedules, the different programs he’s involved in, and that’s what LeagueApps is providing for us now. There’s a dashboard perspective like, “hey I can see where I stand with all of my programs that I have out there for my son.”
In addition, the coaches have access so we can communicate there as well. The administrator handling the back office/financials can tell different parents, “hey, you have payments due.” As a parent, I can go in and see where I stand with financial obligations or just see new programs that are in there, and the coach has visibility to his team, who the players are, their team member contact information as well. It’s all so well connected.
Ballistic has grown tremendously over the past 50 years, so what’s next? What’s on the horizon?
We are not standing still, we are constantly evaluating programs and thinking of what’s next. Part of that is private training, but we are always enhancing our existing programs. We want to bring in more kids to the soccer community. We are passionate about soccer being a great sport for kids to be active. The teamwork and learning life lessons angle is crucial, and that’s why we’re constantly looking for more ways to bring more programs on board. If we wanted to just stand still, we would have just had a recreational program but now we’ve embraced the growth opportunities and every avenue to enhance your soccer experience. We’ll continue to leverage our competitive program by providing many levels not just one team, it can be up to three or four teams of certain age groups depending on the interest level from the parents. We just need to be smart about how we go, we need to be efficient. We are a non-profit, we have limited resources, like manpower and money, but technology, like LeagueApps software, can help us bridge the gap and create a tighter connection between Ballistic and its members.