September 19, 2020

Moneyball and Technology Advances For The Youth Level

It is the week of the Yankees and Mets–and the rest of MLB’s–return to play, and the sprint that will be the COVID shortened 2020 season. Yet for millions of young people 2020 will be the baseball season that never was. From elite programs to high school, college and Little League, play has been altogether eliminated or in some cases, coming back from slowly and carefully. Then you have the thousands of kids who head to skills camps this summer, most of which have also been eliminated by Coronavirus.

What has not been lost is the passion for the game and the need to return to play in some form, and technology has helped a growing number of kids stay fresh and engaged, and in some cases thrive in the past few months without teammates to the left and right. The tech space has also helped another group, coaches, and instructors, both connect with young players and help homes their skills while also finding ways to help offset financial losses without hours of in person instruction.

One of those key areas of youth sports tech that keeps gaining steam, especially now in baseball after being key this spring in sports like soccer and lacrosse, is New York based, Famer. Using Israeli-based technology housed in the cloud, Famer is able to provide a platform to a growing number of youth sports enthusiasts of all levels of skill from basically around the world to download custom video from coaches and then upload their own workout videos for critique. The platform also allows for live chat and instruction for groups in real time as well as an archive of drills for everything from swing techniques to tackling.

Although built for a growing audience that will use cloud-based technology for individual training away from traditional group play and games, the business has exploded during this isolation period, providing parents, coaches and young people the ability to hone skills, interact and stay very active. But wait, baseball you say? How can one of the ultimate team games work without nine on the field? That’s where Famer does its best complimentary work, giving kids the ability to work closely on individual drills and technique for when they are isolated or want to spend a little extra time connecting in a place that might not be that convenient for face to face or group work. It is there whenever the athletes needs or wants it, and coaches can upload as they tens to their schedules as well.

While basketball adaptation has come along with partnerships like the NBPA for Famer, the youth baseball element has started to align itself through a new partnership with The Baseball Center NYC. Now 20 years old and moving strong through the COVID hiatus, the business has introduced and guided players through its Multi-Tiered Training Program (Indoor and On-Field) with the mission of creating quality Recreational League, Travel Ball, and High School Baseball Players. Their track record of success in both developing players in and around New York (they are based on the West Side of Manhattan) has been exemplary, but the isolation and social distancing elements have caused a disruption of traditional engagement. Enter technology and the cloud.

“While some people may see baseball as a stagnant sport, the reality is that every movement must be done with quickness and precision, said Jason Stock, Managing Director, The Baseball Center NYC. “By having a video analysis tool and video demonstrations, Famer allows us to break these movements down to the fundamental level even when we are not able to physically be with our players. By providing them with workouts to do on their own, we are enabling our players to discover their own self-discipline, begin fostering a strong work ethic, and receive an intense personalized workout.”

“We know we are global in scope but in reality being able to impact athletes at the local level is the most important thing, and pairing them with their coach or coaches, as well as in peer groups at a time of year when they are most used to being on the field is relay important,” said Famer CEO Rich Abend. “One of our goals is to work with best in class coaches who are committed to the growth of these kids on every level, and there are few organizations that have aspired to such a high level of commitment to every player over a long period of time than The Baseball Center NYC. They are a great fit as we grow in baseball what we have been doing well in sports like lacrosse, soccer and basketball.”

So, is this a one off for the pandemic, or a trend that was coming whose curve has been accelerated in youth sports? Stock sees it as the former. “Famer has presented a unique opportunity for us to grow our business outside of the players who are currently living in the NYC metro area,” he added. “Not only are we hoping to get players back in the cages and on the fields but now with the help of Famer we are looking to get our coaches involved when they do not have the ability to see their players face to face.”

While there is no replacing game play, and we are seeing the return to the field on almost every level in the next few weeks, the use of technology…call it “Moneyball For The Young Athlete”…has and will help augment and expand the learning process. The digital native boy or girl…in baseball or softball…now has the ability to use technology they understand in their training methods, and while that may seem counterintuitive to the traditions of the diamond, nothing we knew before is as it may be in the future…and that includes improving your swing at an established baseball academy in Manhattan.

(cover image credit PxHere)