Athletic Training Comes via the Web

iSoccer was recently profiled by Christy Krueger in a special for Inside Tucson Business. See the article online here or read the full article below.

Scott Leber, iSoccer FounderMobile technology is creeping into our lives in ways most of us didn’t see coming. Such innovations have made obvious impacts on our business and social worlds. But now technology is opening doors in the field of athletics – specifically in soccer.

Launched earlier this year with a pilot program in Arizona, Michigan and California, iSoccer trains soccer players using videos that can be downloaded from its website to portable devices and taken right onto the playing field.

Its inventor, Scott Leber, is one of Tucson’s own. He was named 1997 Gatorade High School Player of the Year in soccer as a senior at Salpointe Catholic High School and went on to play for Stanford, where he earned a degree in industrial engineering.

After a three-year stint playing professionally for the Columbus Crew, Leber co-founded Coastal Soccer, his first entrepreneurial endeavor. The Long Island, N.Y., organization instructs players and coaches through its camps, clinics and training sessions.

“We sold the company in 2007,” Leber said. “When we sold, we had 45 trainers and 4,000 players a week and the company is still doing well and thriving in Long Island. That experience laid the foundation for iSoccer and youth development.”

Understanding the popularity of personal hand held devices, especially with the younger generation, Leber created an Internet-based program for developing technical skills in young soccer players.

The company’s theme, he noted, is “raising the level starts with knowing the level,” meaning to reach full potential, a player must first know how his or her ability compares with others in the same age group. Then instruction can be customized to specifically target needed skills.

A common example is iSoccer’s use in organized youth leagues. “A coach integrates one practice to administer assessment to all team members and to the team, so individual levels and team levels are measured.” This is done, Leber explained, using assessment videos the coach loads to his personal device and takes to the field. “From that, the coach can do two things – keep using the assessment and training to improve the team – and assign homework. It’s a way for the coach to say go home, download this to your computer and to your iPod and here is a 20-minute session to practice a specific skill.”

Locally, Tucson Soccer Academy and Tanque Verde Soccer Club participated in the company’s 2009 pilot program. They received the tools for no charge, and in return provided valuable feedback on ways iSoccer could be improved.

Leber currently has 5,000 registered users, and his nationwide launch doesn’t even come until 2010. In January, at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America annual conference in Philadelphia, he will officially introduce iSoccer to thousands of potential subscribers. The introductory price for an annual subscription is $15 and includes use of all videos on the website.

A total of 500 videos are available at www.iSoccer.org. Sessions are broken down into different levels, such as basic, moderate and advanced and into various topics such as juggling, dribbling and ball striking. What makes this tool so great, said Leber, is its ease of operation. “Anyone can administer it, so you don’t need to be a great teacher to utilize the site.” Players and parents can subscribe on their own without the support of a coach or team.

The video was shot in a rented Tucson warehouse that was converted into a soccer facility. “We used Commotion Studios who did a fantastic job of production. Making the set and producing the video was quite a process,” Leber said.

Start-up financing came from seed money. “Now, development and branding are driven off that,” he added. “We’re currently seeking funding from investors and venture capital.”

Next year’s big goal, in addition to a national and possibly international kick-off, is the second part of the company’s mission – an overall assessment and posting of soccer skill levels per age and gender. Skills will be measured by coaches and reported on the website. “This is the start of creating technical standards,” Leber stated, so players can compare themselves to others across the nation. He feels this is important in raising the level of the game and motivating players to train more efficiently.

On the college level, iSoccer is helping connect high school players with college recruiters using video that coaches can view to evaluate technical ability. Soccer is the most popular youth sport in our country, according to Leber, and there are many opportunities, especially for female athletes, at the college and professional levels. He reported that the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999, and he points to an increase in TV coverage during recent years for having a hand in the increased popularity of the sport.

Even in homes without soccer players, iSoccer may soon become a household name. A San Francisco Bay Area organization is working with Leber to create an iPhone application, with a possible launch next year.

“It’s amazing what you can do with technology and mobility,” concluded Leber, who seems a little wide-eyed himself at the direction his creation is taking. He’s simply following the opportunity he’s been dealt and putting a little spin on it.

www.iSoccer.org

iSoccer

iSoccer uses mobile devices to download and watch soccer training excercises.

Christy Krueger is a Tucson-based freelance writer.

Copyright © 2009 Inside Tucson Business