When they aren’t recruiting the next superstar for their respective programs, college coaches spend most of their time making sure their student-athletes have all the tools necessary to be successful competitors. Those tools can be anything from equipment and gear to access to workout facilities to training and nutritional plans.
While student-athletes make ample use of those tools to better their skills, the question becomes what tools are available specifically to coaches to help them be just as successful in building and preparing their teams for battle?
That question was at the heart of the latest project undertaken by budding entrepreneur Justin Titchenell ’21, who has joined forces with campus partners through the Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Initiative (E-SII) to develop an innovative tracking platform to assist football coaches called CoachTools.
There are applications on the market that help coaches track tangible data, such as weight room progress and game statistics. However, Titchenell saw a hole in the assessments, particularly in the evaluation of players at smaller colleges and high schools. There are certain intangibles that can’t be measured through definitive data and that information can go a long way in distinguishing Player A from Player B, a fact that hits home for an offensive lineman like Titchenell.
“It allows coaches to organize their depth chart,” said the West Chester, Pa., native. “Information is presented in an organized fashion that helps make personnel decisions easier. Coaches have the ability to record player grades for games and practices based on a customizable set of intangibles. For example, an offensive line coach may choose to grade his players on intangibles like correct alignment, proper technique, etc…”
Professor of Economics Drew Murphy helped fuel Titchenell’s thought process by asking students in his Economics 463 class to begin their thought process with “I wonder…” That basic beginning led Titchenell to charge ahead and run down field with his idea. As Gettysburg’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Murphy connected the football student-athlete with the E-SII program to continue the development of CoachTools.
“In class, I try to encourage all my students to think,” said Murphy. “It doesn’t necessarily matter about what – just think. In Justin’s case, he wanted to capture what he was feeling, what the coaches were thinking, and the statistics. Justin laid it out and I said he was onto something. These types of projects show Gettysburg athletes can take academics anywhere.”
Titchenell went about building a team and there was no better place to start than within the Bullets athletics program. Teammate Jack Volker ’21 joined to help with marketing and Matt Szczesny ’21 from the baseball team signed on to help with idea generation and operations.
The group had a proposal and the drive to get things started, but they needed the technical skills to turn their ideas into reality. The entrepreneurship program provided the bridge, building on an on-going relationship with the Innovation Lab to bring in computer science students working on senior capstone projects. Over the last four years, Vice President of Information Technology Rod Tosten, Associate Vice President for IT Gavin Foster, and Associate Professor of Computer Science Clif Presser have worked with Murphy, Entrepreneurship & Career Mentoring Coordinator Stina Niemann, and the E-SII program to connect aspiring computer programmers and innovators with student entrepreneurs to the benefit of both sides.
In this case, Titchenell and his team were “clients” for senior computer science majors Ricardo Hernandez ’21, Cameron Burns ’21, and Kayl Murdough ’21. Titchenell presented his CoachTools idea and it was put on the shoulders of the three computer science students to turn the proposal into code for a usable web application.
“It’s the responsibility of the students to flesh out the idea of the client, which in this case was Justin,” noted Tosten. “Our students have learned skills to tease out the details they need. For three and a half years, we teach them to program and then they have to take that knowledge into interactions with clients.”
While Hernandez, Burns, and Murdough had some basic knowledge of the game of football going into the project, the intangibles Titchenell wanted to include took some time to work out. The energy and drive from the student-athletes helped fuel the computer science team to get over any early hurdles.
“It definitely took a few weeks to hammer some of the different information into my mind,” said Burns. “I was skeptical at first, but after talking to Matt, Jack, and Justin and feeling their energy and excitement about the project, I wanted to do our best to help them out.”
The ideas flowed back-and-forth over the course of the fall semester with a beta version of the program set for release in December. Titchenell used his Gettysburg connections to line up clientele for the trial version including Gettysburg, Albright College, University of Minnesota-Morris, Malvern Prep, and St. Mary’s Ryken High School. Former Gettysburg coaches Shaun Weaver and Kevin Burke ’90 currently work at Albright and Minnesota-Morris, respectively.
As the project has grown and developed over the last year, so too have the individual contributors, adding new skills to their tool boxes ahead of graduation next May.
“I was definitely more of an observer before,” said Hernandez. “Being the Project Manager has been a great leadership experience. I enjoyed the pressure of developing something worthwhile and impactful.”
With the finish of the fall semester, the computer science majors fulfilled their educational requirement for the project. The CoachTools’ team has raised funds to support continued development of the website over the winter break and he is set to receive a grant from the entrepreneurial fellowship program. That funding will help refine the platform, support the filing of the LLC and legal requirements, and pay for the website domain name, hosting service, and database.
The aforementioned football programs will utilize the application in their player development and provide feedback to the CoachTools’ team throughout the spring semester. Titchenell is optimistic about its overall potential to help not just his own program, but all football programs looking to gain an edge over the competition.
“Our next step is to get the website ready to go for the beta test with our five programs that have agreed to use it in the spring,” said the senior. “In the meantime, we have been working on some fundraising campaigns by selling T-shirts and we have gotten our LLC filed. We are confident that this information will help coaches see more, know more, and most importantly, win more.”
This story was originally posted on the Gettysburg College Website.