Sports teams no longer come with just a manager; there’s the manager, the trainer, the shrink, the physio and the statistician,” comments former Fermanagh GAA player Tom Brewster.
The soon-to-be-father of two has seen a game-plan or two and is aware of the growing professionalism and competitiveness within the world of sport, including amateur spots like gaelic football.
With this in mind, the qualified software developer has created a sports statistics app, which he is targeting at “the next generation of coaches.” “The Tagit app includes simple to understand reports that will keep you ahead of the opposition,” Tom states.
What Tom had initially been working on as a side project has now “grown legs” and he has teamed up with Seamus McGrath and former team-mates Ryan McCluskey and Colm Bradley (who runs Hype and Holler marketing consultancy) to market the app.
Initially, they will seek to get GAA clubs across Ireland interested, with ambitions to grab the attention of county teams as the project gathers pace. However, Tom stresses, “the app is designed to cater for six sports in total: GAA, rugby, soccer, netball, basketball and Aussie Rules.” A degree in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University, Belfast followed by a Masters in Computer Science led to employment in Kainos and ICS (software companies), followed by Quinn Insurance.
In 2010, he became a self-employed software developer and IT consultant and now, the Enniskillen man works from home most days (as well as travelling to Belfast once a week). Work is out-sourced to him and his business partner Seamus McGrath, mainly from Belfast-based companies.
“We did lots of stats when I was playing for Fermanagh and Queen’s,” Tom recalls, adding: “County teams would always have had desktop based software but it can be quite expensive. I decided to create a more affordable solution, firstly aimed at all clubs in Ireland.” He continues: “This app has had several iterations since 2010; now it’s all-singing and all-dancing!” When Tom initially came up with the idea to create the app, he decided to train himself up in the process of app design and creation. “I got skilled up; I taught myself, rather than paying someone £10,000 to create the app for me.
“I had learned a number of new programming languages over the years and it was just a matter of learning another one (Objective C),” he explains.
Tagit stats is now available on iPads (they are working on the iphone version) and costs either £20 per month or £30 per month.
“Now, we’ve developed the app to record statistics, integrate video analysis of games, players can see their stats for a game or an entire season and reports are presented in easy to read formats, including analysis charts and graphs,” Tom explains.
“Twenty teams signed up to the trial launch in January and we used their feedback to tweak the app. We now have 100 customers on-board for an initial trial period that ends in March. Hopefully we’ll get a few more teams on-board before the GAA season starts mid-April.
“We are starting with club GAA teams but I am hopeful that county teams will become interested, because, all the app’s features meet with the counties criteria, particularly because it allows for video analysis,” says Tom.
The Tagit App is designed to time stamp events and link to a continuous match video.
The user must load their media/video file onto their computer and add the media file to the Tagit App. The entire match must be on this file with no editing and it must be recorded continuously. The user can then select home and away teams and select the template they require. They can also create playlists to show key points in the game to their team. Other features include interactive graphs to illustrate the recorded event totals, allowing users to view a complete summary for each team and each player.
“You have to be big into sport in order to develop something like this, and I am,” Tom says. “It’s nice to be able to analyse the game more in-depth and to quantify the KPIs (key performance indicators), for example, breaking ball, wides, possession inside 30 and turnovers won.” He is aware of another app that went live at the same time as his first iteration (version) of Tagit. It is now targeting teams in America, he notes.
The four sports enthusiasts are continuing their full-time jobs while trying to promote this fledgling business.
“It requires a lot of time and effort,” comments Tom, who adds: “All the risk is our own time and effort.” Approaches to various small business support agencies “didn’t fit at that time,” Tom points out, for example, they would provide match-funding if the business made an initial investment itself. “We were happy putting our time in, but not a lot of money,” says Tom.
His advice for those considering working from home is: “It’s good, it’s buoyant, you can pick and choose what work suits you, although, with a second baby on the way, I’m going to have to find an office!”