April 8, 2015
When Davyeon Ross was a kid growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, life was soccer. He was a dynamo, a true natural athlete, and then one year he skyrocketed up six inches.
Usually when you’re talking sports, growth spurts are a good thing, but in this case Ross’ body couldn’t take the abrupt growth and his hip bone came out of place. Worse, the doctors told him he would never play sports again.
“Forget that, I’ll figure out how to make it happen. That's what I told the doctors,” he reminisces.
Ross made it happen indeed as he worked his way back to the field and eventually to America on a collegiate basketball scholarship for Benedictine College. And of all the things to study, Ross decided to pursue a BA in Computer Science and Math: his MBA from MidAmerica Nazarene wasn’t far behind either.
What’s this got to do with anything, aside from being a great story? Well, it was for these very reasons that Bruce Ianni came to Ross with an idea to track the shots during a basketball game, inspired by his one on ones with his son. This was the birth of ShotTracker.
The solution was elegantly simple: build a wearable wrist sensor that maps out where you are on the court via a secondary sensor clipped to the netting of the hoop. All the player has to do is slip their sensor, which is hardly noticeable, into a sweatband or sleeve. From there everything is channeled through the software – aka the app – for players to track nearly every piece of data surrounding their shot.
In June 2013 Ross and Ianni officially launched ShotTracker and began shipping units December 2014. Together they sold out of all their units after only two weeks. This was only their first product though, and the team wanted to make sure it was 100 percent perfect before iterating a second, larger batch.
“When you develop something, you know it like the back of your hand. You’re going through motions an untrained user wouldn’t do or know. We’d bring people into the office, give them the box, leave the room, and turn on a camera to see how they interacted with it,” says Ross.
ShotTracker even called all of their users between January and February to ask what issues or problems they might have had with the first batch. This was Ross and ShotTracker calibrating subtleties for the iteration of batch two.
“We changed a ton of stuff in the app as a direct result of our user feedback,” says Ross. “We also pushed the code base to our users to crowdsource some solutions to our more technological issues. ShotTracker is getting better every day and is pin-point accurate thanks to the user input.”
And to clarify, when he says pin-point accurate, he’s talking about finding a sensor in time and space on an X, Y, and Z axis. Traditional triangulation methods weren’t precise enough to work with ShotTracker, so Ross created his own algorithms and parameters to fit.
ShotTracker’s wearable can in fact figure out where you are on the basketball court to within 10 centimeters. This was beyond hard for the team to crack, but there’s an inherent mental fortitude you find in athletes to never give up: this was ever-present in Ross as they trudged forward.
“Being an athlete has made me a better executive, tech guy, and entrepreneur. I understand team dynamics, I get that it’s a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Let’s set goals and hit them. I don’t know what quitting is,” says Ross. “You need to enjoy the process of pain, and it sounds easy, but it’s hard as hell. It’s for a greater good. We’re here today because we conquered our challenges.”
Consider for a moment the impact a wearable sensor like this can have on the future of basketball. Both coaches and recruiters could see the hard data surrounding one individual player and how that player fits into a team dynamic.
That is, if your point guard makes 55 percent of his shots to the left and only 24 percent to the right, you can design and run more plays to the left. Further, you can optimize that for your team in real time.
“What we think about is that this has the potential to revolutionize the recruiting game as well as coaching. Now people know who’s putting the work in and who’s getting the shots,” says Ross.
Currently Ross and his team are trying to build for a ground up approach, targeting high school and college teams. And all of their hard work brought them to SXSW where they won the speed pitch competition at the SXSW Accelerator.
Now, if I'm being completely honest, ShotTracker was hands down one of the most impressive things I saw at SXSW this year. And it wasn't just because they have a shooting lab in their office! This tech is going places, and it's taking the world of sports with it.
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