RII Sports Technology uses data to give football coaches an edge
Who wouldn’t want to be able to predict what the competition is going to do?
Tom Woods is more of a free spirit than his number-crunching career in aerospace and defense might intiailly suggest.
Two years ago, Woods was in a rut. He was frustrated with the monotony and slow pace of negotiating deals in the industry. He left Lockheed Martin 16 years ago to start his own business, TTJ&B Inc., providing aerospace and defense companies and organizations with a service he devised, taking massive amounts of data and giving it back in more user-friendly packages.
It can require more than six months or more of meetings and back-and-forths just to finalize one contract in this sector. The tedium wore on him.
Some who find themselves on the brink of burnout opt for dramatic changes. They might take a leave of absence to sail around the world or sell the business and switch paths altogether. Others go back to school.
Woods went a different route. He doubled down and started a second business built off the model of his first, but the new idea was rooted in football – the perfect elixir for a die-hard sports fan like Woods.
“There was no technological leap for us as a company,” he says. “It was a simple extension of the same thing we already do in this other world and have done for years and years. It was basically just feeding a different type of information into the same thing we did.”
The results have filled Woods’ sails once again and have him eager to roll out of bed for work each day to run both of his businesses.
When football coaches and staffers break down film of opponents, they chart information such as down and distance, position on the field, formation, run or pass. Some are more detailed than others.
Woods’ new company, RII Sports Technology, takes that data from film of future opponents and produces interactive one-page reports, called dashboards, that show coaches the tendencies of their competitors in certain game situations and at every spot on the field. Who wouldn’t want to be able to predict what the competition is going to do whether it’s on the football field or in business?
Woods says the reports his system churns out to football coaches are so easy to understand, his 10-year-old daughter can make sense of them.
“She could take one of these things and have a meaningful discussion with a football coach about what their opponent likes to do and is good at or not good at just because of the way we package that data,” Woods says. “It’s that intuitive and obvious.”
A coach might be looking for a tendency on second down and not find it through traditional film study. Woods’ computer code creates specific breakdowns that coaches don’t really have time for, and that is where high-probability trends are found, such as second down, between the 40-yard lines on the left hash mark.
“To find them, they would have to go searching through all these different combinations, and they just don’t have the time,” Woods says.
Woods shared his technology in 2013 with 10 schools spread across the nation at both the high school and small-college level. Columbine High School in Littleton and Colorado State-Pueblo were two of the pilot programs. He gave it to them for free for the whole season and worked with coaches to improve it.
Last year, Woods brought the product to market and sold it to approximately 70 schools, charging high school teams less than $500 for the whole season and colleges several thousand dollars. This season he is expecting to grow again to 150 to 200 teams. There is significant potential for growth with more than 15,000 high school football teams around the country and several thousand college and junior college teams.
Woods now has a new revenue stream without having to venture outside his area of expertise. And he’s having a blast with a new challenge, having found a way to make money doing something he loves