Saskatoon

Volunteer football coaches made to feel like old pros with help from an app

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are teaming up with a Saskatoon-based app developer to put new technology in the hands of minor football coaches across the province. AQ Coach includes pre-built season plans, practice plans and drills for new coaches.

Saskatchewan Roughriders and Football Canada promoting AQ Coach app

Corey Edington is the CEO of Athlete Era, the Saskatoon firm that developed the AQ Coach app. (Don Somers)

A mobile app developed by a Saskatoon firm is boosting the confidence of volunteer minor football coaches in the city.

The AQ Coach app is designed by Athlete Era, a two-year-old company that received an investment from the Saskatchewan Roughriders to put the technology in the hands of minor football coaches across the province.

The app includes pre-built season plans, practice plans and drills for new coaches, who can customize their usage by filtering for flag or tackle football as well as age.

It also features 3D skill demonstration media, allowing coaches to show their young players the finer points of a technique or a drill on their device.

A new app is putting drills, practice plans and plays at the fingertips of minor football coaches. (Don Somers)

As part of an initial pilot of the app, the Roughriders provided AQ Coach to 15 coaches in the Northern Saskatchewan Football League.

The app is now being used by 130 Saskatoon Minor Football teams, 247 Regina Youth Flag Football teams and 1,000 teams in Great Britain.

It is also being utilized by teachers in the Northern Lights School Division, and has launched in Nova Scotia and Ottawa.

Saskatoon Minor Football has the second-largest youth flag football league in Canada with over 800 players.

Saskatoon Minor Football Commissioner Brian Guebert says the AQ Coach app has been made available to all SMF coaches. (Don Somers)

According to a case study published on Athlete Era's website, SMF found that the upfront time commitment of learning how to coach deterred many parents from volunteering, and knowledge retention after coaching clinics was low.

However, in a survey of 25 flag football coaches who used the app last fall, 94 per cent said AQ Coach improved their coaching experience and 83 per cent reported that using the app made them feel more confident coaching.

SMF Commissioner Brian Guebert said a problem that all sports face right now is getting more people to give more of their time freely to the development of sport.

"I mean finding volunteers for anything right now is more and more difficult," he said. "So if we can ease the pain of volunteering … and if you can do anything to make it easier … those are some of the things that we really try and do."

The AQ Coach app includes content on plays, drills and techniques for coaches in minor contact and flag football. (Don Somers)

Guebert said while the app has been made available to all SMF coaches, there are some who have yet to be sold on the idea.

"I mean some people are traditionalists and like their pens and papers and whiteboards and stuff like that," he said. "But this is certainly the direction that we're starting to go."

Guebert also said some parents will not understand why they see their kids' coaches on their devices during games or practices.

"You're gonna have some people that are looking from the sidelines going, 'Why is that coach on their phone during the game?' Well, that's the reason why," he said.

Rob Lovelace, a coach in Saskatoon's under-10 flag football league, said he appreciates that it's people with great knowledge of football developing the plans and drills in the app.

"The app has been great," he said. "Like, you know, from going to develop practice plans where you have a lot of papers in your hand. And now you just have everything just in one little device."

Lovelace said the app is laid out in a way that's easy for coaches and youth football players to understand.

"Now, if you bring it to practice, they're just grabbing it and they want to now push it and they want to pick the play," he said. "And they're on your iPad and they're scrolling through it trying to find that favourite drill."

Corey Edington, the CEO of Athlete Era, said after making the app available to about 50 coaches in Saskatoon's flag football league last fall, they made improvements to it and saw more leagues make use of it this spring.

The AQ Coach app has been endorsed and promoted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Football Canada. (Don Somers)

Edington said the most encouraging testimonial he has received about the app was from a coach in Saskatoon.

"One parent got some feedback from all of their coaches that they actually thought he had been coaching youth football for multiple years because the quality of his practice was so good, he ran things so efficiently," he said.

"But, in reality, it was actually his first year coaching and he was basically just utilizing the app, looking at it right before practice."

Football Canada announced a partnership with Athlete Era in March to "further promote the growth of amateur football and quality coaching in Canada" through the app.

According to Athlete Era's website, "content must be reviewed by sports experts and aligned with national programming standards before being made available on AQ Coach." 

About the Author

Kelly Provost is a newsreader and reporter with CBC News in Saskatoon. Email him at kelly.provost@cbc.ca.

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