World-class athletes are using the latest technology to dominate at their sport but it hasn’t trickled down to improving the youth athlete experience. Coaches still use paper and spreadsheets to plan their day and athletes still get the typical pamphlet report cards.
Working to provide value to both athletes and coaches, we created a digital sports journal that focuses on holistic athlete development. Through effective communication and open transparency, athletes have a better understanding of their skill progression and how it connects to their mental health tracking.
As someone who’s never taken part in ski racing, research was very important to understand the friction spots and frustrating parts of a coach's day.
Interviewing different coaches, the typical day for athletes and coaches was mapped out. We highlighted the pain points to identify the problem spaces we can focus into. Some questions we asked coaches and ourselves were:
Evaluating the competitive landscape, we discovered several tools already in the market focusing on video analysis, team management and coach training. Discussing our main goal as I outlined above, we saw the lack of tools focusing on youth athletes as an opportunity to empower the coach-athlete relationship as they work towards a common goal.
From our research, I was getting familiar with the weekly routine of coaches and the organizational structure of the ski clubs that operate these ski racing teams. The head coach plans out the full season at the beginning of the year, creates an annual plan and hires seasonal coaches. Many coaches are university students/young adults who only work on the weekends part-time and weren’t involved in the planning process like senior coaches.
Listening to the coaches share their experiences, I learned about the tools they used. Ranging from excel to simply pen and paper, coaches would create a rough schedule ahead of time while others might just go through a standard set of drills that they are most familiar with.
Addressing the initial question, how can we make the athlete experience more engaging for athletes and coaches? From the research completed above and the insights I gained, we concluded the foundation of the athlete experience starts with having a better practice session and creating a schedule builder was the first step.
Evolving the design on top of the schedule builder, we listed the rest of the user needs and mapped out the major product features that would provide immediate value for a digital sports journal.
The athlete profile was the next natural development. As more practices get completed, through their attendance the athlete’s skill development can be tracked. We also fleshed out how athletes can practice their mental health skills through journaling creating a rich athlete profile linking their emotional state to their physical performance. This case study doesn’t go into detail for the athlete profile but I wanted to share the thought process of how everything fits together.
Lastly, the resource library would serve as the knowledge bank to help athletes understand proper form and mental exercises through tutorial videos. These videos would also be linked to drills and visible in the schedule builder.
Exploring multiple ways on how to ideate on this problem, many user flows were created and continually refined to understand the essential steps through the journey of a practice from beginning to end.
As the user flows transitioned into sketching, the constraints and trade-offs were becoming more clear. Walking through my early sketches with team members, many questions rose up about the functionality that we want to offer. Design is inherently an iterative process and sketching it out helped me refine how to design a workflow that sets out to solve our original problem of athlete engagement.
Taking my sketch drawings, I created wireframes in Sketch and used Invision to make a clickable prototype to test with users. Learning from my previous projects, I prepared 2 task scenarios and an introduction script to make sure that my users are well-informed and comfortable.
In order to get a wider scope of feedback, I reached out to different people across sporting roles such as ski coaches, football coaches, sports administrators, etc. We were working with a few coaches early on and they understood the future product vision. Their advice and feedback was constructive to help shape the product through the various iterations. In contrast, testing it with coaches and athletes who had never heard of Coachable beforehand helped uncover holes and discover flaws that we hadn’t discovered before.
Observing users navigate the screens and listening to their feedback, I noticed many users asked about the initial user experience when they first log in and what they see.
Designing the schedule builder involved a lot of brainstorming and talking to users on the struggles they faced. A crucial piece of feedback really helped improve the schedule builder when one of the users had asked “How do I see the drill details for a suggested drill?” and I was stumped.
Testing with users, listening to their feedback and finding the missing gaps in your design is an essential part of the design process. When creating a new design, I wanted to give users more control while keeping the user flow consistent with the rest of the app.
Talking with various coaches/instructors and watching them use the prototype was immensely useful in calibrating ourselves to the user’s needs. The goal here wasn’t to create a pretty design but rather help utilize the free time coaches have to improve the athlete experience.
The main interactions between coaches and athletes is when they are getting ready and putting on their gear. As designers, we need to not just think about the interface but the holistic experience of how this product will be used in its environment.
Thinking about the bigger picture of how Coachable can fit into the ski racing environment, what we ultimately want to create is a positive feedback loop that benefits coaches and athletes.
Going through the UX process with the Coachable team, we identified the missing gap in the current team engagement applications and created a user experience that puts the athlete first.
Building this professional prototype, they now had a visual aid to show potential clients/investors to explain their vision. And more importantly, a clear blueprint of what their product should do and how users will interact with it.
Working on this project with the Coachable team has been an invaluable experience for me. I designed a product end-to-end and learned some new things along the way including data visualization principles and color theory. Here are my biggest takeaways.