Safer. Smarter. Better. That’s what you hear when you talk to Jonathan Wiggins, the founder of MyAgame, a cutting edge software company that allows youth football players and teams to experience their playbooks electronically. Players are able to see diagrams of the plays they are supposed to be running, see the exact motions they are supposed to execute and have their knowledge and performances ranked by the software.
Last year, James Madison Memorial used a beta version of MyAgame and had the school’s most successful season in over a decade, coming within seconds of a playoff berth.
For the 2018 season, Memorial High School has been using an improved version of the software and has already experienced a successful start to the season.
“This year we’ve been able to get some design improvements and make it a little bit more fun and add some features,” MyAgame creator and CEO Jonathan Wiggins told Madison365. “We added a drill section and a ranking system. So if there’s 42 kids on the team, they’re ranked 1-42. One of the big things we learned is it’s a very safe way for players to demonstrate their understanding of things before they even touch the field, which is good for coaches. Usually you don’t get a chance to look at all of your players beyond first and second string. So this allows every player to demonstrate their understanding off the field. It gives way more reps to every player and with no contact, so that’s a big safety component.”
Wiggins says the safety component is a major theme in using the software. Across the board in youth football participation numbers have been in decline for several years. Concussions and other head related trauma have been at the forefront of discussions about football in general, but particularly youth football. Some states, like California, have had to ward off legislation demanding that children reach a certain age before being allowed to participate in tackle football.
Wiggins told Madison365 that one way to make the game safer is for kids to know what they’re doing, where they are supposed to be going at any given time and the proper techniques they need to employ while executing those motions.
“I think it would be a good thing for parents to see that their kids don’t take the field until they know what they’re doing,” Wiggins said. “It’s a game that is hard on the body but it’s also a beautiful game that drives decision making. Because of getting involved in sports, I had something to deter me from making certain decisions. If we take that away from certain kids, what else do they do? You have kids from communities that need football.”
Wiggins said that the more kids learn what they are supposed to be doing, the more they’ll move with confidence and safety.
“Injuries often happen when something goes wrong and someone did something they weren’t supposed to,” he says. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s the highest risk for injury. But if you’re moving with confidence and you know what you’re doing you become a better athlete and you produce better.”
myAgame’s software allows kids to focus on the mental aspects of the game without the risks of physicality. Most of the game is mental but that is often not the focus of practices and workouts. Using myAgame, kids can go head-to-head with one another answering questions about plays. They’ll see a diagram detailing a play and can swipe the screen until they see the correct answer about which play that is.
All of it is customized to fit the specific playbooks of the kids’ team.
Right now, myAgame is being used exclusively by Madison Memorial High School locally, but is also being used nationally by a powerhouse youth football team.
“So, we have it for use in one high school football program and one high profile youth football program uses it,” Wiggins says. “A second youth football program is in the process of signing a contract with us to use it. Snoop Dogg’s team uses it. And the other team that signed the contract is the San Antonio Outlaws from Friday Night Tykes.”
Wait, what? Did he say Snoop Dogg? Wiggins dropped the name so casually it took a moment to resonate as he began talking about the usage of the software. But indeed, he meant Snoop Dogg’s youth football team out in California.
“I was just a big fan of what Snoop was doing with the youth. It’s kind of like AAU (basketball) for football,” Wiggins says. “So once we got to that first beta we used with Memorial, I touched base with the president of the team Snoop coaches. I was picking his brain. We developed a working relationship and I asked if they would use the software. We sat down and he looked at it and he was blown away. So, we got to Snoop. The goal is to do a good job with the team he coaches and then next year I’m hoping to provide the service to the entire league.”
If myAgame is subsequently used by the San Antonio Outlaws, that would make it a very national platform. A major success for a local start up.
MyAgame was the brainchild of Wiggins and his associate, Matt Kirk. They’ve had help from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s Upstart program, which is a free entrepreneurship program for women and people of color. Wiggins said that Madison does more to help startups become reality that nearly any other community.
As for this football season, Wiggins is hopeful the software will continue to pay dividends for the knowledge and safety of kids playing football in the programs that are utilizing myAgame.
“More than the wins-losses column, it’s really important that kids are safe,” Wiggins says. “That they have fun, but they’re safe. We’re out of pocket, my partner Matt Kirk and I. We’re basically funding this project. We show up and we put in the work to make sure it’s a positive contribution to the game. This game saved my life and made me a better person than I could have been.”