As the region slides further into summer, adult recreational athletes often flock to fields in Capitol Hill, Rockville, Arlington or just about any other patch of grass where a post-game trek to the bar isn’t far.
It’s a sort of seasonal migration that plays out all across the country through a network of sports leagues large and small. LeagueApps aims to be the behind-the-screen shop that keeps the field, and beer mugs, full.
Created by a trio of University of Virginia graduates in 2006, the company has developed Web properties to connect prospective players, and most recently, to help leagues streamline the process of getting a team off the ground.
Co-founder Steve Parker said the company will soon close on an investment and now aims to expand its footprint. It currently collects a portion of player registration fees, but plans to form a network for national advertisers to reach local audiences.
“We want to be the leading media company in recreational sports. Eventually our goal is we’re going to have this aggregated hyper-local audience across the country totally focused on recreational sports,” he said.
The firm made its first move into the recreational sports market with Sportsvite.com, a social network to connect prospective players. About 2,500 leagues across the country created and update profiles on the site.
“What we were doing with that strategy was connect individuals, and the more we worked on it, the reality is that sports are played through leagues and clubs, so we needed to do more to work with these organizations,” said Parker, who is also chief technology officer.
That’s when the founders, who are split between Vienna and New York City, began to craft a Web platform, called LeagueApps, that would allow organizers to manage player registration, fees, scheduling and other operational tasks in one hub.
For some of the nation’s bigger leagues, such as the World Adult Kickball Association, or WAKA, that’s quite an undertaking. Since 1998, WAKA has grown from a group of friends in the District to thousands of players across 35 states.
“There is a quite a bit of work that does have to go on to get a league up and running at the start of the season,” said Mike Holden, director of marketing. Holden is familiar with LeagueApps but WAKA uses its own software. “All of the systems and practices and procedures are things we have developed and refined over the last 14 years.”
But not every league has WAKA’s footprint or resources.
“They basically do everything manually. There’s a lot of that going on,” Parker said of smaller leagues. “So the number one competitor [for us] is switching the league away from their home-grown process.”
The market isn’t exactly wide open. Many sports leagues have moved to online platforms that they’ve put together or acquire through other software providers, such as Blue Sombrero or e7sports, to name two.
For WAKA and many other leagues, the administrative duties involve more than sports. They also include coordinating weekend happy hours or movie screenings. The leagues are often as much about social outings as sports.
“We have a substantial number of players who are in it only for that,” Holden said. “The win-loss record is not as important to many players as meeting people, networking with people and getting out and having some fun.”
Parker said LeagueApps and Sportsvite seek to bridge those in-person meetings into the digital world. Facebook is integrated into their sites and mobile products are in the works, too.
“This is something that’s way far off from what sport organizations can do now,” he said. “We see that as a necessary channel for any kind of Web venture that has a social or community element to it and that cares about engagement.”