With the launch of VNN Digital Registration today, we sat down with Austin Morris, Tony Ellison, Josh Walker, and Cory Harter from our product development team to talk about the app, how it came to be, and what they were most excited for in the future.
As told to Romy Glazer
Playing sports is fun, but signing up is irritating. It isn’t the kids that have to do it. Parents are busy, and now they’ve got to remember all these dates, and pieces of paper. It’s one more thing to do. And when you look at all the forms, it always starts with name, address, all those things. With what we’re doing, once you set yourself up the first time, it’s already taken care of for all the sports that student’s going to play all year. And the next. 10 minutes and it’s done for you. You can update any information at any time, but it’s effortless. You’re registered, and when your kid makes the team, you’re automatically subscribed to text message updates from the coach. Easy.
There’s a big trend in the market of coaches not being in the classroom anymore like they used to. These are people that aren’t teachers, they’ve got full-time jobs in addition to wanting to help out at the school and they have all these administrative things to do before they even get to doing what they actually want to do. Why drive all the way to the school when you can just approve it from your phone? This app will keep them coordinated and organized wherever they are.
We knew that a missing piece of our platform was registering for sports, but when we first started looking into building it, we had some trouble. None of us realize how much it varied; region to region, state to state, even sometimes school to school across towns, everyone had their own way of signing up for sports. It was a big challenge— where did VNN fit in? How could we make something simple that worked for as many people as possible? That was the goal.
There are companies who that’s all they do. Registering people for things in high school is their whole business; FamilyID, RegisterMyAthlete, who are friends of ours in the industry, and we’ve even heard our competitors like BigTeams are working on similar products. We decided at the beginning that we’d take advantage of what we already have at VNN – all the other apps and the website. Everyone else was going to have all their own features, but they wouldn’t have all the connected communication between things that we would. All the other features baked in would be a bonus.
Our products are getting better and easier to make because we have so many schools. Before it was like – how do you find out what people need? Who do you call? Some stranger and hope they’ll talk to you. “Hi – how do you sign people up for sports?” It’s weird. Now, we can survey them. With 1,500 schools across 40 states – odds are we’ve got most of the use cases covered, and can learn from what our current customers are already doing.
The survey process also gives them a chance to speak up to us and influence how the product is made. They’re in our network now. Did you know that over 50% of parents in schools with pay-to-play still have to walk a paper check or cash to the athletic office? Us either – it really opened our eyes to the potential and just how important a feature like online payments from your phone could be.
I mean, it’s so easy to process payments online – the software we’re using for this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m on an eight person rec-basketball team right now, and I literally don’t think we’ve gotten one person to pay who they’re supposed to yet. And we’re adults! Finance knows what kind of an epic mess it is to collect money from people; I speak for all of us when I say that we’re just excited to launch a feature that’s like ‘Hey! Now I can click a button and know that it’s all paid up? That’s awesome.” It’s the fastest easiest way for money to go into a school’s bank account. Got pay-to-play at your school? Our Registration app will make it much easier for you to deal with it.
In my opinion, the best feature isn’t actually in the app. It’s what the coaches can do after — once someone’s registered, they appear in the coach’s team manager, and when they’re added to a team, those records end up on the school’s roster page. That integration is what makes Registration a part of a bigger system. It not only makes the school’s job easier, but will also make it more fun for people in the community to follow as we build on the whole platform.
One of our senior guys, Kris Wilson did what an entire team should take 2 months in a couple weeks. Documents, payments, eSignatures – he was a machine. It’s weird, I feel like I never see him. ::laughs::
We can’t wait to get the fundraising feature up. It’s the one thing that didn’t make the launch but we’re so excited to get it out there. The plan is to give the option for people to donate money to different things when they cash out. It’ll really give parents a sense of community and investment in the school, and makes it easy for schools to reach their goals. A couple days, and there’s new uniforms. I don’t think anyone’s done that before. No more car washes.
My pro tip? Make sure to put in a photo. It makes everything look better.