Disney Veteran Looks to Transform Youth Sports With Coaching App
(Bloomberg) -- Over nearly two decades at Walt Disney Co., Ben Sherwood saw up close how the company dominated the market for youth entertainment. Now he’s tapping into one of the few areas where no one has a clear advantage: youth sports.
Sherwood, 56, has created an app that offers tutorials and practice programs for youth-soccer coaches, hoping to corner the market on instructing the 500 million kids who play organized sports. The service, called Mojo, will at first be available only for soccer. But its founder — who stepped down from Disney in 2019 — hopes that as coaches warm to the app, the company can expand to other sports and be used by parents and kids as well.
Mojo Inc. has raised $8 million from a group that includes Tom Werner, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, women’s soccer champions Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain, and Russell Wilson, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Sherwood got the idea during his time running ABC News and Disney’s cable networks. While juggling tough questions like who should be the next host of the ABC nightly news or how to manage the Hulu streaming service, Sherwood would have to race to his kids’ practices, where he was far less prepared.
“I was scrambling out of the office at Disney or ABC to get to fields to coach, and I didn’t have any idea what I’d do with these kids,” Sherwood said. “I would look on YouTube, and I thought, ‘This could be done so much better.’”
While Sherwood has an extensive background producing film and TV, he has no background in technology. To help, he recruited a co-founder, Reed Shaffner, who previously worked at the Southern California software company Cornerstone OnDemand Inc.
Shaffer and Sherwood designed the app for coaches with limited time and experience. Users start by selecting the age of their players, their experience level and how long they want to practice. Then the apps spits out a customized schedule with videos or diagrams demonstrating each drill. Coaches can access one new plan a week for free, and a much deeper assortment of teaching tools for $20 a year.
The app may also help lower-income youngsters, who don’t have access to private coaches.
“The gap between haves and have-nots is significant,” said Sherwood, who has signed a partnership with US Youth Soccer. “We’re working state by state with them to put Mojo in the hands of coaches.”
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