Feb 11, 2021 - Sports

New app from a former Disney exec looks to bring the magic back to youth sports

Hand carrying ref whistle coming out of a hat
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new app called MOJO has arrived to bring the magic back to youth sports through better coaching and a greater emphasis on fun.

Why it matters: Youth sports participation in the U.S. is declining at an alarming rate, thanks largely to poor coaching.

  • Only 38% of kids aged 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis in 2018, down from 45% in 2008. And parents say a lack of fun and bad coaching are two of the main reasons their kids quit.
  • COVID-19 has made the situation even worse: Three out of 10 kids who played a sport prior to the pandemic are no longer interested in participating, according to an October survey conducted by The Aspen Institute.
MOJO app
Courtesy: MOJO

How it works: With the MOJO app, which has free and paid ($19.99/year) versions, a coach can run a practice from the palm of his or her hand.

  • The app builds personalized practices customized to the age, skill level and preferences of each team — based on a curriculum developed by top coaches and experts in the fields of youth sports and child psychology.
  • Instead of boring diagrams, MOJO is full of fun instructional videos produced by Mandalay Sports Media, the company behind "The Last Dance."

What they're saying: "Youth sports is broken," says MOJO co-founder and CEO Ben Sherwood, the former co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. "So much of the attention and money goes to elite teams, leaving the rest with very little."

  • "For most families, the experience today is luck of the draw. If you get a great parent coach, you're in luck. But most of them don't know what they're doing, so it ends up being a crummy experience."
  • "We've built an app that takes the stress out of coaching and brings the magic back to youth sports. ... We want to build a brand that targets that particular time in life that's so important."

The state of play: Most new coaches today will search "youth sports drills" online to get started. And while there's plenty of content available, it varies in quality and it can be difficult to find age appropriate material.

  • "We're trying to set the bar for youth sports educational content," says co-founder and CPO Reed Shaffner.
  • "Because parents aren't going to watch videos if they don't enjoy them. And if they aren't engaged, we've lost any hope of changing the way they coach."

Details: MOJO is launching with soccer, and will be available to hundreds of thousands of coaches through a partnership with US Youth Soccer. From there, the plan is to expand to all sports.

  • Target demo: "We're focused on under-13, when about 80% of coaches are moms and dads," says Sherwood.
  • Athlete investors: Russell Wilson, Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy, all of whom have coached youth sports.

ğŸŽ¥ Watch: MOJO on "Good Morning America"

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