The OpenSports app launched in June 2016 with the intent to remove barriers and connect people to recreational sports under a free centralized platform by bringing the organizer, the facility, and the athlete together.
After several months on the scene, people’s motivates when using OpenSports app have become clearer. Many players are somewhat new to the country and/or city and didn’t know where to find informal sports to play, affordably. More importantly, they don’t know anybody to play with. While online dating apps like Tinder have become normal for meeting romantic partners, it’s still an odd concept for most to meet friends online. OpenSports wants to help “normalize” coming together and developing friendships for people who first meet in a digital capacity. For most people, it’s difficult to “put yourself out there”, but sports provide an easy, shameless gateway to do so since sports have been bringing people together for centuries.
While it’s young app, still finding its audience and developing new added-value features, OpenSports has set a mandate to grow into other major cities by January 2017. Currently, the app helps users find drop-in and pickup games according to typical user preferences such as type of sport, location of activity, skill level, and availability.
Using their own app to organize pickup games has allowed the OpenSports team to learn a lot “on the ground” and re-jig according to their own frustrations with the functionality as well as those expressed by their clients. Users want to be able to invite people who live in a close proximity to their games; display how many games they’ve attended in order to build a long term sports profile; join an automated waitlist when games are full. Game organizers have seen a lot of value in being able to communicate with players beforehand, to remind them to bring turf shoes or to change the game details, such as location, on the fly. Especially since they likely won’t have access to each and every player’s contact information.
New collaborations with non-tech organizations, awards and grants allow OpenSports the financial expenditure to expand their platform to the web and to new audiences. In some American cities with high-crime rates in public spaces, youth safety in parks is a serious concern many community leaders recognize. As a result, OpenSports received a $25,000 prize at the international “Play for Tomorrow” Sport for Social Change Hackathon in Kansas City. The innovative concept proposed at the hackathon uses the app’s core features in order to increase the visibility and accessibility of youth serving community sports programs, thus enhancing their impact as well as finding ways to keep kids safer while at play. The funds are generously supported by the Kauffman Foundation, Kauffman Fellows, StartX, and the iBoost Zone as well as other regional and national partners.
Since its launch, the app has received thousands of downloads from users across Toronto and the surrounding area and become the No. 1 pickup sports app in Apple’s Canadian version of the App Store.