Thursday December 11th, 2014

What do hockey beer league aficionado Ian Bell and Stanley Cup-winning 17-year NHL veteran Bret Hedican have in common? The co-owners of RosterBot want individuals to always have the chance to stay connected with their team, whether they're playing in the professional ranks or in a backyard pickup game. And they prefer doing so automatically.

The pair chatted with Edge to explain how they're able to automatically keep teams going and how they plan to keep the connections coming.

What is it?

Hedican likes to explain RosterBot using the company slogan: “Take the work out of play.” This app has been designed to help coaches coach and players play. The app handles all team organization for the coach, even automatically inviting players to games and leagues based on positional needs and fees paid.

“It is an automated team manager,” Bell tells Edge. “You don’t have to be involved in the day-to-day.”

How does it work?

RosterBot allows coaches to input a team roster with all the players’ contact information and players download the app for either Android or iPhone. Coaches can use the app to then alert the team to upcoming games, for example, and players must respond either yes or no to their availability—a first in the industry, Bell says.

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“A full-time player knows that if they don’t reply, they lose their spot to a spare player,” he says. “Our compliance level with teams is very, very high.” If a full-time player responds as “no” or fails to respond in the given timeframe, RosterBot automatically invites someone off the “spare” list based on positional needs specific to the sport or activity.

Bell says the automation comes from the fact that players can’t be ambiguous. RosterBot tracks the invites and ensures the team will be full by game-time.

The other key differentiator for RosterBot is the ability of the app to collect money from players. Whether a $3 per week drop-in fee, tournament fees or any other required monetary need, the money gets collected before RosterBot will count the player as active. This feature eliminates the problem of people forgetting cash or having to write a check.

Why is it significant?

Hedican talks of the importance of team sports for youth and adults and how the difficulty in managing these leagues can at times take the reward of team sports right out of the equation. Having a place to properly manage the organizational aspect of the team frees the coach and the players up to focus on the best parts of the game.

“We want to assist these managers who have the spirit to bring these people together,” Hedican says. He doesn’t want to continue losing people who organize because of the difficulty involved in making that happen.

Bret Hedican, co-founder of RosterBot, and former player for the Anaheim Ducks skates during a match against the Dallas Stars at the Honda Center on November 2008.
Bret Hedican, co-founder of RosterBot, and former player for the Anaheim Ducks skates during a match against the Dallas Stars at the Honda Center on November 2008.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

What are the implications in the world of recreational sports?

When looking at youth or recreational league sports, the organization itself can prevent coaches from volunteering. And sometimes it is the pure hassle or collecting fees—and then getting stuck with someone else’s bill—that will keep people from stepping up to form teams. Eliminating those hassles will help streamline the process, whether first grade youth soccer or a drop-in men’s hockey league.

What are the downsides?

Just like with any app, it requires buy-in from the participants, something Bell and Hedican have tried to force with the hard-line stance on accepting game invitations. For those—whether young or old—not keen on this mode of team communication, expect a learning curve.

Who’s using it already?

“For me being a dad, we use it for my daughters’ soccer and softball teams,” Hedican says. “Ian plays three or four different men’s league hockey teams. It is a lifesaver. It speaks to all parents out there, all men’s league teams."

The former NHL player said the organizational aspect has opened it up to a world beyond sports too, with everyone from the Navy Seals to church clubs using the app. Over 350 different activities use RosterBot.

What’s the future of RosterBot going forward?

In January, RosterBot will roll out its chat feature, essentially Snapchat for teams, Bell says. With players already engaged in the platform, the pair wants to give them an outlet to talk to each other, whether for photo sharing, carpool planning or even a little friendly locker room banter.

For youth teams, it may be more logistics-based and for recreation leagues it could simply keep chatter going between events.

“It keeps (communication) in one place, where you can read it at your leisure,” Hedican says. “There are always things to talk about and we want all that info in one spot.”

Automatic communication. Bell and Hedican say that proves a lot more fun.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb

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