Bill Kerig seems to have a knack for easing the pain points of sports organizations. In 2012, he founded RallyMe, a crowdsourcing company that aimed to help youth and amateur sports organizations as well as national governing bodies address one of their biggest needs — fundraising.
Now through his new company, Clear2Play, he is addressing the biggest challenge at the moment facing the sports world — monitoring COVID-19 and its impact on events.
The journey to the latest technology that may prove essential for sports organizations began after RallyMe was sold to NBCUniversal in 2016. After staying on to oversee aspects of the operation when NBCUniversal began Sports Engine, Kerig started looking for the next entrepreneurial opportunity.
That search led him to world of coaching. It was an area he was familiar with as the father of two children who play hockey. He had also watched the Larry Nasser tragedy at USA Gymnastics and knew the worst things that could happen with coaches and trainers. He had also seen countless examples of volunteer coaches in sports leagues across the country whose backgrounds were not thoroughly vetted by the parents who were placing kids in their trust.
“The key piece of the whole industry runs through these unpaid or underpaid service providers called coach,” he said. “There’s no transparency, no mandatory training. Is it any wonder these terrible things are happening to athletes?”
Kerig knew that the world of amateur coaching was ripe for innovation. “It’s a huge uneducated market buying untrained services,” he said. “I thought this is something where technology could help.”
That led to the creation of Great Coach, a compliance management solution for coaches, parents and athletes. The app-based service allowed parents to check on the status of their kids’ coaches, including their background checks. On the flip side, it also helped coaches show that their training on issues such as safe sport was up to date. Eventually, the service expanded to include concussion awareness for athletes and coaches, and information that clubs needed to keep of track of related to the health of their athletes.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, the notion of tracking health-related information took on new potential. “COVID hit in 2020 and all youth sports shut down,” he said. “We were out of business for the moment. But I said what’s going to happen is however we come out of this, it’s going to be compliance: You’re going to have to prove your health. Organizations are going to have to track a new form of compliance.”
Tracking Player Health
As sports organizations and venues tried to find a path back to the field of play, the need to verify that athletes were feeling well or had signed any number of new waivers required for their participation became apparent. Kerig rebranded the service to Clear2Play, with the goal of managing the new expectations as events started their return.
Clear2Play allows participants and event organizers to file all their necessary waivers or proof of health in one place, keeping events on track. It charges organizations $12 per user per year, a fee many organizers have been passing on to participants as a COVID-related surcharge when they register for an event.
Among the services the program provides is a customizable daily survey assessing participants’ potential COVID systems, such as whether they have a high temperature or have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive. A positive response can send a warning to event organizers as a flag on that person’s participation. Any COVID-related paperwork or forms can be filled out and stored on the app as well, easing the burden for organizers who are now being forced to keep track of more documents than ever, Kerig said. Event organizers get a dashboard showing them which participants are up to date on their paperwork and which still need to complete what. Organizers can then download a report showing everything has been signed and can send that to county health departments, venues or any other groups that may require them.
The only people with access to the information are the athletes’ parents, coaches or the administrator assigned to the organization’s account. All information is encrypted and stored on an AWS server.
“We started charging for it and demand didn’t slow down at all — as a matter of fact it went up.”
—Bill Kerig, Founder of Clear2Play
Based on the initial response to the service, Kerig knew he had again hit on an area where organizers were looking for help. At first, the COVID-related function of the website and app was offered free to the company’s clients. “By July, I just couldn’t keep the company running by offering this for free,” Kerig said. “We started charging for it and demand didn’t slow down at all — as a matter of fact it went up.”
While no groups Kerig works with are yet requiring vaccination as a requirement of participation, the app will be able to monitor that information as well, including the ability to upload images of vaccination cards as proof. “We do have organizations that are now asking,” he said.
“Hey, How Do You Feel?”
The service is starting to gain traction not only among event organizers in amateur sports, but especially in the national governing body community. In January, USA Hockey announced that Clear2Play would become the official athlete safety software partner of the NGB in a multiyear deal. As part of the agreement, Clear2Play will also be an official sponsor of the USA Hockey Youth National Championships, the 2021 IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship, and all Rivalry Series games played in the United States.
“At the heart of our efforts every day is athlete safety and we look forward to benefitting from the expertise Clear2Play provides through its digital tools in efficiently managing athlete safety and compliance,” USA Hockey Executive Director Pat Kelleher said in a statement announcing the deal.
Other clients include the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, which runs venues used during the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, including the Utah Olympic Park in Park City and the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.
Seeing the need that exists in events, Kerig is looking beyond sports world. Clear2Meet and Clear2Pray are in the works, with a similar model for meeting planners and religious institutions that are attracting groups of people to their events or services.
As for where the service may go after COVID has subsided, Kerig said there may be another big shift down the road in tracking the mental health of players, who like their coaches and parents, have been through a trying past year.
“That’s one thing I’m very excited about is that there’s been a huge paradigm shift,” he said. “If you think about it, going back a year and a half, there wasn’t a single youth or amateur sports organization that would have asked all its athletes every day: ‘Hey, how do you feel?’ It wouldn’t happen. There’s no mechanism to do that efficiently, safely or securely. Now if you fast forward a year, everybody expects it.”