College sports recruiting has become big business, and success depends heavily on accurate and comprehensive data and exceptional data management – elements that were falling short for coaches and student athletes before Verified Athletics co-founders Damir Makic and Nate Slutzky launched their company in 2018.
At the time, existing services charged high school student athletes and their parents a lot of money to be included on the recruiting lists provided to coaches. And often, the data wasn’t accurate. Coaches were left without the key information they needed, such as what other schools had made scholarship offers, and students still lacked visibility with the programs they hoped to join.
With years of experience as a college football coach, Nate Slutzky had firsthand insight into the high school recruiting process and its shortcomings. He and Damir joined forces, driven by the mission to make the process easier, more accurate and more cost effective for coaches and free for student athletes.
Since its launch, Verified Athletics has built a comprehensive service that streamlines the end-to-end recruiting process. It operates the largest database of college football prospects and their coaches, providing athletic, academic, and contact information for over 200,000 high school football players, as well as college student athletes in football and non-football sports programs. The database includes 17,000 high schools, and is used by teams from every Division 1 sports conference, and smaller Division 2 and 3 schools throughout the country.
And the quality of service speaks for itself, with 92% of all-time customers still using Verified Athletics.
Speed, Agility and Decision-Making Insights for College Sports Recruiting
College sports recruiting is highly competitive and the lifeblood of most top programs. It takes speed and agility for coaches to discover and engage athletes that are the best match for the program, the school and the student. Giving coaches that power meant reimagining the research process, eliminating the need for cumbersome Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and delivering easy access to accurate and comprehensive data.
And unlike other services, Verified Athletics wanted to give all athletes equal access without charging them to be included in the datasets. The Verified database, built on Knack, allows students to create a profile and provide transcripts, test scores, and contact information in a single, centralized online database. High school coaches can also login and edit the information about their high school. “We wanted to create a database that serves coaches and athletes. One that enables coaches to find the exact information they need quickly and accurately in order to figure out who to recruit,” said Damir.
Building these products takes more than accurate data, it requires an exceptional user experience and advanced capabilities for capturing and presenting the data. It’s got to be a discovery tool that’s easy to use, and can quickly deliver decision-making insights to reduce the time coaches spend trying to find the right fit athletes. Streamlining the process gives time back to coaches who can then focus on the high-value activities of coaching and building relationships with recruits.
Knack Delivers the Foundation for Innovative Recruiting Products
With a clear vision for their offering and some research, they discovered that a no-code platform would provide the intuitive visual-building tools and robust data management they needed – without having to engage expensive software developers, who might also need to provide ongoing maintenance and support for any custom development.
After exploring no-code platform options and comparative review sites, the team selected Knack as the core foundation for building their product. The ease of Knack’s no-code building tools, robust data management, data security capabilities, and utility pricing model made it the clear choice for the Verified Athletics team.
Cost-effective and Scalable Pricing Model
Unlike many other no-code platforms, Knack’s pricing model, based on the number of records versus users, made a game-changing difference for the company. “Paying based on the number of records allowed us to scale the app and our costs instead of having a large up-front expense before we grew the business. That was a big, big plus. Paying by user would have been cost prohibitive, and it eliminated many of the other vendors from consideration,” said Damir.
Rich Data Reporting and Analysis
“It’s about the data provided and how it’s delivered. The key to serving customers successfully is having the data, the right type of data, and all the data they need,” said Damir.
With so much data available, a significant part of the value delivered to customers is in the way the data is presented. “Knack lets us break the data down into the distinct views our customers need, with a variety of ways to filter and sort it, and to drill down into profiles,” said Damir.
"“Knack lets us break the data down into the distinct views our customers need, with a variety of ways to filter and sort it, and to drill down into profiles.” – Damir Makic, Co-founder and COO, Verified Athletics"
Simplified App Building and Support
For Verified Athletics, the customized products it builds on Knack not only deliver a better customer experience, but result in significant resources savings. “We don’t have to have 20 coders to figure out how to build those pages, we can just build it ourselves in an afternoon,” said Damir.
And it’s not just saving the cost of hiring coders, but also support costs. Verified Athletics doesn’t have to do support on the backend database, it can leverage Knack’s expert support. “We don’t need a full support team or stack of engineers. For some issues, if someone comes to us and has a problem, Knack takes care of it, and that’s it. That’s a huge, huge benefit,” said Damir.
"“We don’t need a full support team or stack of engineers. For some issues, if someone comes to us and has a problem, Knack takes care of it, and that’s it. That’s a huge, huge benefit.” – Damir Makic, Co-founder and COO, Verified Athletics"
Data Security and Role-based Access Protects Privacy
While primarily an analytics software company, Verified Athletics works with a lot of colleges, universities and high schools. It manages information that must be handled following strict security rules. They have processes and checklists to ensure the information is secure and maintains compliance.
Leveraging Knack’s granular viewing capabilities for role-based access, each core user, whether it’s a coach, an administrator or an athlete, has a user role. They each see a different view when they log in, and only information that is relevant and approved for their specific role is visible or accessible. This took the security burden off the Verified Athletics team and saved them from having to invest in building and maintaining their own robust security features.
Enabling Tiered Product Offerings
And it’s not just protecting data, granular access controls enable Verified Athletics to offer multiple product tiers to its customers based on the subscription level. “We have different tiers of customers and each tier sees different data that’s available to them. We mostly use Knack native rules to hide and show various types of data based on the user’s tier and role,” said Damir.
Based on tiers of Gold, Silver and Silver Plus, football coaches can access additional datasets and information in the higher subscription tiers. “For example, Silver Plus and Gold-level customers can see additional information about scholarship offers that they can search and filter. And Gold customers can see athletes beyond the current class year, offering visibility into sophomores or freshmen who might be future recruiting class targets.
Integrating Data Sources
To serve users with the information they need, Verified Athletics gathers information from a number of different sources using various programming tools the team has built. “They all basically come in through a .CSV file or an API call, depending on how we want to upload the data,” said Damir.
Most of the data transfer is done via code written in-house or leveraging Knack’s API connections. However, when other tools are needed, they also leverage Knack integrations. For example, Zapier is used to trigger updates when an athlete comes in and fills out a survey, which is populated on a Google sheet.
A Community of Support
When adding new features or capabilities, Knack’s online community forum is a frequent stop for inspiration, ideas and support. “I love the Knack user forum, it’s so helpful. If we need to do something with CSS or Java or whatever, we can always look at the forum and find someone who’s already done it. And their code can be very helpful,” said Damir.
What’s Next for Verified Athletics and Knack?
A key strength of Knack’s no-code platform and builder tools is the ability to continually optimize apps to enhance the product and the user experience. Verified Athletics leverages this iterative process. “We’re always improving the types of information we have and the algorithms we run in the background that help coaches filter and discover athletes. We constantly make updates to make it faster, better and easier for coaches to do their recruiting job,” said Damir.
The commitment to innovation and continuous improvement is reflected in the company’s growth, often expanding to additional sports programs within a school. “It typically starts with one sport, and then it grows into multiple sports because one program has it and says, ‘hey, look, this is awesome. You should leverage this too,’” said Damir.
The team at Verified Athletics has truly changed the game of student-athlete recruiting.
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