A shop window for the sporting talent of tomorrow

It’s not what you know it’s who you know… The right place at the right time… These are both recognisable phrases that both serve to highlight the element of chance that can sometimes be associated with success. And nowhere is this better highlighted than in the world of sport.

For example, what would have happened if Wales’ all-time record rugby union try scorer, Shane Williams, gave up on his dream after he was told at school that he was too small to play the game? Much the same was said of Lionel Messi in his youth.

Arguably the greatest footballer of all-time, who was nicknamed ‘the Flea’ by his older brother, was told by doctors that it would be unlikely that he would grow beyond 5ft. tall, and then placed him on growth hormones. Just think of what the world would have missed had Barcelona FC decided not to take a chance on the little kid from Rosario.

And, what would have been the sporting, cultural and social repercussions had a young 12-year-old boy not had his bicycle stolen one day in 1954, and decided to exact revenge on the thief by taking up boxing lessons? That brash talking kid would go on to become none other than Muhammed Ali.

The sporting world is full of these ‘what if’ stories, but for every unlikely success there are scores that slip through the net and are either rejected early on in their career development (and thus give up on their dream) or are never discovered in the first place.

This is a fact that was not lost on Latif Adéothy, a former French decathlete and now investment banker who, around three years’ ago in Abidjan, a city in the Ivory Coast (or Côte d'Ivoire to give it its proper name), was mesmerised by the skill of some local street kids who challenged him to a game of football.

After losing the match (as well as some money), he headed for home. And it was on the flight back to Paris that he pondered that the considerable ability of these kids and their potential was not being fully realised, and that they were really in need of a global ‘shop window’ in which to share and showcase their talent. He asked: “Are our current sports champions really the best, or are many young athletes missing out on their destiny, like Messi nearly did?”

Thus he founded startup company WeSportUs (WSU) - a sporting social network that aims to bring fairness to sports scouting and decentralise the detection of talent, and put fans back at the heart of sport.

Adéothy explained how the combination of a social network with blockchain can empower talent and fans: “New technologies can overcome the shortcomings of the current system. The more potential detectors there are that can identify real talent, the greater the audience it will have and the more likely it is that talent can be developed. Collective intelligence could take precedence over individual knowledge.”

Whatever their disciplines, nationalities or social backgrounds, the WSU network will allow sportspeople to film their performances; take part in fundamental physical aptitude tests; measure themselves against their peers via the WSU Challenges option; gain access to support from their communities; grow a fan base; and of course be spotted by coaches and professional clubs.

Adéothy added that WSU will aim to create a mixed community of talent from every sport, based on the meritocracy principle and fair play values of the Olympics (citius, altius, fortius). Sportspeople, independently of their background, can compete in WSU sports Challenges with professionals, enlist other champions-in-the-making; and share their performance on Twitter or Instagram, all whilst being connected to the WeSportUs Challenges interface.

WeSportUs includes 30 attribute tests that apply to more than 250 sports and which have been developed in conjunction with national level coaches. “You can test your speed, elasticity, agility, lap times etc, add the results to your individual profile via a video and make it available to coaches, trainers, clubs, leagues and fans who are also on the network,” Adéothy added. “It’s a new way of scouting athletes in different disciplines. There are plenty of kids around the developing world who would undoubtedly post fantastic results, but at the moment we just don’t know about them.”

Of course, many of these children will already be posting videos to their Facebook or Instagram accounts. However, the aim of WSU is to offer them a focal point for their abilities and a community where they can connect with scouts, trainers and coaches.

From the point of view of those coaches and scouts, WSU offers an environment where an athlete can be found based on a whole range of parameters – type of sport, age, gender, left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot, endurance etc. Once those parameters have been defined and an athlete(s) have been selected their performance can be tracked over time to measure progression. There are free and paid for profiles which are defined by the level of depth required in the athlete search.

Adéothy explained: “If you are looking for a left footed, female footballer, aged between 14-16, in the Finsbury Park area of London, you’ll be able to find them. The cost of this will depend on the amount and quality of data you want to use – it’s a sliding scale.”

The WSU platform is not yet online but the platform already boasts a community of around 20,000 athletes who are following WSU on various social networks. The platform is currently under development and WSU are going through its first seed capital in order to finance the technical build of the front end. All the backend and the database has been built already, and Adéothy predicts the front end will be live within four to five months and will ultimately be a community that will be used around the world.

“It’s a true global platform as the stories from the streets of Abidjan are similar to the stories from the favelas of Brazil, which are similar to some of the more urban neighbourhoods of London or Paris, and so on,” Adéothy added. “The talent is there but doesn’t always get seen, and our platform decentralises the process and creates a meritocracy.”

WSU is a platform that also aims to span all sports, not just the popular ones like football. It will be able to play a key role in less ubiquitous sports where talent may be more dispersed and difficult to track down. The problem with a sport like football is that there are so many players, so standing out from the crowd may be difficult. However, with smaller sports the problem is reversed, where it’s hard to find the talent, coaches and scouts, and connect them together.

“WSU is about providing that shop window and breaking down those barriers of distance and the possible lack of a support network for certain sports, Adéothy continued. “Take swimming for example. Some countries don’t even have an Olympic sized pool. How are you going to produce a champion under those conditions?

“Athletes have a short career so it’s very important that they get this exposure as quickly as possible rather than waiting for things to happen. We operate as a digital CV to try and accelerate this.”

Moving forward WSU will also look to employ blockchain technology in order to trace the talent spotting supply chain and reward people that have been involved in the discovery of new talent and distribute value within the ecosystem (in the form of a new cryptocurrency called WeSportCoin).