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Photo: Kim Wiens

Gee-Gee athlete and U of O students kick off sports software company

When it’s deep in the fourth quarter of an important football game, coaches need all the information they can get. In most leagues, using video review during the game is a no-go, so coaches are starting to use photographs to analyze players’ position to prepare a winning play.

A group of University of Ottawa students have created a company to refine that process using, you guessed it, an app.

“It improves a process that coaches already use called ‘still photo analysis’,” said Tunch Akkaya, a Gee-Gees football player, graduate student in engineering management at the U of O and  co-founder of GameStrat.

“It used to be that somebody up in the stands would take a bunch of pictures,” he said. “They’d print them out, throw them in a binder and run down to the sidelines for coaches and players to use.”

But technology has come to the rescue—it’s 2015, after all.

“It’s all done on one device, it’s streamlined, it saves a lot of time,” said Akkaya. “You can see positioning, the type of defence or offence they ran… being prepared is what it comes down to.”

Akkaya got together with fellow students Elijah Wu, who’s doing his masters in computer science, and Marvin Reyes, an undergrad in software engineering, to get started.

Akkaya said he came up with the idea in the summer of 2014, when a rule change allowed tablets to be used on the field. “I said wow, this is a perfect opportunity,” he said. They got funding from the U of O’s Startup Garage program, which looks to help grow the companies of young entrepreneurs, and were on their way.

Coming up with a product is all well and good, but how can you be sure it works? The Gee-Gees were willing to put it to the test—by using it every game this season.

“The app was extremely helpful,” said Arthur Pidgeon, assistant offensive coach with the Gee-Gees. “It would show us what they were doing to adjust to our plays, and it helped us make in-game adjustments rather than doing it at halftime.”

GameStrat’s success could go beyond just the U of O team.

“We’ve had plenty of interest from the other Canadian university football teams,” said Akkaya. “Our plan is to go and demo the product for them and see where it goes.”

Right now they’re focusing on the photos, but GameStrat has a lot more in store. “We’re planning on adding all new analytics,” said Akkaya. Success rates of a play call, timing of plays—“any type of beneficial data that a coach might want,” he said.

“Our plan now is just to market,” he said. The group has plans to touch down in Texas in January for the American Football Coaches Association Convention.

We’ve started to see a rise of the statisticians in sports. Even Hollywood has gotten in on the action, idolizing Oakland A’s general manager Billy Bean for popularizing the use of statistics in baseball. The creators of GameStrat are hoping they can ride a similar wave in football, and who knows where it will take them next.