Former Disney Executive Launches App for Youth Sports Coaches
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
Ben Sherwood, the former Walt Disney Co. executive and L.A. native, spent 12 years coaching his kids' sports teams. The same question followed him year after year: how do you lead a good practice?
"You have one minute after you get off your last work call to walk onto a field with eight or 10 kids," said Sherwood, who stepped down from his position as president of Disney-ABC TV Group and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks in March 2019. "What are you going to do? No matter what your level, every mom and dad knows you need good ideas."
His new app Mojo, which launched Tuesday, offers custom training schedules for youth soccer coaches pressed for time. He hopes the platform will help the 500 million kids playing organized sports get back on the field as practices and games pick back up.
"In Southern California and in Los Angeles in particular, sports have been shut down harder and longer than in most places," Sherwood said. "We want to be there for whenever spring soccer begins, wherever you live."
Last February, the startup raised an $8 million Series A round from investors including L.A.-based Tom Werner, owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, and U.S. women's national soccer team players Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain. The company is also backed by dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff.
After a coach enters details about their players like skill level and age, Mojo generates a list of tutorials and activities. And even if "your kids only want to climb the tree in the park," Sherwood said, the app can still help.
"Youth sports is chaos," said co-founder and chief operating officer Reed Shaffner, who's worked at Microsoft, Scopely and the game developer Zynga. "You might have the best plan and then everything goes by the wayside because it's little kids."
He and Sherwood worked with child psychologists and youth coaches to build out the app's functions, many of which are free. They also worked with Mandalay Sports Media — producers of the Michael Jordan documentary "The Last Dance" — to shoot tutorials at the Banc of California Stadium.
In following the startup's mission of "leveling the playing field" for kids interested in sports, Sherwood said, Mojo Inc. will offer premium subscriptions to volunteer coaches with Coaching Corps. And as the platform catches on, the startup will add more sports.
"I do have a dream list," Sherwood said. "I would say tackle football is not on the list. I would say that just about everything else is."
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As Thanksgiving approached, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti implored residents to stay home and halt all nonessential travel as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed.
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The venture and private equity firm this week announced that its special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would take Atlanta-based cannabis producer Parallel public in a merger that will value the Canadian-listed company at $1.88 billion.
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Joe Crouthers is the CEO of Ceres and head executive of the SPAC that bought Parallel.