With wearable tech, Portland’s Beyond Pulse aims to keep kids’ sports fun – oregonlive.com

Marc-Andre Maillet, founder and CEO of Portland-based Beyond Pulse, thinks the same wearable tech that helps athletes recover from injuries and shatter records can also help keep kids interested in sports.Beyond Pulse
Sensors and wearable technology quickly became a staple in professional sports throughout the last decade and have helped some of the most famous athletes of all time shatter world records and recover at lightning speed.
But Marc-Andre Maillet, founder and CEO of Portland-based Beyond Pulse, is betting the same gadgets can break another statistic.
Seventy percent of kids drop out of playing organized sports by the time they reach high-school age, according to a poll by National Alliance for Youth Sports. The reason? The performance-driven nature of youth sports is just not fun anymore. Once children hit 13 years old, organized sports are designed, in a way, for those who want to be “successful” at it, not for those who simply enjoy the game.
As both a youth and professional soccer coach — with a degree in economics and sports pedagogy — this fact stuck in the back of Maillet’s head. And, at the time, he was only utilizing sensor monitoring tech for the pros, until something clicked.
“I was using it to see how I could get my players to be better,” he said. “But then I realized that the players weren’t the ones who needed help. It was actually me as a coach who didn’t have any feedback, and the data could be used as a tool to create a better environment for our kids.”
Transitioning the tech from pros to kids was a natural move considering Maillet’s background. Growing up, he loved soccer, played throughout his adult life, and went to graduate school to learn how sports can create “micro societies” for children to adapt to real-world challenges.
This combination of leveraging tech to facilitate learning with sports is the basis of Beyond Pulse. Founded in 2018, Maillet teamed up with an European technology company to create “unobtrusive” wearable belts for kids to wear during practice sessions, which can monitor everything from heart rate, speed, active participation, distance and workload — all in the name of fun.
“It’s not about making kids more professional,” Maillet said. “The idea was really born out of how we create an environment where we can support their coaches so they become better, and also support parents.”
Beyond Pulse makes wearable belts for kids to wear during practice sessions, which can monitor everything from heart rate, speed, active participation, distance and workload.Beyond Pulse
Beyond Pulse believes its “ed tech,” and the data it produces, can act as an intervention point for coaches to re-evaluate how they’re teaching kids.
Say a coach sees the entire team’s active participation is lower than average after a 90-minute practice using Beyond Pulse’s belts. Maybe the coach spent 10 minutes talking, or the players spent most of the practice waiting behind the line in kicking drills.
Using the analytic data to make subtle adjustments, like adding more cones so the players are touching the ball every second rather than every minute, or saving the pep talk toward the end, can result in more engagement.
“Active participation, not how good you play, is the number one factor for development,” Maillet said.
And parents, believe it or not, aren’t the biggest barrier in implementing Beyond Pulse’s tech. It’s the coaches, Maillet said, who can often be resistant to adding new elements into their routines.
“Coaches have this intuition, they understand how the game is played,” Maillet said. “That’s why we keep simplifying the product and trying to be a positive part of the coaching experience and not a burden.”
Right now, the company has hundreds of its belts deployed in soccer clubs across the country — from the Oregon Premier League to Midwest United FC in Michigan — with hopes to expand into more sports and physical education classes in schools. Maillet said people may think wearable tech takes the fun out of sports by putting numbers and data to performance, but he sees it as the opposite.
“For us it’s about, how do you become the best you can be?” he said. “And really making sure we’re building a growth mindset, where winning and losing is not necessarily in the middle of it.”
— Meira Gebel
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