By TJ Davis
Each year, high school athletes across the country attempt to navigate the complicated process of collegiate recruiting with hopes of becoming part of the 2 percent of athletes who go on to earn a scholarship. After finding success during his own recruitment experience, Craig Ridley has ambitions of making the process simpler for young athletes and their families with his upcoming app: ROUTE.
“We’ve collected years of data on every college football player and program in the country,” said Ridley, a father of three who lives in Ashburn. “We want to be the foremost sports analytics company out there. … We think we can make a difference, and we think we can help a lot of people navigate the process.”
The idea for the app began when Craig Ridley endured the recruitment process with his son, Chase, who played football for Stone Bridge High School and graduated in 2016. Chase wanted to play Division I football but, despite excelling on the field and in the classroom, he got little interest from colleges at that level. Having coached his son in youth football, Craig Ridley was confident that he had the skillset for Division I, so he helped him pursue a scholarship.
“I started to build a spreadsheet, pulling down rosters, looking at receivers at his position and coaches,” Ridley said. “When you’re (gathering information) manually you can do about 15, 20 schools before it starts to get exhausting.”
After months of making spreadsheets, networking with coaches, attending camps, and everything else that comes with trying to land an athletic scholarship, Chase earned a preferred walk-on opportunity from West Virginia University.
“[Chase] landed not only a division one program but a Power Five conference,” he said. “After successfully navigating that process, I had parents coming up to me asking me ‘how did you do it?’ That’s how I came up with the idea.”
ROUTE is an app that aims to change the landscape of college football recruiting by using data and advanced analytics to help student athletes and their families make informed decisions to navigate recruiting. Ridley also believes the app will help simplify the process for high school and college coaches, too.
“The app guides players to universities that are appropriate for their academic skill set [in addition to their athletic skill set],” said Mickey Thompson, head football coach at Stone Bridge, a football powerhouse in Ashburn. “I think in the past we tried to give [players] an idea where they could play based on [their] athletic ability.”
The app will realistically evaluate students’ best fit based on academics, he added. “So combining that with the athletic skill set will allow athletes to narrow the focus of recruiting and prevent parents from wasting money and time pursuing unrealistic opportunities.”
Thompson has been the head coach for Stone Bridge since the school opened in 2000, and he’s led the Bulldogs to a 196-41 all-time record including a 2007 5A state championship. He’s had a role in seeing many alumni go on to play at the collegiate level, including his son, Zach Thompson, who played for Wake Forest University and went on to play in the NFL. He also coached Jonathan Allen, who earned a scholarship to the University of Alabama and was later drafted by the Washington Redskins with the 17th pick of the 2017 NFL draft.
The ROUTE app debuts on iOS on July 15. Until then, users can sign up for 30 days of free access to the premium membership when the app is released. The premium membership, which costs $9.99 per month after the free 30-day trial, entails key features such as a dashboard for both athletes and coaches that charts combine data and allows users to see how their numbers compare to a school’s average. Other premium features include: a calculation of an athlete’s probability within a division and at a university, the app will track commits and de-commits, a review tool that allows student athletes to rate their recruiting experience with a school for the benefit of other users, local listings of training and tutoring opportunities, and more features that will be unveiled with the app’s release.
“It’s going to show you your probability at playing at any level of the seven divisions within college football, what your probability is for those divisions and the schools within those divisions,” Thompson said. “It’s really amazing.”
ROUTE will also have a free version that will offer access to limited content including the division probability and an open forum for athletes and parents to connect and share information about the best (or worst) resources. Ridley believes that ROUTE can benefit all student athletes who are entering the recruitment process.
“Whether you’re sitting on a bunch of offers or you have no offers, ROUTE can help you,” he said. It may simply help an athlete speed up their search process, land a better offer, or find a college that’s better fit.
For now, the app only tackles the football recruiting process, but the ROUTE team believes the it can eventually become a tool for all sports.
“We’re starting with football because it’s the most complex,” Ridley said. “But if we get football right, and we’re confident that we will, this product certainly has application to other sports.”
Learn more at myroute.xyz.
TJ Davis is a summer intern at Loudoun Now, studying journalism at Liberty University.