An education in the liberal arts and sciences gave CoachTools CEO and founder Justin Titchenell ’21 the depth of knowledge and enduring skills he needed to discover solutions and communicate them effectively to a committed team. Empowered by this approach to education and supported by the Gettysburg Network, Titchenell and his team have CoachTools poised to become the premier player evaluation tool for college and high school football programs.
A student-athlete majoring in organization and management studies with a business minor, Titchenell applied the lessons he learned in the classroom, particularly those that explored problem solving and deductive reasoning, to the inherent challenges he witnessed as part of performance evaluations of both high school and collegiate football players. What Titchenell realized from his own experiences on the field and in conversations with high school and college coaches was that there wasn’t a consistent system to evaluate individual player performance within the context of a game or practice. There were plenty of tools to look at team performance play-by-play within a game, but there was a lack of data to process what each player was doing within the play and throughout the contest.
Titchenell wanted to develop a performance tool that coaches could utilize to create their own metrics to gauge what players were doing on the field, ranging from reaction times and positioning to movements and assignments. With this information in hand, coaches could get a better sense of what they needed to focus on for continued player development, while players would understand the specific elements of the game they needed to work on to improve on the field.
“There was definitely a niche in the market,” said Titchenell. “There was not really a centralized and fully developed way for coaches to enhance the way that they evaluate their players, and not only give them great feedback, but also help them to create authentic relationships with their players.”
Titchenell’s new football-based evaluative tool materialized under the guidance of Economics Prof. Drew Murphy ’84 P’20, a successful entrepreneur who has founded three businesses, including his quantitative research firm Qpro Analytics. Murphy quickly recognized the value in Titchenell’s proposal and connected him with the resources and people he needed to bring it to life on campus and through the Gettysburg Network.
“The nature of liberal arts is to ask yourself, ‘How do I solve a problem?’, which is the heart of entrepreneurial thinking,” said Murphy. “We create this diverse ability to use your brain and then the entrepreneurial part is trying to encourage you to use all the skills you developed to actually solve your problems.”
Seeking additional input and expertise, Titchenell recruited football teammate and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brother Jack Volker ’21 and baseball player Matt Szczesny ’21 to help with idea generation and operations. To create the software, Titchenell and his fellow co-founders then partnered with computer science majors Ricardo Hernandez ’21, Cameron Burns ’21, and Kayl Murdough ’21, who were completing their Capstones through the Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Initiative (E-SII) in 2020-21.
“The students drove the bus; we just provided them opportunity to test their thoughts and behave in that very entrepreneurial way,” said Murphy. “We married with the Computer Science Department to get students IT development experience.”
As the tech team completed their Capstone requirements and contractual obligations with CoachTools at the end of the Fall 2020 semester, Titchenell worked with Murphy to secure additional funding for further development of the platform; the filing of the LLC and legal requirements; and the website domain name, hosting service, and database. Thanks to alumni mentorship and support, including Bill Heyman ’74, Jeff Siegfried ’81, Bob Allen ’89, and the late Nick Johnson ’90, student initiatives like CoachTools have continued to progress.
“The alumni felt very engaged with the College by helping the students in their work,” said Murphy. “It's such a fulfilling thing and very rewarding for those involved, whether they contributed by giving us financial support, contributed by being mentors, or contributed by helping us lead and grow the program.”
More than two years following their graduation from Gettysburg, the former student-athletes continue to refine their product and expand their business portfolio while also working full-time. Titchenell is an event consultant at his family’s live entertainment company, BVTLive, based in the Philadelphia area; Volker is a client service associate at Morgan Stanley in New York City; and Szczesny, who majored in mathematical economics, also works in the Philadelphia area as a logistics analyst at Braskem America.
The trio often dedicates their mornings and evenings to communicating with clients and then connects with coaches whenever possible during school visits or at conventions. To date, they’ve partnered with 14 football programs across the country, including Gettysburg, University of Rochester, Rowan University, and Detroit Central Catholic (Michigan). In the coming months, Titchenell aims to triple his clientele with the support of the committed team he built at Gettysburg.
“At the end of the day, if you don't have the full team on board, it's not going to work,” said Titchenell, who indicated CoachTools may look to expand into other sports in the future. “It's all about buy-in and commitment. I think that's an important lesson I learned from Gettysburg—being able to know that anything great takes time and you have to have a belief in yourself and in the work you’ve put in.”
Recently, Titchenell connected with former Penn State University and current Green Bay Packers quarterback Sean Clifford, who was intrigued by CoachTools’ possibilities and has helped the team with marketing and outreach.
“Something like CoachTools gives coaches and players an objective snapshot of performance to help them identify strengths and areas for improvement,” said Clifford. “I believe in the CoachTools mission and am excited to witness how we help improve programs nationwide.”
This fall, students have an opportunity to sign up for the Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation Pathway, which, along with a Personal Advising Team, will provide students with similar opportunities, resources, and a support network as those utilized by Titchenell in his quest to turn his big idea into a big business.
“Stepping out of our comfort zone like we did with Drew and the entrepreneurship program created a solid foundation that stems from Gettysburg, and I think it gives me the confidence that we will succeed,” said Titchenell.
By Corey Jewart
Photos courtesy of Corey Jewart, May Lonergan ’21, and Justin Titchenell ’21