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Kitman Labs, Columbus Crew Unveils Wide-Ranging ‘Innovation Partnership’

Tim Bezbatchenko and Stephen Smith

Kitman Labs, the performance intelligence company setting a new industry standard for how elite sports organizations use data, today announced a landmark multi-year partnership with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer (MLS). The partnership will be housed at the Crew’s world-class facilities in Lower.com Field and the OhioHealth Performance Center in Columbus.

“We welcome the Crew and their entire Organization, led by Tim Bezbatchenko, into the Kitman Labs performance family,” founder and CEO Stephen Smith said. “As the first club in Major League Soccer history, the Crew are paving the way as the first in MLS to become an ‘Innovation Partnership’ club – a multi-faceted partnership which will impact every level of athlete performance and club operations, from their first team to their scouting and youth programs to their approach to investment and resource allocation. Our collective goal is to create a fully integrated operating system designed to elevate and advance player and team performance in North America, and we are proud to be able to collaborate with a club that has been known as an innovation leader since the founding of MLS.”

“The Crew and Kitman Labs are two organizations with complementary philosophies which is why this groundbreaking partnership makes so much sense,” Crew President & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. “We are both deeply committed to fundamentally changing how data is used in sport to optimize performance, reduce injury risk, support operations, and ultimately drive success across every aspect of the organization, from the First Team, through Crew 2 and to the Academy. That common mission has now evolved into the development of an all-encompassing operations platform that will hopefully yield dividends in every aspect of team operations – not just for the Crew, but for North American soccer in the years to come. We are proud to be the first adopters in MLS as we look to try and set a new standard in how performance intelligence is leveraged across the sport.”

Kitman will collaborate with the Crew to leverage its proprietary performance intelligence platform and analytics to support three key areas of focus:

  • Player Development – delivering a tailored and data-driven talent development process to maximize player potential
  • Evidence-based Coaching – development of a real-time integrated system to enable objective, outcome-driven coaching and planning
  • Scouting and Recruiting – development of a data rich, configurable recruitment analytics solution to maximize the return on current and prospective players

With roots as “The Team of Firsts in MLS,” the Crew – under Bezbatchenko’s leadership since 2019 – have secured three championships: 2020 MLS Cup, 2021 Campeones Cup, 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Cup.

Leading the day-to-day implementation of the partnership are Crew Vice President of Soccer Administration Jaime McMillan, Crew Director of Analytics Alex Mysiw, Kitman Labs Performance Strategy Lead Darcy Norman and Kitman Labs Project Manager Courtney Steward.

The Kitman Labs Innovation Leadership partnership is designed to provide Columbus with deeper, strategic insight into all areas of on-field performance, ranging from developmental club best practices to helping gamify trade and transfer scenarios as well as making sure that injury prevention and maximal performance scenarios are created effectively and easily for all athletes, while giving performance leaders the ability to maximize every area of performance. The Crew and the Kitman Labs teams will work in lock-step to develop and instill the infrastructure and processes necessary at the ground level, to support the accurate, real-time collection and distillation of relevant data across the business to enable the analysis necessary to drive the desired KPIs.

This new business launch follows other recent business strategy moves Kitman Labs have undertaken. That includes the successful close of a $52M Series C funding round led by Guggenheim Investments, a global asset investment and advisory firm with more than $259 billion* in assets under management and two strategic acquisitions of The Sports Office and Presagia Sports, both made in the last two years. The combined companies represent the industry’s largest network of elite and youth organizations (700+) and created the industry’s largest dataset of talent, performance, and medical data for all stages of the athlete lifecycle.

About Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 30 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and as a freelance professional. His PR clients have included Wizard World and FAN EXPO, which produce pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America, USA Wrestling, the National Lacrosse League, Strat-O-Matic Media, the Pacific Life Open and Pilot Pen Tennis tournaments and dozens of others. Milani is also the director of athletic communications for Caldwell University. He is a proud graduate of North Rockland High School and Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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