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Articles January 18, 2021

Sports Innovation Challenge: Making Virtual Sports Fun With a Mobile Outing Management App


The Inspiration Behind Absen-Tee

A strikingly personal idea, one Innovation Challenge team designed an application with teammate Stephen Seliskar’s high school hockey coach in mind. Seliskar’s alma mater Gilmour Academy hosts an annual golf outing each year to raise funds for the hockey program, but COVID-19 threatened to cancel it in 2020. The outing usually hosts 120 people so, without it, the hockey program would not be able to cover the expenses for the year.

While golf is a lower-risk sport that has been enjoyed by many during the pandemic, larger golf outings organized for fundraising or corporate events do not meet social distancing guidelines. So the Weapons of Grass Destruction team set out to create a virtual golf outing that retained a sense of competition, excitement, and group dynamic — without compromising players’ health. The result was a mobile web app that allows organizers to easily set up a virtual outing, while participants can register and hit the links at a time of their choosing. The solution accounts for variables that arise out of differing skill levels on different courses, so that fair and friendly competition can be enjoyed even when players are not together.

Early on, the team identified three goals to drive their solution:

  • Build a virtual product to emulate a real-life program for a specific customer, focusing on the core functions first while cultivating a backlog of enhancements
  • Deliver an MVP design with functionality for both golfers and organizers, in a short time frame, with the ability to apply to other sports in the future
  • Level the playing field for a virtual outing, not only by incorporating players’ handicaps into scoring, but by including the USGA difficulty rank of each player’s course

How Absen-Tee Works

The app was designed to last for the lifecycle of an event, with organizers creating a remote outing, then inviting others to participate. Once the invited golfers register and play, they or their teams can enter their scores, and see how the competition is faring. Along with the digital invites, the MVP also featured:

  • Score reporting
  • Handicap and course rank implementation 
  • Player, organizer, and admin user roles 
  • Ability to view an up-to-date leaderboard 

The leaderboard was the most innovative aspect of the project. Calculating both a net and composite score, it uses a player’s handicap and the USGA course difficulty ranking to level the playing field. This allows for an accurate and fair competition when players can’t safely be on the same course at the same time.

The scoring algorithm calculates an outing score and rank based on the following variables:

  • Course par
  • Course rating
  • Slope rating
  • Golfer score 
  • Golfer handicap
  • Ranking system

The Brand Identity 

The team also considered aspects of the app’s customer experience and visual design. Understanding that users span all age levels, they ensured the app was accessible for people with varying degrees of tech-savvy and followed material design best practices.

Absen-Tee’s color palette was inspired by the visual experience of being on a golf course, with blue, green, and white serving as the color story. They settled on a logo and icon that met their goal of establishing a simple but playful brand identity.

Additional Applications and Considerations 

With fundraising at the heart of the app, the team felt like Absen-Tee could be used by individuals and organizations to increase donations (and competition) for corporate golf outings, rank personal course scores with professionals’, and organize even larger fundraising events. The framework could also be applied for organizing and scheduling of additional leagues for sports such as bowling or cycling — though the challenge would be to determine how to normalize scores for sports that don’t have a handicapping system. Those scenarios would require a new algorithm.

Future updates to the technology would include an enhanced leaderboard with live hole-by-hole entry and embedded modules to enhance fundraising and sponsorship efforts. Adding a social media component could also increase engagement through image and video sharing, as well as commenting functionality.

The teams’ favorite part of this Sports Innovation Challenge was having the opportunity to use an entirely new tech stack, one with cutting-edge tools that allowed them to build the app more quickly. While accepting this challenge meant working remotely, the team enjoyed experimenting with new technology and feeding their own intellectual curiosity.

“Even if we never utilize this exact product for clients, we’ll definitely use the technology for them in the future,” said Seliskar.

The Team 

  • Stephen Seliskar (Senior Consultant, Systems Integration)
  • Gavin Buerk (Senior Manager, Systems Integration)
  • Allen White (Manager, Systems Integration)
  • Danny Tilton (Senior Consultant, Systems Integration)
  • Parthiv Vora (Consultant, Systems Integration)
  • Louis Boehling (Senior Consultant, Customer Experience)
  • Frankie Cleary (Senior Manager, Data & Analytics)
  • Jessica Rinker (Manager, Management Consulting)