Silver Sluggers Returns to Upper Hand to Accelerate Growth

Silver Sluggers, an Upper Hand customer since 2016, is a premier baseball training facility based in Madison, WI. They have 13 travel teams and 50 fall league teams, and provide 60 hours of private instruction per week.

Success stats

14

Hours saved per month on customer communication

85%

Athlete retention - 30% higher than industry average

293%

Increase in private instruction revenue since 2017

Sports training software helps baseball academy transform the athlete experience

$20 and an idea.

That is what pushed Brad Woodall to get back into coaching baseball.

Following a successful playing and coaching career in the MLB, Woodall worked as a marketing manager while attending University of Wisconsin Madison to earn his MBA. At the end of graduate school, he participated in what was called the “Entrepreneurial Challenge” where his professor gave each student $20 to start a business. Woodall took his $20 to an indoor training facility in town to rent out one hour of space to train one athlete.

Thirteen years later, Woodall is now the owner and director of Silver Sluggers Academy, a premier baseball training facility based in Madison, Wisconsin. Silver Sluggers Academy now hosts 13 travel teams and 50 fall league teams, and conducts over 60 hours a week of lessons and private training year round.

And that first athlete he coached? He’s now one of Silver Sluggers Academy’s top coaches.

With a mission to develop both the technical and life skills of his athletes, Woodall was committed to providing a premium brand of instruction. Finding a software partner to support that mission became even more critical to delivering that brand promise.

In 2016, Woodall turned back to Upper Hand, and has since been able to support athlete retention of 90%.

Woodall had previously worked with Upper Hand, but the fit wasn’t quite right at the time. With both companies in a different stage of growth, Silver Sluggers Academy decided to move away from Upper Hand to explore another solution that better fit its needs.

However, in 2016, Woodall had seen the progress the software had made, and he ultimately decided to return to Upper Hand.

“The software has come so far in the last few years that we’ve been using it, and it just keeps getting better and better. The general ability for the customer to understand how to register and schedule for things has come a long way, and the client facing side of it is easy to manage.”

“The software has come so far in the last few years that we’ve been using it, and it just keeps getting better and better. The general ability for the customer to understand how to register and schedule for things has come a long way, and the client facing side of it is easy to manage.”

Silver Sluggers' staff has more time to focus on delivering high-quality instruction

Running a successful business is no easy task. Each day at Silver Sluggers Academy is packed full of training, clinics, or practices, which means that Woodall must prioritize organization.

“Upper Hand is the first thing I check every morning to make sure that our coaches are on the schedule and at the right time and place.”

He reviews the day’s calendar, from the coaches and athletes he can expect to see at his facility to the resources that are being used. He also utilizes Upper Hand to communicate with his clients and process payments.

“We use Upper Hand every day. We use it for payment processing, for scheduling, for our coaches to understand when the facilities are available, and for registration for our clinics and individual lessons. I’m on it all the time.”

Upper Hand also empowers Woodall to efficiently lead a strong and talented team of coaches. Woodall estimates that the buy-in he receives from his team saves him 3-4 hours of communication each week:

“I’ve gotten to the point where my staff uses Upper Hand so well that they don’t need me anymore. They know when and where to show up, and they’re on the app as much as I am. That makes things a lot easier for me administratively, because all our staff have access to when they will be working.”

Because of the effective organization on the back-end, Woodall and his coaching staff are able to focus on delivering high quality instruction and training to their clients and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Easy scheduling experience has helped boost Silver Sluggers' retention rates

Woodall has spent years developing a positive and engaging culture at Silver Sluggers Academy–a culture that emphasizes the client experience.

“It is our goal to develop good kids, and develop them into understanding the correlation between work ethic and success over time, whatever they’re doing,” says Woodall. “As a parent myself, we want what is best for the players and their experience on the field. If we show that we care about the player’s development and focus on that, we will be rewarded with higher retention rates. Wins and losses are secondary to player development.”

Since working with Upper Hand for the past 5 years, Woodall has found that technology has helped to elevate the client-facing side of his business. Not only has the ease of use contributed to athlete retention levels of 85-90%, but his clients no longer rely on him for information.

“The players that have been with us understand Upper Hand as much as I do now, and it allows them to feel comfortable registering for lessons or clinics and understand that they will have all the information they need on Upper Hand to be able to attend these events.”

The preeminent reason for a strong “branded experience” is a really well designed, modern user interface. The ability to provide a premium branded experience for clients has boosted the legitimacy of Silver Sluggers Academy, which also encourages new business.

“When a player looks at us, and they start researching us and signing up for our clinics, they experience how easy it is to sign up for things, and do it all electronically. It adds credibility to the organization that we’ve been around for a while, and we’ll be around for a long time.”

Woodall believes that adding a branding component to Silver Sluggers Academy through Upper Hand has “helped us scale up our business without a ton of effort. It provides a marketing push for us because it is so easy to use.”

“The players that have been with us understand Upper Hand as much as I do now, and it allows them to feel comfortable registering for lessons or clinics and understand that they will have all the information they need on Upper Hand to be able to attend these events.”

Upper Hand's flexibility enabled Silver Sluggers to quickly pivot during pandemic

For Silver Sluggers Academy, growth is measured by client retention as well as growth.

One of the metrics that Woodall uses to gauge the growth of Silver Sluggers Academy is facility capacity. Through Upper Hand, Woodall is able to track how each space as his facility is being used, as well as make decisions about how to allocate his resources to maximize use of each space. This flexibility was put to the test last March, as COVID-19 shutdowns cancelled spring sports and forced Woodall to temporarily close his doors.

“We lost one of our facilities last year because it was a healthcare facility that was closed down during COVID. So, we had to move all of our players, teams, and programs into our other, smaller, facility. We had to do some work and look at the schedule to see how we could put things together on Upper Hand to make those adjustments.”

In just 10 days, Woodall was able to rework his entire business structure and schedule to begin offering online training.

“Upper Hand was essential in doing online, remote training because nobody could come in and just hand me a check. So, we processed payments over Upper Hand. The software allowed us to do everything we needed to do in 10 days, because all we had to do was quickly transition a couple of our clinic offerings to an online version. There was nothing we needed to do other than make some quick changes in the software and allow the players and parents to start coming to us.”

The ability to quickly pivot to provide training opportunities over COVID has also helped attract new clients to Silver Sluggers Academy, which Woodall has found extremely rewarding.

“It has been cool to see some of the players that came to us that we didn’t know because we offered online instruction. Now, they are playing for our teams and they’re doing well for us because they trained all the way through the shutdown.”

Looking ahead to the future of Silver Sluggers Academy, it is incredibly bright for Woodall and his team. Whether he looks to scale up geographically or dig into the use of technology to expand the instructional component, one thing does remain certain:

“Upper Hand is going to be with us along the way.”

Conclusion

Just as Woodall wants to see each of his athletes improve, he also wants to see Silver Sluggers Academy continue to grow. That’s why it’s important for him to know that the organizations he chooses to partner with also have a similar mindset.

“We want to be the kind of company where clients look at us and say ‘they are up to date with the latest, and they’re going to give us the best value we can get. Upper Hand has that same philosophy, which is a great compliment to both of our businesses. I see Upper Hand taking input from me as a business owner and implementing it over time. We’re both in very different markets–software development and player development–but Upper Hand is as progressive as we are.”

“We want to be the kind of company where clients look at us and say ‘they are up to date with the latest, and they’re going to give us the best value we can get. Upper Hand has that same philosophy, which is a great compliment to both of our businesses. I see Upper Hand taking input from me as a business owner and implementing it over time. We’re both in very different markets--software development and player development--but Upper Hand is as progressive as we are.”

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