How good UX helps high school athletes get into college

At CaptainU, high school athletes constantly ask, "What do I need to do next to get recruited?". Our app wasn't showing them what their immediate next step was or the full scope of what it takes to get recruited to play in college. We had to re-think how we show this.

Results preview

After user testing and implementing our designs, we saw a 82.6% increase in athletes adding photos to their profile, a 20.9% increase in athletes adding videos to their profile, and a 458.3% increase in athletes adding asking coaches for endorsements

The UX before the project

The dashboard image below is what athletes normally saw before this project. It shows a few options without a clear idea of what they should do first.

what athletes see when they log in

Hifi Designs

Small asks before showing the whole journey

We found through user testing that we should give athletes a simple, mobile experience with brief instructions paired with quick actions that build their profile and get rewards like profile points and praise to build confidence and show appreciation for their efforts.

Introductory workflow

A common use case is for athletes to first hear about CaptainU when they get invited by their coach to play in a tournament. They sign up through CaptainU so that college coaches can recruit them if they like what they see.

Not every athlete wants to play sports in college, however, and it was important to see if they were motivated to use a tool like CaptainU. If they were, the next few steps would help reinforce that path and get them into a rhythm of completing quick and easy tasks.


Photo workflow

Uploading a profile photo to their profile is a critical first step in getting ready to get recruited. The social proof section below the main call to action provided examples of good profile photos from real athletes using the app.


We've saw a 82.6% increase in athletes adding photos to their profile because of this new UX.


Video workflow

This was the most problematic part for users in testing. Everyone that tested this thought it was about uploading a video. It wasn't until a suggestions from Emily and Astrid in support to break up the question into 2 parts that we saw athletes be able to what what we were really asking for and get through this workflow.


We've saw a 20.9% increase in athletes adding videos to their profile because of this new UX.


Coach recommendation workflow

We initially tried having athletes calculate their athletic abilities in a new metric we created called the CAP score but that proved to be too complex for this workflow and the feature was still under development.

Instead, we found that asking for a coach recommendation with a very simple form was a better ask to round out the process. Both youth coaches and athletes really liked this feature during testing.


This is where things get crazy: We've saw a staggering 458.3% increase in athletes adding asking coaches for endorsements because of this new UX. In the past, athletes used a message template that they could edit before sending their request to a coach. We removed that friction point and all requests send a standard but optimized request message with one click of a button.


The big reveal

Once the athlete completes the coach recommendation step, they are shown the whole mission journey where they can see they have already made a lot of progress.

Here are a few of the phases athletes can do to start their journey. Our hypothesis was that getting the first few profile actions done in Phase 1 would build confidence and momentum and lead to more phases and steps taken.

Here are some examples of how the tablet/desktop version offered an enhanced version of the experience.

phase 1
phase 3
phase 6

We didn't want the whole mission page to be this massive set of phases and lists. We thought that hiding future work in locked phases that could be previewed would strike the right balance using progressive disclosure.

Sketches & Wireframes

Small steps in a large journey

I ran several design studios and collected the best and most voted on ideas while removing concepts that engineering deemed too expensive for a minimum viable product.