Kitman Labs CEO Stephen Smith Q And A

STEPHEN SMITH, Founder of Kitman Labs, “This isn’t about fancy charts or reports. It’s about solving big problems. It’s about winning trophies and extending careers. That is our mission.”

The Sports Techie community blog had a insightful Q and A with Kitman Labs CEO Stephen Smith. Kitman Labs is an international sports technology business that has quickly become the leader worldwide in sports analytics and performance. Under Smith’s leadership, Kitman Labs has built an advanced operating system used by many of the elite sports world’s largest and most innovative leagues, teams and regulatory bodies — from the NFL to MLS Next to the English Premier League and the NWSL as well as dozens of NCAA schools such as Georgia, Clemson, Texas Tech, MSU, and research partner, Syracuse University, elite soccer and rugby clubs across the globe, and much more, including ‘More than Equal‘, the champions of F1 racing for female drivers. Based in Northern California with U.K. offices in Manchester and Dublin, Kitman Labs is fueling the tech fire that is burning ever brighter in team and athlete performance. In fact, 2023 was their largest year of growth ever. The company increased deals closed by 300 percent year-over-year while seeing a net retention rate of 106 percent.


Kitman Labs solutions — broken down as Performance Medicine, Performance Optimization, Coaching & Development and League Operations along with Custom Analytics — have been designed to optimize human performance; enhance overall health, wellness and longevity; reduce injury risk; and drive operational efficiencies and value.


Kitman works with a wide variety of teams and leagues, and there are obvious competitors within the same league. How different is the work with say, Luton vs. Fulham, or Gotham FC vs. Portland Thorns? How do you keep proprietary data, or best practices separate, or is there one set that fits and then gets expanded from there?

The teams don’t want to copy each other. They all have a different culture, a different vision for how they want to play, different coaches with different game plans, a different set of athletes with different strengths, skills, weaknesses and they want their technology to enable and highlight these differences. Our role isn’t to provide an off-the-shelf solution that homogenizes what they do, it’s to provide a configurable set of technological capabilities that allow them to express their uniqueness and excel based on their approach. We tailor our technology to their needs, not the other way around. I think one of the unique value-adds that we bring working across so many clients is that we have experience working with so many teams with different approaches that we can help our partners learn fast and explore many different ways to leverage the technology to suit their specific needs.

How are team tech performance platforms different from what leagues are doing. For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars vs the NFL?

In general, league partners are contracting a specific set of capabilities from our platform. Our team partners are then adding on additional components so that they can complete a 360 degree view of their athletes. Whilst the leagues are focusing on operating the league and other aspects of improving the game by helping advance standards around talent development or improving player health and safety, the teams are focused on gaining a competitive edge to help their athletes achieve their potential and help the teams to succeed. To do this, they need to understand every aspect of every athlete, every position group and the team overall. With this ability, they can make better decisions about how they tailor practice, how they individualize player care, recovery, player management and even tactical/technical decision-making. 

So much money is spent on athlete investment. How does the work into preventative issues with injury evolve and how is that growing as a percentage of work?

With every passing year, we are seeing player contracts become more lucrative, by proxy of this, the investment being made by owners is bigger and the financial risk associated with downtime through injury becomes bigger. This is resulting in an increase in focus from teams in ensuring that they have more modern approaches to understanding injury risk and can provide tangible, objective ways to prove that proactive strategies are working. Ownership and management groups are realizing that downtime from injury doesn’t just result in wasted salary, it also reduces teams ability to further develop their talent and allow athletes to improve and achieve their potential. Between this developmental loss and the actual inability to field their best athletes, teams understand that injuries result in fewer wins. This vicious cycle means that teams lose money on both sides of an injury through lost games, less success and wasted dollars on players that cannot compete. The reality is that the best, most competitive games, rely on the best talent. Without that, our games are not the same. This dynamic is resulting in a significant shift in the amount of work our team is doing with partners in this specific area. 

Women’s health and injury prevention is a rising tide. How does Kitman factor into health and wellness with a league like the NWSL?

We are very passionate about women’s sport and the rising awareness around the importance of a different approach to injury prevention tailored to the unique needs of female athletes. There is a significant gap in research and data in sport science and medicine as it relates to female athletes and we want to play a central role in rectifying that. Applying the learnings and findings from male sports to female athletes is insufficient and female athletes deserve better. We are investing in adjusting our platform to collect data specific to womens sport to help fuel innovative research to understand the uniqueness of the female athlete. And additionally are investing alongside our partners in performing research to answer some of the most important questions to help improve the player health, safety and longevity of female athletes. We don’t want to be a bystander in this industry, we want to help create the future. 

Lastly, how does Kitman fit into the hyper competitive space of coaching and player development. When brought into a team, is it always complementary to what exists and how much adjusting and cajoling of existing staff…by teams or even athletes…has to be done to create the best in class scenario? and is there a best case of an organization that works best with Kitman today?  

Every environment is unique and as a result, our role is to treat them as such. Our mission is to unlock the limits of human performance and that means helping our partners make that happen within the parameters of their specific circumstance. More and more frequently we are seeing clubs desperate for a single platform that provides a 360 degree view of an athlete in a centralized location. They don’t want their coaches living in one system, their administrative staff in another, their medical staff in another, etc. This type of approach has proven completely unsuccessful over the last 20 years in sport. First generation sports tech companies have tried to build products or platforms that ultimately create a fractured data landscape – siloed information and systems. Teams want integrated data sets to support actionable insights and evidence-based decision-making – they want to understand how the way they train their athletes impacts how they perform; they want to understand which recovery methods result in the highest aspects of performance; they want to understand how the way they train and play impacts player health, and so on. None of this is possible when every staff member uses their own separate system. Modern clubs realize that investments in data collection and analysis solutions are no longer tactical departmental decisions, they are strategic organization-wide decisions because the implications are felt on the field, and more importantly, on the bottom line. 

Sports Techie, sports tech is forever changing the landscape of sport in a multitude of ways. Kitman Labs is leading this revolution for like minded clients.

I hope you learned as much as I did about his sports tech company, Kitman Labs’ performance intelligence solutions, and why they are leading the way.

The need to keep data, analytics, medicine, scouting, and coaching, independent yet within a single ecosystem, while maintaining a competitive edge versus other sports teams, leagues and organizations, is paramount to Smith and his team, and his user base.

Injuries are a part of sport, however, Kitman Labs understands this pain, players, teams and owners must face and overcome, day after day, and season after season. Injuries are a high priority for Kitman Labs technologies, resulting in better and better products designed to meet these challenges with actionable decision making.

The rise of female sports has a new champion in Women’s NCAA Basketball. For the first time during the recent March Madness tournament, the Women games drew more TV viewership than the Men’s tournament games, especially during the Elite Eight, Final Four, and the Women’s National Championship game between South Carolina and Iowa when 18.87 million tuned into the ABC and ESPN broadcasts.

The NWSL is not at the level of the Premier League yet but Kitman Labs recognizes the importance of tailoring their IP Solutions for women and girls, alike.

Finally, the 360 degree, real-time look at athletes and teams from a centralized location and operating system is what is called a ‘no-brainer’. Using one Solution to rule them all (a Lord of the Rings play for you LOR fans) is what Kitman Labs offers, keeping staff uniform and consistent, saving money, and paving the way for more wins and titles.

Thank you to Stephen for the nice Q and A opportunity.

Leading a sports tech company is no easy task in a fast changing industry, yet, Smith seems to have the right path for now and into Kitman Labs future.

See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!

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Tags: Sports Techie, sports technology, sports tech