A Headless App, for on and off the Field

Soccer Mindset Academy helps young athletes realize their potential on and off the field, using a decoupled WordPress environment for blazing-fast access to a coach in their pocket.

Industry: Sports/Education

Challenge: Scale successfully to meet the growing demand for powerful mindset and peak soccer performance training, first with a WordPress website, then with a mobile application.

Solution: Soccer Mindset Academy worked together with WP Engine to build a headless app connected to its website, allowing mobile users to fully access the curriculum they wanted. As a bonus, next-gen hardware from Google Cloud made everything load 40% faster.

Results: An exceptional user experience: allowing instant access to curriculum that boosts player resilience and mental wellbeing through peak performance mindset training, thousands of new users per month, and a popular app that never crashes.

Soccer Mindset Academy empowers soccer players to fulfill their sporting potential by providing cutting edge online mental skills training that helps players understand and activate the power of a peak performance mindset.

"Our story is all about growth and performance, and the fact that we were able to grow quickly and strategically using WordPress, under the guidance of our WP Engine team, says a lot about both the platform and the provider."

—–Michael Young, Creative Director, Soccer Mindset Academy

Rapid growth: A good challenge to have.

Soccer Mindset Academy was founded in June 2016 as an accessible and convenient way to help up-and-coming soccer players improve their soccer skills beyond the physical alone. The academy delivers gamified, bite-size sports psychology training and mindset coaching to players of all ages, regardless of where they are or what type of device they’re using, focusing on the least explored aspect of sporting success: mindset (which is what separates the good athletes from the great).

Even before businesses began increasingly conducting operations online, the academy’s popularity was soaring. While individual students were the initial target demographic, entire organisations along with soccer clubs and olympic development programs (U.S. Youth Soccer's ODP) began purchasing licenses for their players in an effort to integrate the academy’s teachings on mindset into their own training programs. 

This rapid adoption and need for greater scale led the Soccer Mindset Academy team and its Creative Director, Michael Young, to explore ways they could quickly expand their website’s capabilities. Beyond the website itself, the team knew that given their audience’s heavy reliance on mobile devices, an app that was optimized for mobile users was going to be a necessity.

The Soccer Mindset Academy app was built on WP Engine’s Digital Experience Platform for WordPress. With that existing relationship in place, Young and his team began working closely with their dedicated team at WP Engine to find the best way to build a mobile app that would allow them to continue serving their growing customer base across all devices seamlessly.

“Our story is all about growth and performance,” Young said, “And the fact that we were able to grow quickly and strategically using WordPress, under the guidance of our WP Engine team, says a lot about both the platform and the provider.”

WordPress as a headless solution.

Through discussions with WP Engine, Young and his team drafted a game plan. Rather than build an entirely new app on a separate platform, they decided to use a headless configuration, which meant that while the app was decoupled from their WordPress back end, it would still allow them to pull content in from that existing WordPress site. In addition to offering rapid speed to market, this approach also ended up providing numerous performance and security benefits.

“We didn’t even know we could build a mobile app using WordPress,” Young said. “But with great consultation from our team at WP Engine, we were able to take advantage of things like the REST API to build the app faster than we ever thought possible.”

With the app deployed and registrations increasing by the day, the Soccer Mindset Academy team were really pleased to realise they hadn’t had to sacrifice quality for the sake of speed to market.

“The app ended up being just what we needed,” Young said. “All of our content is instantly available and users seem to be extremely satisfied with the experience of having a coach in their pocket. The only support ‘complaint’ we ever get is that a user has forgotten their password, and I’m just fine with that.”

Meanwhile, with a consistent surge in traffic, the Soccer Mindset Academy team also decided to move from their shared plan to a dedicated server, which provided a huge uptick in bandwidth. In doing so, they also benefited from another massive performance boost in 2019, when WP Engine made additional, sweeping enhancements to its Digital Experience Platform.

“We were already managing our traffic well,” Young said, “but when we experienced the platform’s updated performance—at no extra cost—we actually saw a more than 40% improvement in page-loading times, across both the app and our website!”

The results.

With faster-than-ever performance and a robust digital experience available to users wherever they might access it, the Soccer Mindset Academy team has, unsurprisingly, been very busy. 

“We’re adding thousands of new users a month and getting really good feedback on the content, “Young said. “That was always the goal—to get  our super-accessible mindset training solution in front of more people—and we feel like now, with the setup we’ve built, we’re able to execute against that with a lot of confidence.” 

Soccer Mindset Academy has also attracted some top names from across the global landscape. From the United Soccer League (USL), which is North America's largest professional soccer organization, to the Irish Football Association, to Penn State’s Nittany Lions, entire organizations continue to seek out Soccer Mindset Academy’s unique approach, and Young and his team are happy to welcome them all to the digital space they’ve created.

“App or website, it doesn’t matter,” Young said. “We know we have great content, and together with WP Engine, we’ve been able to deliver it to our rapidly growing audience in the best way possible.”

Accelerate your digital business.

From headless solutions to mobile optimization, WordPress is relied on as an agile platform by businesses of all sizes. Startups and smaller organizations have realized ways to keep up with larger players in their space by using WordPress to meet their growing business needs and build powerful digital experiences that compete with—and often beat—the digital efforts of their larger competitors. Click here to find out more about WP Engine and the ways we help customers win with WordPress across all of their digital channels.