Keeping it Mission Driven with Tyrre Burks
Founder and CEO of Player’s Health
Born out of Founder & CEO Tyrre Burks’ experience as a college and professional athlete, Player’s Health is reimagining the antiquated sports insurance market with technology that is changing the game.
Over the last five years, new regulations have forced tremendous responsibility on sports organizations to change the way they handle injuries and misconduct claims. However, administrators have historically had no easy way of tracking protocols, monitoring coach conduct and efficiently managing the forms required by law. At the same time, insurance premiums are on the rise, regardless of compliance with the new rules. In other words, leagues and clubs that perform background checks on coaches, follow protocol and collect forms face the same premiums as those who do not meet safety standards.
In the wake of a historic shift in the way sports are played and managed, this challenge has been amplified, and the Player’s Health mission to create the safest environment for athletes has been underscored.
Player’s Health is an insurance technology company innovating risk management and insurance solutions for organized athletics. By providing an all-in-one platform for administrators to track protocols, collect required forms, and manage misconduct claims, they empower organizations with the tools to navigate some of the most expensive and complex aspects of ensuring the health and safety of their players.
Tyrre Burks joins us to talk about his unique point of view on delivering care for athletes, the current state of abuse prevention in youth sports, and how Player’s Health aims to innovate insurance management beyond the category.
Let’s start with the origins of Player’s Health, for those that may not be familiar. What were the personal experiences that have shaped what exists in the product and mission today?
Tyrre Burks: “I think in the beginning, you always have hopes and dreams of what you want the mission to be, and then it ends up coming to you more as a calling than it does just building a business. I started Player’s Health as my own personal journey as an athlete. I knew really early on that sports were going to be a big part of my life. It truly helped save my life, and in general, in terms of where I grew up, sports was my outlet.”
“I had a number of incidents that happened from an injury perspective throughout my entire career. And this is what led me to create Player’s Health. I played in Europe for a year, and then I played in the Canadian Football League for three years. Throughout that entire career, I had a ton of injuries. I had three bulging discs in my neck. I ultimately ended up tearing my hamstring off my tibia, and that’s what ended my career. The first time I had this injury with my neck was when I was 16. I got hit with my head down, and I was paralyzed on the turf and couldn’t move. Miraculously, things started to come back, and my coach put me back in the following possession. I believe if that injury had been managed properly throughout my career, who knows how long I would’ve played?”
“I look at that experience and I go, how many other athletes in sports have that experience? And it’s not happening at the collegiate level as much because you have a medical staff supporting you as an athlete. It’s definitely not happening at the professional level, but it’s happening often at the youth level. So that was really the inception of Player’s Health. When I stopped playing, I knew I didn’t want to have a regular job. I knew I wanted to build something that was bigger than myself. And so, we started to focus on injuries and then we quickly realized that injuries weren’t the only thing that these organizations needed. They had to focus on the overall health and safety of the athletes.”
“And that’s the mission for our company, we want to create the safest environment possible for an athlete to play the sport that they love. We’re all mission driven and we’re all athletes, so we’re telling our stories and we’re helping organizations not have the same experiences that we did.”
There has been a historic shift in the way sports are played, consumed, and managed. How has Player’s Health stepped in to help & arm sports organizations with the technology and tools to navigate these shifts?
Tyrre Burks: “In the wake of COVID, a lot of amateur sports organizations that we serve realized a couple of things. They have had to reassess their entire organization, how they deliver their entire product, and the overall experience of an athlete.”
“Now, in order to reopen their sports, they also have to think about risk management. These organizations have never thought about risk management in this way. And not only did they have to think about what the reopening process will look like, but they have had to start thinking about policies, liabilities, insurance, and more. This current environment has exacerbated the need for them to implement better risk management policies and protocols. So our phones started to ring. And luckily, we’re in a position where that’s all we do. We don’t do anything else. We’re not selling registration. We’re not doing websites. We only focused on risk management. And I think in the wake of COVID, this is where we were able to really help organizations reopen in the right way.”
You recently released a white paper on the current state of abuse prevention and youth sports. Why is now an important time to highlight this topic?
Tyrre Burks: “I think over the years, we’ve seen a number of these incidents that happen and we instantly think that this is the incident that will wake everyone up, but it’ll have its moment of conversation, and then fade. That is why I feel like now is the time to no longer wait for the next moment for us to have a broader conversation. We need to focus and allocate everything that we do here at Player’s Health, to this issue. It has to be a part of our conversation every day. It has to be a part of our daily actions. We have to be proactive with this on a daily basis, if we want to truly see change.”
“We’ve been focused on making sure that the ecosystem is collaborative in ending this. One of the things that we’ve also seen is that within the sports industry, especially sports tech, everyone operates in a silos. There’s not a lot of collaboration because everyone wants a competitive advantage. We believe that the competitive advantage has to be in the value you bring to your members. When it comes to abuse prevention in youth sports, as volunteers, coaches, service providers of new sports, we have to think about this in a collaborative way.”
Building off of that, you’re taking the next steps to bring awareness to this message with the Player’s Health Summit. What do you hope is the impact of these conversations?
Tyrre Burks: “We started the summit off the back of a white paper that we did. Our goal is that it becomes more of a formal study where we looking at the annual performance of injury prevention and implementation at a national level, and it becomes more of the NCAA clearinghouse. For example, organizations have to have this before they can move forward, before you can receive funding, before you can get a scholarship.”
“We want to start not only holding organizations accountable via laws, that works. But when you carry a stick, that effectiveness could be a double-edged sword. You have to build infrastructure around these laws and make sure that you can actually track it. That’s where we’re hoping that the conversation that our summit provides. We did this study. This is our starting rough draft of what an accreditation would look like. If you are a youth organization, you should have these four or five things. And here’s all the providers that could support you with getting that. Our goal is that every year, we’re looking at these numbers to see the implementation of abuse prevention, guidelines in sports, those numbers should go up every year. That is our goal.”
What comes to mind when you think of the impact Player’s Health can have in insurance management both within, and beyond sports?
Tyrre Burks: “The fundamental issue in insurance today is that we can’t rely on the data. Right now in sports, if I just think about sports from an insurance perspective, I can be a broker and I can say it on a paper application that this organization has a thousand athletes. There’s no way for the insurance company to validate that right now, before Player’s Health.”
“When you don’t have that data and it’s not validated, the insurance company can’t make good decisions. When they can’t make good decisions, we see claims, they lose money, and then they leave this space. That’s what’s happening within sports insurance today is that the carriers can no longer rely on the profitability of the program, so they’re removing themselves from it. And we now have what used to be 20 carriers. Now we only have four carriers riding the sport on the abuse and the concussion. Rates are going up, and it dramatically affects everyone.”
“That is the transparency that we want to bring to the insurance market. We want to communicate that not only are these organizations implementing these policies and protocols, but this is how they’re doing it, and this is why they should receive a credit, or this is why they should be paying more. And right now, if I pay more, that broker normally can’t tell me why I’m paying more. They’re always saying that it’s the market, and that’s a true statement. The U.S. Gymnastics situation and what’s happening within how that’s being settled, is a catastrophic incident that affects everyone in sports, and the liability insurance premiums across sports in the United States will be dramatically affected from that one incident.”
“It shows the power of what risk management needs to be, and what the power of transparency in this space is. Insurance is a social good. Most people don’t view it that way because of all the scams that happens during it. We’re trying to bring the purity back into what insurance should be. I pay a little and if I have an incident, you’re there for me to pay the bulk of it. You only can have a pure insurance market when you have transparency and honesty. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”