It was only a couple years ago that San Mateo High School athletic director Jeff Scheller worried how the San Mateo Union High School District would respond to technology in athletics. Cameras to live-stream events were still a developing technology and he was worried district officials just would not get it.
As Scheller said, his concern was they would be worried about the “newness” of the technology.
That was then, this is now and live-streaming events — from city council meetings to college sports — is ubiquitous as turning on the TV. Scheller said his school first installed a camera on the football field and then in the gym during the 2018-19 school year.
“I think some schools might not care (about streaming their games), but now you’d expect almost everyone to have something,” Scheller said “It’s a hands-off approach. … It’s just great to give access to families out of the area or parents who are working late who just can’t make it through Bay Area traffic (to be at their kids’ games).
“It’s gotten to a point now, with the technology, if you don’t have a streaming service, something’s wrong.”
For schools, the best aspect of streaming games is it allows freshman and junior varsity teams — which normally play before the varsity games — to get some publicity as well.
“As a parent, you never want to miss anything. … I remember being able to watch my son’s swim meet at his college on live stream. It was kind of neat,” said Aragon athletic director Steve Sell, who recently signed a contract to live-stream the Dons’ games to the NFHS Network.
Usually how it works is schools will sign a contract with a streaming company and then fans and families buy a subscription to the website to access the games.
The technological development has definitely allowed easier access and easier accessibility to the streaming footage. Scheller said the cameras San Mateo uses are equipped with motion detectors and, once scheduled to turn on, there is nothing else that needs to be done.
It wasn’t too long ago that even the most basic system needed manpower to make it work. Jason Levine, Notre Dame-Belmont athletic director, said he signed his school up with NFHS Network several years ago, but stopped because he didn’t have enough volunteers to make it work. Levine said his teams use a text-based app to disseminate information about games, and would look into using a Facebook Live feed or something similar when high school athletics are again allowed. He has not, however, ruled out returning to live streaming.
“I’m sure they’ve made a lot of advances and changes (to the technology),” Levine said. “But before, you need someone on the camera. Needed someone on the computer. … We’ll definitely look into it, but I don’t know when.”
Like Notre Dame-Belmont, South San Francisco High School started with NFHS Network years ago before abandoning it. For Aaron Boyd, who runs the school’s visual art department, the main reason for discontinuing was because of the costs involved. Not so much for the school, but for the end user.
“We got all the metrics on it … and people just weren’t paying for it. … I felt like I wanted a free solution (for the South City community),” Boyd said. “So for the last few years, we’ve been streaming exclusively on YouTube.”
South City differs from most schools in the county in that Boyd teaches a broadcasting class which allows students to learn the skills necessary to broadcast a professional-looking production. Since 2012, South City broadcast students have learned to be camera operators, play-by-play and color commentators, as well as production directors. Boyd said he has 120 students in his classes and his biggest issue is finding time for everyone to participate in a game broadcast.
“It’s like a mini-ESPN production,” Boyd said.
Live-streaming events will take on even more importance when high school sports returns. It remains to be seen if fans will flock back to the gyms for a packed Friday night basketball quad and fans will be low on the priority list when it comes to the return of sports. Live-streaming games is a great way to keep fans and family involved.
“If and when we have sports, I would say every coach, if told they could have sports with no spectators, they’d take it in a heartbeat,” Sell said. “[Live-streaming] could come in handy this year.”
Added Boyd: “[Live-streaming services] sound like a wonderful solution for schools that don’t have a class like ours.”