It is happening all over the country.
The coronavirus pandemic has states limiting the number of people who can attend any outdoor event, including high school football games.
In Pennsylvania, the working count was 250 people in the stadium for the first two weeks, and that included players, coaches, managers, coaches, groups and cheerleaders.
That doesn’t leave much room for regular fans or loved ones to be included in the equation. In week 3, school districts proposed new guidelines to allow parents to attend the games.
School districts have started to think outside the box, looking for less conventional ways to keep fans involved and, yes, giving friends, parents and grandparents the chance to see their loved ones play, which could not to happen otherwise.
In response, schools across the state have switched to online streaming services so fans can watch the games, even if they’re not in person.
In our area, almost all schools that play football use some form of streaming service.
The NFHS network is the most popular and a number of schools are still in the process of putting the systems in place.
Bedford, Central Cambria, Forest Hills, Northern Cambria, Penn Cambria and Portage currently stream all of their football games through each school’s respective YouTube accounts, while Conemaugh Valley games can be watched on www.cvk12.org.
Westmont Hilltop is one of the schools that signed up early for the NFHS network.
“They released this for schools at the start of the summer, and I’m happy to say that my school board was one of the first in the Johnstown area this year to join,” said Tom Callihan. , athletic director of Hilltoppers. noted. “They kind of saw what was going to happen and kind of looked ahead and were able to do that and get ready to play for the first games of the season. For that, I’m happy.
“When we have people who can’t be at the game because of our numbers (allowed in Price Field), that’s the best thing to do. We are happy to have had it.
Video on demand is another service received from the NFHS. Callihan said that you log into your account and you can go back and watch any of the games you’ve played before.
Callihan said the system shows how many people have logged in to each of the Hilltoppers’ sporting events.
“For example, for our first college football game on September 12 (against Somerset) we had over 2,000 views and 205 watched it on video on demand,” Callihan said. “The Bedford game (last Saturday) has already had 1,100 views and 78 video on demand views.”
The NFHS network also broadcasts other sports besides football, and a high school sports fan can certainly get their fix.
The NFHS Camera System automatically tracks and zooms in on the action on the pitch for appropriate views and can be integrated into advertising and play if schools so desire.
Once game times are programmed into the NFHS network software, the cameras automatically go online before each game and capture the action as well as the sights and sounds.
It even integrates with the site’s dashboard system to show the score on screen when everything is properly connected, so no operators are required beyond initial setup.
“We signed up to the NFHS network and after installing the cameras, calibration is quite easy,” Callihan said. “We send them our schedule and he does just about everything else for us.
“Some people have had issues with their cameras working and as an AD it’s another level of concern for me throughout the day, to make sure the cameras are online you have to sometimes restart them. A little more work for the sporting director and the biggest part is the fear that it will not work. So far, for us, it has worked well.
” We were lucky. We had a few issues with the scoreboard ticker, but we already fixed them too far into the game. Working with the NFHS network has been great. I personally know that they have been very helpful in responding to us if we have any questions or technical issues.
The NFHS network feed comes at a cost to fans – a subscription price of $ 10.99 per month or $ 69.99 per year. A portion of this fee, 10%, can be designated by subscribers to support the athletics department of their preferred school.
Subscribers not only get access to their favorite team’s events live and on-demand, but also their entire catalog spanning 45 states and the network says it will have over 300,000 streaming events this year.
“I know myself that if we play on a Saturday, a Friday night, I alternate between three and four games,” Callihan said. “I even plugged in to watch my brother Rick’s school in Atlanta, Georgia play, because I can. Anyone else with the system, we can watch.
“I’ve had a lot of parents who have told me that they really like to watch the game online because they can stay home or if it’s a grandparent they can stay home. It’s good for our alumni and our relatives who live out of town, they can watch the game.
When asked if Callihan would recommend the system to other schools, his answer was an “absolutely” decisive.
“Even though we got out of the situation we’re in now (with the pandemic), just for loved ones who live far away, or grannies and grandpas who can’t come to the game, I think it’s very nice to watch the game, ”Callihan said.
Portage athletic director Jeremy Burkett said his school was happy with the way the YouTube system worked for the school district.
“For us, it started last year when we were preparing for graduation,” Burkett said. “We knew we couldn’t prepare in person, so our superintendent, Eric Zelanko, a former tech education teacher, knew we had to film our graduation and we kept the idea and put it into action. place at the drive-in.
“To do that, we had to film each graduate’s graduation presentation, and we were able to get cameras and equipment to do it and that’s how it started.”
Since then, the process has evolved, using the system for fall sports, including football. The administrative team takes care of the implementation.
“Two of our secretaries and a student are all using all three cameras at the same time,” Burkett said. “In the press box our high school principal, Mr. (Ralph) Cecere, does the play-by-play and in the press box is also Mr. Zelanko, as producer, who draws the plans and decide when to use them. This is a five-man team during the match.
Burkett says the standard has been pretty high for the Mustangs, who have also televised volleyball, golf, and plan to cross country.
The community responded positively to the efforts of the administrative team.
“Our first game of football, we had to limit the number of people in the game, and I got more feedback on the play-by-play than on the game,” said Burkett. “People were able to look from outside the region and give their opinion.
“The play-by-play spoiled our fans, who were watching a game elsewhere and wanted to know why no one was talking about the game. They were on the NFHS system. We have become a true TV production unit. It’s a lot of work.
Burkett pointed out that the system does not charge observers of sporting events.
“In a small town like Portage, our superintendent wanted to make sure that we weren’t charging people for our product,” Burkett said. “They are able to get a quality product without having to pay for it. Sport is important to our community and he wanted to make sure that if parents couldn’t be there they could have the best eyesight. He was very proud of it. “
Burkett said he would recommend the system, but a dedicated workforce needs to be found.
“Our administrative team understands how important it is for our community to see these events,” said Burkett. “Our community appreciates it.”
Schools have figured out how to do the job and keep their kids in the spotlight, but for many, even though they can at least see what’s going on, it’s not quite the same as being there in anybody.