Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 35
Live at the Game keeps Central Coast football fans up to date
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
Central Coast football fans are staying on top of their favorite local teams despite not being able to hit every game, with help from the innovative Live at the Game mobile app. The grassroots media organization, funded by Gold Coast Toyota dealer and now in its third year of operation, provides a constant stream of game updates and highlights to people who aren’t at the field to see and hear the action firsthand.
According to project coordinator Cristina Sarnelli, the whole goal is to allow fans to “be there from anywhere.”
“There is a lot of rivalry between the 45 schools we cover,” Sarnelli said. “If fans can’t go to a game, they can still keep track of what’s happening as well as tracking what is going on with opponents.”
For now, the app covers just football, but Sarnelli said that may change in the future. The coordinator said she’s amazed at how far the program has come during its three-year existence.
“Coaches actually mention us now as a trusted source of information,” she said. “It’s very cool.”
With the intent of helping athletes and youth in the community, the Live at the Game nonprofit developed a program last year to donate money to local athletics. According to Sarnelli, whichever high school could submit the most votes via the LATG website in two weeks received $1,000 toward its athletic programs.
“It’s a way to generate traffic to the site and reward schools involved in the program,” she explained.
The 2012 winner was Lompoc High School, but Arroyo Grande High school swept the votes this year.
Sarnelli added that one of the neat things about the app shows up around playoff time; football fans often use LATG to track how potential playoff opponents are performing or to see who their own team could end up playing.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of the app is what takes place behind the scenes—or on the sidelines, so to speak. The app currently employs 45 student reporters, one for each high school. All that the students need is an Android or iPhone smartphone to be compatible.
Sarnelli said the organization starts recruiting toward the end of the school year by reaching out to the local YMCA, youth centers, parks, and other high school hang-out spots through presentations that explain what the organization does via its app.
“It’s great for students interested in journalism or marketing; it provides hands-on experience,” Sarnelli said. “It is also a paid internship. Students are paid $100 a game, but we do require a lot of them.”
The coordinator said that once the students are hired as reporters, they must undergo training in producing pictures, videos, highlights, and capturing scores before being issued their press badges. Sarnelli said last year they started issuing LATG jackets to reporters, giving them a sense of identity on the field.
“They are required to record eight highlights a quarter, update scores immediately, as well as post five photos and one video per quarter,” Sarnelli said. “At the end of the game, they are to post comments from each coach.”
Bryana Schuyler, LATG reporter for Santa Ynez High School, has been reporting for two years. She wants to pursue a degree in digital media communications, so she was recommended by her newspaper adviser. Schuyler currently serves as editor of the SYHS newspaper and said she has really enjoyed the feeling of being next to the football action.
“I like the fact there is someone out there who needs the information I am supplying,” Schuyler said. “The most challenging part of LATG is keeping up with the speed of the game; the plays happen quickly, and since the site is live, you have to be just as quick.”
Schuyler puts in roughly four hours of work each week: three hours at a game, and one hour devoted to promoting her page and prepping for the game.
“I have learned a lot about time management,” she said. “I have always been organized, but this required a much faster-paced version of my organizational skills.”
Jesse Lara is a sophomore reporter for Pioneer Valley, and although he’s not interested in a media career, he loves covering the intense sport. While his first year of reporting was overwhelming, he said he’s now used to the process.
“This experience has taught me to pay attention more, how to take better photos, and I am learning more about football,” he said.
A basketball and baseball player, Lara added that this internship has helped him be a better student and get more involved in his school. As of now, he plans to report again next year. According to the sophomore, the most fun game to cover was the St. Joseph vs. Righetti match up. Aiming for a degree in criminology, Lara said he’ll walk away from this endeavor with some valuable skills.
“This has taught me to be responsible and finish what I started,” he said. “I am grateful to Gold Coast Toyota for letting students report for their team; it’s definitely a privilege.”
For Schuyler, LATG is an important site for the community and athletes because it allows fans to be as much a part of the action as the reporters are. She’s also learned a lot about her peers and feels more connected to the wins, losses, and injuries associated with her team.
“I think the Live at the Game app has a lot of potential to grow,” she said. “If schools get on board with supporting LATG, it could be a beneficial relationship.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell is live from nowhere. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.