Gyms across the state of Nebraska are a little quieter than they were a year ago. The ongoing COVID pandemic has nixed traditional students sections and pared down fans to just small pods of families.
While the game day atmosphere has had it’s decibel levels diminished, that doesn’t mean fans aren’t still watching.
This season has seen the rise of online streaming platforms that bring the high school athletics from the gym into living rooms and offices.
Striv started in 2012 with six schools. Now the company, based out of Henderson, NE, streams events for 151 Nebraska high schools including nearly 40 that signed on this year.
The uptick in online event streaming started with graduations in the spring as schools looked to continue traditions in the midst of the pandemic.
“We knew right away even when there were no events that schools were going to need help in this process,” said Taylor Siebert, CEO of Striv.
The growth this year has been off the charts for Striv.
Comparing numbers from last year in December, Siebert said Striv has seen an increase of over 350% of users watching games, a 500% increase in games streamed and total page views are up 300%.
“We’ve been built for this, but we thought it’d be in more of a gradual way,” Siebert said.
Coming off helping broadcast some of the state football games, Siebert knew the opening week of basketball was going to be a big one.
“The fall gave us a good idea of what we’d have, but you had outdoor events and volleyball, but I don’t think we anticipated what basketball was going to look like until it happened,” Siebert said.
Still, it was eye opening how many tuned in on the first night of high school hoops.
“We told all of our providers, hey be ready, this is coming and I don’t think they understood how passionate these fans were in these communities ...and how many people care about high school events,” Siebert said.
One of those new additions to the Striv roster was Archbishop Bergan, which started streaming its games in the fall with volleyball and football.
“There were some growing pains to getting it started and developed and figuring out a routine to get this to run because there are a lot of steps,” said Jake Herre, a volunteer manager of the crew.
Part of building the routine was bringing in commentators to go along with the video streams.
During the fall, Bergan brought in coaches and alumni to provide the play-by-play including Lady Knight volleyball alums Kristin Tynon and Becki Brown, who donned the headsets for part of Bergan’s state runner-up push.
That changed during the basketball season.
While most seventh graders are practicing up on their pre-Algebra, Nate Graver is pulling stat sheets and prepping to call home basketball games
“I pull stats, I watch film on the match-up we have, look at the defense they run and just the match-up in general, the last couple games how they’ve done and some of the key players for the game,” Graver said.
Bergan opened up the opportunity for student broadcasters towards the tail end of the fall
“I wasn’t expecting much, but when I listened to Nate, I was like holy cow this kid sounds like he is on ESPN,” Herre said.
Graver, along with Ryker Koenig, who is the color man on the broadcasts, Evan Wolfe and Drayke Brown have done a lion’s share of the Knights and Lady Knights home games
“It’s just been a surreal moment,” Graver said. “It’s a very cool experience. It was nerve wrecking at the beginning, but not any more.”
It’s not just varsity action making the cut for broadcast. Bergan has broadcast middle school basketball and wrestling, the high school’s one-act play and also a spelling bee.
“I don’t think we thought we’d be that involved in the beginning, but now that we have, the options are limitless for what we can stream,” said Becky Dahlhauser, a volunteer manager for the Bergan Striv team.
Even as the state and the NSAA continues to allow more fans back into gyms, streaming will continue to bring the game where ever supporters are, just will a little more crowd noise in the background.
“Now it’s here and it’s not going to go anywhere even after COVID does go away,” Siebert said. “What I’ve always said, you are breaking down the walls of your schools and showing them, alumni and all these people who otherwise might not have known what was going on with you school and now you’ve shown them.”