The times are changing for school sports in North Dakota, including in Bowman and Scranton.
The creation of COVID-19 protocols to lessen the chance for transmission of a deadly pandemic has changed how people can watch their local sport teams.
Bowman County and Scranton high schools have been following the winter sports guidelines established by the state and the North Dakota High School Activities Association, the governing body for school competitions.
Among the changes have been limitations on attendance, both for home and away contests. For Bowman County, each player on the roster would be limited to four attendees. The coach would get two passes.
For attendees traveling with the opposing team, there would be just two passes per player on the roster for the game in Bowman.
In addition, both home and visiting fans were required to wear masks at all times, along with the players not competing at the time. And physical distancing would be strongly recommended as much as possible.
However, the COVID-19 guidelines used by the state and the NDHSAA have also brought a change in how prep sports is viewed.
One of the biggest changes has been using the National Federation of High School associations Network to broadcast both junior high and high school games.
By subscribing to the channel, some relatives who could not travel, would still be able to follow their local school teams, both home and away, from the comfort of their home.
According to a spokesperson for the network, in addition to revenue distributions and donations, the NFHS Network is giving away automated camera production units to schools at no cost as a means to stream their events to fans that are unable to attend. “Through the first two months of this program, we have given away over 4,000 automated cameras to over 2,500 unique schools. This influx of new schools has led to an increase of over 200% in live viewership through the first two months of the school year, which will in turn lead to more money being distributed back to schools,” the network stated on its web page.
The network also provides “anytime, anywhere” viewing for the fans, which helps schools recoup lost funds because of the attendance restrictions at games.
As part of the network’s High School Support Program, the network provides schools with two free Pixellot automated cameras, along with enhanced revenue sharing and provides the ability for fans to make standalone donations directly to the schools.
Under the network plans, the NFHS network has the options of an annual pass ($69.99) or have a monthly pass. Under the arrangement with the network, the school will receive a portion of the subscription.
When people sign up for the video, they select what school they want to follow, which directs the support to that school. The monthly pass is $10.99 and billed monthly.
The annual pass is for $69.99, which is 47 percent off the regular price and would come to $5.83 per month for 12 months.
The passes provide access to regular and post season events, along with access when events are available On Demand.
According to the network, the video feeds can be watched on Apple IOS, Android, any browser, Apple TV, Roku and FireTV.
In addition to basketball, the network covers football, wrestling, volleyball, soccer, ice hockey, baseball, cheerleading, and dance competitions.
At Bowman County, the automated camera is almost invisible outside the press box on the east side of Solberg Gym.
According to Jaden Schoch, the girls’ varsity basketball coach, there has been an impact.
“We use it religiously to watch other teams play,” he said after a recent home game. “It is kind of awesome.
“I know there is people watching from all over.”
He said he hopes that the system will return next year. “It will be back – I think – now that all the teams got the cameras. I think it will be here to stay. You got to pay a monthly subscription for it, but … it is worth it if your grandparents are far away,” he added.
In Scranton, the system has long been an asset and the recent adoption by other schools has made it even better, according to athletic director Kelly Pierce.
“We have had it for a couple of years at our home games. Other teams are doing it and it has been a plus. For the most part, it is doing all right.
“We have a lot of people in the community that want to follow Night Hawk basketball. This gives them that opportunity,” he added.
“Some schools put it on Facebook. We are just live-streaming it for as many fans as we can,” Pierce explained.