GOOCHLAND, Va. (WWBT) - If things go to plan, VHSL sports will get going in about six weeks. When they do, will spectators be permitted? If so, will some family members have to choose between attending a game and feeling safe? One area school is taking steps to make sure that’s not a decision that fans need to make.
High school stadiums have been quiet on Friday nights. No lights, no pads cracking, no cheers roaring. It’s just the latest example of a bizarre and disappointing year.
“It’s like having a new car that you don’t get to drive,” said Joe Fowler, director of student activities at Goochland High School. “We poured a new track in the summer of 2019 and we haven’t gotten to run on it yet because of the spring season being cancelled. We got new scoreboards last summer and we haven’t had a chance to light them up.”
But Fowler and his Bulldogs know that this is only temporary. Eventually, students and sports will return. When student-athletes get back on the field or court, however, it doesn’t mean that all family and friends will feel comfortable attending, even if spectators are permitted, as long as COVID-19 looms.
“We’re either going to have limited capacity, or even if we have maximum capacity in our facility, there are going to be people who aren’t comfortable sitting in a crowded gym,” noted Fowler.
So the Bulldogs went to work, becoming one of several schools in Central Virginia to give parents, family and friends the option of watching contests from the comfort of their own homes.
“Whether it’s somebody local or it might be a grandparent who lives seven or eight states away, they’re going to get the opportunity to see the kids.”
Goochland has installed automated sports production cameras in its stadium and gym. These cameras are self-controlled and broadcast on the National Federation of High Schools Network, which can be streamed on a smart TV or device. It’s a subscription service, but Fowler points out that it’s no more expensive than attending a game in person.
“It automatically tracks the ball,” the Bulldogs' athletic director remarked. “One of the coolest features is that it broadcasts the score and the game clock on the screen, so it really is a very professional production.”
Of course, the pandemic is the main motivation behind having the cameras installed, so now fans and family members who are skeptical about attending themselves still don’t have to miss a play.
“I couldn’t imagine being a parent and not being able to see my kid play,” Fowler said. “We wanted to make sure that everybody had that opportunity, because the four years of high school go by really fast and you don’t want to miss one second of it.”
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