Group Video Chat Makes Live Streaming High School Sports Interactive for Absent Friends and Relatives

Live streaming is allowing friends and family to root for their loved ones as they participate in high school sports.

Last year’s Burleson High 4×100 relay featured a dramatic come-from-behind victory secured by Brady Camp on the final leg. It’s been preserved on YouTube for those who missed it, but if you count yourself among Brady’s nearest and dearest and you couldn’t make it, it would have been far more thrilling to catch the race in real-time, when the result was in the balance.

Better still, it would have been nice to able to talk him before and after the big race.

This would have been possible with a little lateral video conference thinking. That’s because video conferencing can turn any amateur event into an interactive broadcast.

How to Stream Live Online

Live streaming online is commonplace now. Be it the three-day Coachella live broadcasts, the NFL on Twitter, or even Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meetings, live streaming has become an everyday part of social media.

It’s not just mass audience events that are going live, either.

People are streaming weddings, private parties and business meetings, and absolutely nothing happening in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It doesn’t take a technological feat to give a high school track meet the live treatment.

The easiest way to do it is via YouTube. After logging into your account all you have to do is head to the upload page and click on the live streaming function. You’ll get a URL once it’s all setup, and you can just send that along to anyone who has an interest in your stream.

Now remote audiences can watch in real time as the Olympians of tomorrow–well, some of them, maybe–go around their local school track. But what if we want to make this experience more interactive? How can we converse with the athletes from afar?

Group Video Chat As Live Broadcast

The weakness of the prevailing live streaming sites, such as YouTube, is that they operate on a one-to-many basis. As a remote audience member you can watch, but you can’t speak.

There are platforms, such as BlueJeans’ large-scale, multi-location streams, which are beginning to create something like an interactive broadcast, but there’s no need to wait on that tech.

Just place a group video chat.

The real difference between a live stream and a video call is that every participant in the latter needs to upload information as well as download it. As upload speeds are almost always slower than download–up to 8 times slower–that decreases the kind of quality that can be easily sent. Beautiful 4K visuals recorded on an iPhone can be downloaded comfortably, but you’d need an advanced connection to upload them in real time without dragging the group chat to a standstill.

If you keep things at a reasonable rate (even Skype can manage HD, which is four times smaller than 4K), however, there’s no reason why a live broadcast from an event as complex as a relay race can’t be sent out to dozens, even hundreds of people on a group video call.

Virtual Tickets to a Virtual Track Meet

To stage this video call broadcast you need a platform that can handle multiple callers–sorry, FaceTime. Messenger will accommodate up to 50 people on a free video call, which is about as good as you’ll get without stepping up to a subscription service.

With a platform in place it’s time to invite an audience, and do some fundraising.

We generally think of participants in a video call as unique users with unique user IDs, but any institution can create guest accounts by using default usernames and passwords. These could be used for one-off events such as a school track meet. In exchange for a small fee, the price of a virtual ticket, relatives and friends could be given access to an account like this for a single event or the entire competition. They would just need to login at their allotted time to watch their young hero at work.

The call would link as many as necessary to an on-ground school official or coach who could speak to the athletes in turn as their personal audience came online. As it’s a video call and not a static stream, the audience could chat with their host or the students.

When it comes to race time the host would need to train their smartphone or laptop connected webcam on the right event and let the virtual audience start cheering. As it’s a video call over a private network, there’d be no leakage out to the public, and the school could monitor and moderate who attended.

All we’re doing is giving those that can’t get to the venue in person a virtual trackside seat, but if that’s your son or brother or best friend anchoring the champion relay team, it’s a priceless way to experience a milestone in a young life.

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