Being the featured livestream on a national level accelerated the learning curve for Batavia High School students, who are fully responsible for broadcasting all sports via Hudl.
The press box residing above the football field at Batavia High School (Illi.) isn’t sprawling. Cramped seems harsh, but accurate.
Yet, on September 1, 2023, a spirited duo of BHS upperclassmen — Ryne Woods (senior) and John Kohlmeir (junior) — managed to carve out just enough space in the booth amid the commotion from the local TV crew to run their student-led livestream to a national audience.
That’s the magic of Hudl Must-See Matchups. Top games from across the country are chosen, then broadcast nationally on the Hudl platform. The result is exposure for teams and athletes as well as budding broadcasters.
And despite having fewer resources and experience than their televised counterparts, not to mention only one free-standing microphone which they shared, Woods and Kohlmeir managed a near-flawless showing.
The stream reached over 4,000 viewers nationally. It’s even more impressive considering Batavia’s livestreaming skills were unrefined.
“That was our second-ever stream, and it was a national broadcast,” Woods said.
The only experience Woods and Kohlmeir had to that point was from sporadic testing before the school year. Assistant athletic director, technologies teacher and head football coach Dennis Piron supervised the tests. He was optimistic his students could make it work.
“We tested at 7-on-7 for football and some basketball camps over the summer,” Piron said. “Once we had the Hudl Focus cameras connected we knew we had the feed handled. Then it was adding voiceovers or color commentary. We had one test game to start the year and then it was the Hudl Must-See matchup.”
That’s how quickly Batavia went from no streams to hosting a nationally featured broadcast.
How was I going to make that happen? It was like having ESPN come to my school. We had an ESPN game for my kids this year. We couldn’t have done that before.
Piron said he and the students had almost no issues learning to stream on Hudl. The ease of use and reliability have turned the community into believers.
“The only challenges we’ve had were internal, not external,” he said.
The internal challenges Piron mentioned were logistics: who would run the broadcast, how much manpower could they devote to streaming, etc.
But Woods and Kohlmeir were quick to take up the mantle. Piron says their ambition is instrumental to the success of the livestreams. He advised any school looking to try their hand at broadcasting to find their version of Woods and Kohlmeir.
“For any school, you’re going to want to get one or two kids that are really invested. Kids who are excited about technology or maybe broadcasting,” he said.
Woods is the go-to play-by-play voice for Batavia student broadcasts. Kohlmeir is keen on managing the technology, though he’s been known to hop on the microphone for color commentary.
The two believe that running the Hudl Must-See Matchup was not only a great opportunity, but it has also slingshot their operation to new heights.
Piron tried to put the experience of having their game livestreamed to a national audience in perspective:
“How was I going to make that happen? It was like having ESPN come to my school,” he said. “We had an ESPN game for my kids this year. We couldn’t have done that before.”
Being featured as a Hudl Must-See Matchup brought Batavia livestreams legitimacy. Piron and his student partners saw the opportunity and took it.
In the months following, Woods and Kohlmeir (with Piron’s guidance) have turned their two-man operation into a full-fledged livestreaming machine: Batavia High School Student Broadcasts.
The crew has grown to over a dozen students; a mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen. They take turns running livestreams for all sports: football, soccer, wrestling, basketball and more.
They’ve also gotten approved for a budget to elevate the quality of their streams, adding sideline cameras as well as headsets and much-needed microphones.
“We’ve gotten a lot of new equipment and new broadcasters,” Kohlmeir said. “We’ve expanded and we have more help. Everything’s really improved since the Hudl Must-See Matchup.”
The speed at which they’ve scaled up the operation has been astounding. But Woods still has one reservation, albeit a selfish one.
The senior plays on the Batavia baseball team and says there’s a chance he’ll be distracted on the diamond.
“I’m going to be thinking, ‘Ok, who’s broadcasting this game?’ and ‘Do they know baseball?” Woods joked. “It’s definitely going to be in the back of my mind.”
Kohlmeir was quick to reassure Woods, going as far as to propose they add a field mic that would allow Woods to add commentary during the game, a la Major League Baseball.
“That’s something we’ve thought about now, is mic-ing up a player or coach,” Kohlmeir said. “I mean, you never know what someone is going to say. But we’re looking into it.”
In just a few months, Batavia High School has built a bonafide broadcast team with firm leadership and unbridled ambition. The sky’s the limit.
In celebration of their hard work, Batavia was selected to once again have a national audience — this time for a basketball game — as part of the winter Hudl Must-See Matchup schedule.
You can catch Woods, Kohlmeir and the rest of the Batavia HS Student Broadcast team on the Batavia High School Hudl fan page.