ifan for prep sportsThe focus of ifan.tv is the kids. The online sports network features a wide variety of sports in its live webcasts — cross-country, swimming and diving, tennis, volleyball, soccer, football, hockey and more. Its volunteers even go the extra mile, like filming during half time to catch a marching band’s routine.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The focus of ifan.tv is the kids. The online sports network features a wide variety of sports in its live webcasts — cross-country, swimming and diving, tennis, volleyball, soccer, football, hockey and more. Its volunteers even go the extra mile, like filming during half time to catch a marching band’s routine.
“The kids are the ones who put on a good show,” said Craig Morrissey, vice president of ifan.tv. “We just help cover it.”
Ifan sports network began eight years ago with a focus on Superior and Northwestern high school events. Through their free webcasts, family and friends who couldn’t make it to a game were able to tune in.
“They can feel like they’re part of it, even if they can’t be there,” Morrissey said.
Ifan was recognized this spring by Superior High School for promoting and supporting athletics in the community.
“Their service allows our SHS community to watch our events around the world,” said Ray Kosey, activities director for the school. “I personally like the way the play-by-play announcers stay positive about our students, coaches and programs and add personal stories about the players and coaches through the relationships they have established over the years.”
Thanks to ifan, he said, SHS was one of the first high schools to be able to view their sporting events on the web.
Members of the armed service stationed on aircraft carriers or in the Persian Gulf have tuned in to watch their siblings play. If there’s a foreign exchange student on the team from an island in the middle of the South Pacific, their family can watch the game.
“ESPN is not going to do it,” said Dan Conrad, an ifan volunteer. “We do it.”
Over the years, the network has expanded its range and partnered with My9 TV to cover even more events at both the college and high school level.
“I can’t think of a school in the area we haven’t done something for,” Conrad said.
Its current coverage includes “Jungle Boy” boxing, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, Lake Superior Rage football, 10U hockey and this weekend’s 14U Babe Ruth League baseball tournament.
A network of volunteers helps produce the multi-camera webcasts and maintain the website, www.ifan.tv. They range from fifth grade students to retired seniors, the same demographic that tunes in to the webcasts. Announcers provide running commentary not just on the game, but the community.
Don Leighton and Pat Flynn have teamed up to cover more than 500 basketball games for ifan over the years.
“He’s forgotten more about basketball than I’ll ever know,” Leighton said of his partner. “He’s a basketball genius.”
Flynn said he likes the kids, the game and being able to provide a service for their families. The duo gets off topic sometimes when it’s a blow-out game, Flynn said. He recalled holding an Arnold Ziffle trivia contest during halftime of one game.
“We try to be entertaining,” Leighton said.
And they have created their own lingo. A “shampoo” move, for example, is one where the player makes a move with their head and shoulders as they head to the basket. If there are two or more players on the floor, it’s a flurry; more is a scrum.
“We have fun,” Leighton said. “It’s the highlight of my day.”
People tuning in to ifan webcasts can send real-time comments, called shout-outs, to the announcers to read on air. It can lead to some tasty consequences — volunteers have received fish from Alaska and cherry pie from Michigan after replying to shout-outs.
While covering the Beargrease, Conrad got a shout-out from a second grade teacher in North Dakota. The great-great-great-grandson of John Beargrease was in her class.
“Technology,” he said. “Bringing people a little closer.”
Dave Minor, president and CEO of the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County, always thought the ifan webcasts were a great public service. About five years ago, he was asked to help announce Spartan football games.
“It’s just a really fun thing to do on a Friday night,” Minor said. He enjoys interacting with people through the website postings and commenting on the action. You don’t have to be a sports expert to volunteer, he said.
“It’s about having fun, doing a good service for the community and being part of this whole thing,” Minor said.
Archives of select broadcasts are available on demand through the website. People can buy DVD copies of game coverage directly from ifan, as well.
Along with volunteers, local sponsors have played a key role in providing the free internet service.
“We have some very loyal advertisers in the area,” Leighton said. “Without them, we couldn’t do (the broadcasts).”
And, as they plow proceeds into technology upgrades, the ifan team is encouraged by the faithfulness of viewers. Their first broadcast had 25 viewers, Leighton said. This weekend’s baseball tournament is expected to snag thousands.
“They keep tuning in,” Conrad said.
For more information, go to www.ifan.tv or call Conrad at (715) 392-3123, ext. 16. Prospective advertisers can also contact Leighton at (715) 817-5196.