by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven
LENEXA — That feeling of watching your child or grandchild on the field or on the court is second to none.
But not everyone can make their way to the stands.
That’s why St. James Academy in Lenexa introduced Thunder Broadcasting Network (TBN). The Catholic high school is bringing its athletic events into the homes of the local community and the nation for many of its alums.
With its high-tech equipment and budding broadcasters, the broadcasts are live and offer spectators much more than just a game, said St. James senior Luke Hafner.
“It’s not about us. Every broadcast is something bigger,” said Hafner. “It’s about the community.
“At St. James, we preach community first. People from across the country can see our school coming together to play — and that includes our band, cheerleaders and dance team.
“We give our audience the chance to see everyone in action and what’s going on inside the building.”
St. James’ director of integrated marketing, Eduardo Godinez, launched the initiative the summer of 2017 as a way of serving the extended St. James family.
After investigating several college broadcast programs and talking with area broadcasters, Godinez purchased the necessary equipment and spread the word among the student body.
His pitch generated interest from 14 students the first time and 20 students during the next application period.
Now, TBN is the official broadcast- streaming home of St. James athletics. It offers live coverage of many home events (athletic and nonathletic), with plans to expand in the coming years.
Access to each event is sent out via Twitter at @Thunder_NTWRK and is available after the event On Demand.
The broadcast provides live game action, as well as commentary from the student broadcasters. TBN has more than 14,000 viewers to date.
“Our families are taking a real liking to the broadcasts,” Godinez said. “We have some families who aren’t physically able to attend, so it means the world to them to be able to watch.
“We really wanted to showcase our great athletics and students, and connect the dots for the alumni who have played a role in building our school over the years.”
Fifteen students are now TBN broadcasters. A four-student team broadcasts at each event, manning cameras, and providing sideline commentary, play-by-play and technical support.
The students do their homework before each broadcast, studying each athlete’s stats, the team’s rankings and other information required by the color commentary in the broadcasts.
St. James senior Billy Hess is one of TBN’s commentators. A former St. James baseball athlete and CYO basketball player, Hess has always enjoyed sports.
He spends time researching upcoming games, learning rosters, talking to head coaches and players, and assessing the season in general.
He plans to major in business in college. But his new passion now has him also entertaining the idea of pursuing journalism.
“Broadcasting sporting events brings people together — alumni, teachers, parents, extended family. People are very impressed with both our technology and the quality of our commentary,” Hess said.
Godinez has invited several area broadcasters to speak to students, including former University of Kansas volleyball player and ESPN broadcaster Jill Dorsey-Hall, longtime Kansas City sportscaster Leif Lisec, WDAF-TV newscaster Kathy Quinn and Sports Radio 810 broadcaster Nate Bukaty.
Each professional brought a wealth of broadcasting and interview tips to students, and St. James invites any readers in a similar field to speak to its broadcasters.
TBN is the only Catholic high school in the Midwest providing live broadcasts of its athletics. Other area public high schools have asked St. James if they can promote the broadcasts among their own student population on game nights.
In December, for example, St. James faced off with its rival St. Thomas Aquinas on the basketball court. The gym was packed and the pre-Christmas spirit was in full swing, showcasing ugly sweaters, other holiday attire and loud cheers.
And if you couldn’t make the big game, TBN made sure you felt a part of it. Cameras captured the action on the court, the band, the cheerleaders, the dance team and a community of fans. And TBN broadcasters enhanced every moment with their colorful commentary.
To watch St. James’ game-day and past athletic event coverage, go to the TBN website at: sjakeepingfaith.org/tbn.