The power to share your child’s latest highlight-worthy play now rests in the palm of your hand, thanks to a new feature just added to GameChanger, a youth sports-focused app wholly owned by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
What started out in 2010 as essentially a Little League scorekeeping tool has grown into a team management program that connects parents, tracks advanced stats and now can livestream games. With the new feature, users can save 30-second highlight clips while livestreaming with the press of a button. All anyone needs is a smartphone. The idea came in large part from the pandemic.
“As we saw our customers and communities deal with the pandemic, it really hit home that [family and friends] could not watch their kids and grandkids play,” said Sameer Ahuja, chief operating officer of GameChanger. “And so if we could take what we already did and turn it into television or something like that, that would just be another level of connection and experience beyond what we already had.”
As parts of the country started to lock down and organized sports at all levels paused, GameChanger had its developers working on implementing livestreaming into its app. “We went from conceiving the idea to launching it within 90 days,” Ahuja said. “People are accustomed to watching professional sports on TV or streaming it with video, and we don’t think there’s any reason you can’t bring the exact same experience to youth sports.”
While it isn’t the only youth sports app with livestreaming capabilities—GoDog Sports, MVPCast and NFHS Network are devoted to just that—GameChanger empowers each individual user and has another built-in advantage: scale. According to its developers, the app is already used to score and stat-track 4 million games every year, and with the financial backing of Dick’s Sporting Goods, the company has the resources to capitalize on the $19 billion youth sports industry.
Eric Beach, chairman of youth flag football league Under the Lights, says streaming is the natural next step for youth sports. “People are starving for content to watch their kids perform,” he said. “The ability to watch your grandson or granddaughter, your niece or nephew in a different state is unparalleled right now. If done correctly, it’s an immense strength.”
But Beach says youth sports leagues and organizations face challenges with streaming. “In terms of technology, it’s hard to decipher who’s good and who’s not,” he said. “We would want to make sure that the content services our brand.”
The ability to record, edit and piece together clips could give way to more kid sports stars, like 14-year-old Maxwell “Bunchie” Young, a football and track star whose highlight videos have gotten millions of views. Named Sports Illustrated Kids’ Sports Kid of the Year in 2017, Bunchie also starred in the NFL’s NEXT 100 ad that aired during last year’s Super Bowl. He has amassed more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and has his own show on Snapchat with 1.1 million subscribers.
And it all began with a few highlight clips on the internet. “Fundamentally what we do allows families to be connected to what the athlete is doing,” Ahuja said. “With that being said, if we continue to see athletes become the center of the universe versus teams—and I believe more youth athletes are going to become famous—we would absolutely love to work with more of them.”
GameChanger believes it is giving the next Bunchies of the world the tools needed to break out and get noticed. And by giving power to smartphones, Ahuja thinks the feature will be a hit with parents and coaches alike. “This is the easiest possible way to video stream a game. You don’t need to be on a field where a lot of equipment has been installed, you just need the thing that at this point every single person has, which is a smartphone.”
Still, the technology isn’t perfect; GameChanger could face hurdles such as phones overheating while livestreaming, excessive data charges and unstable cellular reception.
“There are a lot of external things that we at GameChanger cannot control that make livestreaming difficult, but we’re trying to do everything we can to mitigate those,” said Roxanne O’Driscoll, a senior product manager. For instance, parent company Dick’s Sporting Goods is selling a livestreaming kit that comes with a tripod ($49.99) and an external battery sold separately ($39.99).