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- More from Patricia Babcock McGraw
By Patricia Babcock McGraw
Most high school athletes get a yearbook, or some pictures, or a few grainy game tapes. Maybe they get a scrapbook from Mom.
Others get a few press clippings, if they're lucky.
That's how they'll remember, years down the road, what it was like to play a sport they loved, and to be a part of a team.
But in this YouTube culture where almost everything we do can be videoed and posted on the Internet for all to see now (and for years into the future), that's changing. And the players on the Wauconda football team are on the cutting edge of a new way to document sports memories.
Or "web-ument" them, if you will.
The Bulldogs won a contest over the summer that provided them with a new camcorder, and now they are the cast of their own Internet-based reality show.
Snippets of their lives, not just as football players and teammates, but also as friends and students are being videotaped all throughout the season by team managers. They are then uploaded to a national high school football website that adds music and graphics and loosely edits them in a way that tells an on-the-field and off-the-field story about the season.
The website, chiefpigskin.com, then posts the clips for all to see.
"Most people can only talk about their memories of playing sports, of all the things that made up the team, the jokes, the little things like that. And over time, you forget about so much of it," Wauconda senior linebacker Jake Sherman said. "We'll actually have a video about that kind of stuff and I think we all really appreciate that."
The Bulldogs have their coach to thank.
Dave Mills was surfing the web over the off-season and stumbled upon chiefpigskin.com while looking for plays and new drills to run in practice.
"It's a coaching website and you can find all kinds of videos and blogs and other things like that there," Mills said. "I saw that they were having this contest on there, too.
"They were going to give away camcorders to a handful of teams to document their seasons. You had to send in a few things about your team and your goals and what you're all about and then that was posted to the website so that people could vote for which teams they'd like to follow. Whichever teams got the most votes would win the camcorder and would have their videos posted each week."
Once Mills told his players about the contest, they told their families, friends and classmates and word spread on Facebook and other social networking sites faster than a Paris Hilton Tweet. Before long, all kinds of votes were coming in for the Bulldogs.
Shortly before the season started, Mills was told that his team was one of five teams from the United States and Canada that won a camera and would get the opportunity to chronicle its season on chiefpigskin.com.
The Bulldogs finished with the third-most votes in the contest. Other winners include teams from Texas, Nevada, Ohio and Canada.
"I just really wanted the free camera, to be honest. That's why I entered the contest," Mills said. "I thought it would be a great tool for us to use at practice, to tape drills and give the kids instant feedback, things like that.
"But all the other stuff that we're taping has turned out to be really nice, too. The kids are excited about it. Whether we win or lose, the kids are always asking if the video is up (on the website) yet. It's been a rallying point for our kids. It's a fun thing for them that has brought them closer together."
Some of Wauconda's early video entries include footage from their two-a-day preseason workouts, as well as the game of tug-of-war the Bulldogs played against North Chicago following a 7-on-7 competition (Wauconda won handily).
Players also mugged for the camera at the team lock-in that took place at school on a stormy summer night, and at a team dinner prior to their game against Stillman Valley in Week 2. Some of the Bulldogs even engaged in a dance competition that night. By then, they were used to the camera rolling.
Early on, that wasn't always the case and team manager/videographer Cassie Dohr had to do some convincing.
"I remember filming some of the guys cleaning up at the lock-in. They were sweeping and things like that," said Dohr, a 16-year-old junior at Wauconda who has been a football manager since her freshman year. "They were like, 'Why are you filming us sweeping?'
"They thought that I was just supposed to film them at practice and at games. They didn't know everything that this project entails, that it's supposed to be off-the-field stuff, too. I think it's so much better that way because the clips are definitely more of a reflection of who these guys are and how much fun they have together as a team."
Dohr has gotten hours of video so far. Some of her favorites are of the Bulldogs' doing their secret handshakes on the sidelines and of them sleeping and then making small talk as they gradually woke up in a giant room full of sleeping bags at the team lock-in. She also got them playing "bags" after a team dinner and doing impressions of their head coach.
In addition, she's gotten plenty of up-close-and-personal game highlights, shot from her unique perspective right along the sideline.
"At first, I didn't really know what I was doing with the camera, but I have gotten a lot better," said Dohr, who also does candid interviews with the coaches and players. "I know what shots to get now. And the players are always suggesting things, too. They're like 'Tape this.' Or they'll ask if they can do something again or repeat something so that I can get it on tape.
"It's been a lot of fun so far and it's going to be a great way to keep a lot of memories. To be one of only a few schools that has gotten this opportunity is so cool. It's definitely made the season more interesting."
And sometimes, it's made an up-and-down season, particularly the downs, more bearable.
"We've had a lot of tough losses and the videos show that because it shows everything that goes into the season," Sherman said. "People aren't as into the camera after a loss as they are after a win, but they'll still do it. They'll still get taped and talk to the camera.
"It helps (to take the edge off). When the camera goes on, people kind of end up laughing and goofing around. It's fun."