Volleyball goes viral – MSS tournament organizers livestream provincial event

by Stacey Lavallie

MANITOULIN—Shawn Leroux coached his senior boys’ volleyball team from the sidelines this year, confined to a wheelchair. Despite the limitation, Mr. Leroux managed to coach his team through to the division finals, where the Redeemer Christian boys’ volleyball team took gold and moved on to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) finals, hosted here on Manitoulin Island.

That posed a problem for Mr. Leroux, as the nerve damage that confined him to his wheelchair made it too painful to travel to Manitoulin from Ottawa. While his team packed up and bused off, he remained at home.

“The day before OFSAA I had to back out due to my health,” he wrote in an email to The Expositor. He said it was crushing to not be able to be there for “his” boys.

Then he discovered the livestream. Using a webcam and an Internet connection, Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) was playing the matches online. Suddenly, Mr. Leroux was connected to his team again.

“I was able to see three out of their five matches,” he noted. Though MSS was the only school to livestream the games on Thursday, it proved so popular that a livestream at Espanola High School (EHS) was set up for Friday and Saturday. Wasse Abin, unfortunately, did not have the technology available to set up a stream, so games played on the court of the Wikwemikong high school went unbroadcast.

“I actually coached from home via text message and calling a parent in the stands,” Mr. Leroux said. “She ran down to communicate with Michael.”

Redeemer finished third in the pool, behind Woodville Christian and MSS.

Prior to their game against the Mustangs, the Redeemer team located where the camera was stationed and pulled out a big banner.

“We miss you coach,” they yelled at the camera as a group. It was something Mr. Leroux was able to see and be part of, thanks to the new technology.

In Smithville, a town in southern Ontario, students gathered in the gymnasium at lunch to watch their team battle against MSS.

Marlene Bergsma, director of communications and admissions at Smithville Christian High School, contacted The Expositor.

“We have a student on the Island tweeting results,” she wrote in an email. “We loved being able to watch the game and we even had a group of students use our scoreboard to keep track of the score as the game progressed.”

Both Ms. Bergsma and Mr. Leroux had praise for the individuals who had the idea to livestream, who manned the stream during games and who responded quickly to feed outages.

“We are grateful to the OFSAA organizers who are making the streaming possible,” Ms. Bergsma said.

Throughout the tournament, the operators behind the livestream continued to improve the quality of the display. At first, the stream had no sound, but that was added before the end of the second game on Thursday. The chat box alongside the stream allowed family and fans to chat and cheer on their favourite teams and inquire after the set scores. By the end of Friday, the score updated on-screen after every point and the names of the teams were listed, as well as upcoming games and times.

Joane Lenos’ son, Derek, is the setter for Woodland Christian High School, located in Breslau. She was unable to make the eight-hour trip north to watch her son play.

“The livestream is a very much appreciated tool for those of us at home,” she said. “We can watch and support our sons on the court. The Internet really opens up the communication lines and gives us some ability to view the games.”

Woodville was the only team to defeat MSS in tournament play, though the Mustangs were eliminated in the quarter-finals in a nail-biting three-set game against Smithville Christian High School.