In National, partnerships, Utah

Last week, all eyes were on Herriman High School (UT) as they hosted Davis for the nation’s first high school football game of 2020. Any other year, organizing the first football game in the country would be nothing short of exciting – but in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Herriman faced unique challenges. 

As one of the state’s largest 6A schools, it was crucial that Herriman made the game as safe as possible. They needed to adapt new rules and regulations. And while they’d been preparing for fall sports since spring, they only received confirmation that the football season would happen in July.

Herriman High School (UT) | “High Point Tuesday” | facebook.com/herrimanhighfootball

So, how’d they pull it off? Here are a few key ways that Herriman ensured the game was safe and successful:

Establishing expectations: First and foremost, Herriman kept its community informed prior to the game. They posted schedules, safety information and news updates to their social media accounts and official athletics website, hhsmustangathletics.org. As the game approached, Herriman kept fans up to date with safety regulations and ticketing information.

By frequently communicating with the community, school leaders and coaches were able to establish expectations surrounding the game.

Using digital ticketing: To enforce social distancing, the stadium was sold at only 25% capacity. The home team was allotted 700 tickets, while the visitors were given 300 tickets. All fans were spaced out and required to wear masks.

Brad Tingey, athletic director at Herriman, said players, coaches and cheerleaders’ families were prioritized and offered tickets first. The remaining 150-200 home tickets opened up for general sale online to reduce contact at the game. 

With just a few clicks, fans were able to navigate to the school’s athletic site and buy tickets ahead of Thursday’s game. All tickets were purchased digitally through HomeTown Ticketing, a free and secure online ticketing company. The assigned seating provided an easy way to contact trace if necessary. 

Tickets sold out within an hour.

“Sincerely, the online ticketing was crucial to us pulling it off,” Tingey said. “I have no idea how we would’ve done it without the online capabilities that we had.”

Engaging as many fans as possible: With limited seating, it was important for Herriman to reach fans in creative ways. This past spring, the school decided to move all football games to Thursdays so a local TV station could broadcast them. This season opener gained twice as many views as last season – 14,000 households tuned in and another 5,000 devices streamed it. 

While broadcasting isn’t always an option, there are other ways to involve fans at home. Live tweeting updates, writing recap stories, and posting photo and video highlights can keep fans engaged from a distance. Herriman used Box Out Sports, a sports graphics platform with ready-made templates and designs, to keep their site updated with compelling graphics.

“It looks really nice and professional,” Tingey said. “And it’s very easy to use.”

Now that Tingey has seen the benefits of selling tickets and engaging with the community online, he doesn’t think the athletic department will ever go back to its old ways. In fact, they’ve already discussed utilizing digital capabilities during the basketball season.

“Even after the pandemic and the crisis is over, we’re planning on continuing online,” Tingey said. “It’s the new normal for us.”

Interested in getting your school ready for the new normal? Schedule a demo of VNN’s cutting-edge communications technology, request digital tickets for your school’s website, or watch our workshop on YouTube for more information.

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