Gymnastics live streams meets

Erik Buchinger

Coaches and players celebrate after the UW Oshkosh men's basketball team defeats River Falls in the WIAC Championship 66-63 on Feb. 28.
[/media-credit] Coaches and players celebrate after the UW Oshkosh men’s basketball team defeats River Falls in the WIAC Championship 66-63 on Feb. 28.

The UW Oshkosh women’s gymnastics team has been using the live-streaming app Periscope to broadcast its events this season. UWO head coach Lauren Karnitz said the idea was to increase the following of the Oshkosh gymnastics team. “What we want to do is we want to promote our sport,” Karnitz said. “We want people to take an interest, and what I’ve noticed is that when you give people access to watch gymnastics, then they know about it, and we tend to get people to come.” Periscope was founded in February 2014 and was purchased in January 2015 by Twitter, where freshman gymnast Alexa Swenn’s stepmother works. “She encourages us in making sure we’re keeping up with our Twitter account and making sure we’re posting on Periscope since it is an affiliate of Twitter,” Karnitz said. Karnitz said she has not seen any other teams utilize Periscope to show events. The idea to broadcast was brought up by senior gymnast Barbara Bass last spring, and all nine of the team’s events this season have been streamed on Periscope. “People can pull it up on an iPad or an iPhone and put it on their TV screen if they have Apple TV,” Karnitz said. “We always make sure we broadcast how it would look on a TV, so we broadcast putting the iPad horizontally on the tripod.” According to Karnitz, the streams average about 200 viewers, mostly athletes’ families and friends, alumni and fans of the team. “The main reason we use Periscope, and why it’s so important for us, is because our alumni base and the families of the current athletes are from all over the country,” Karnitz said. The current roster shows that 16 of 20 gymnasts are not from Wisconsin, and the team has athletes from Illinois, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Georgia as well as Wisconsin. “The families of our athletes love that they get to see them all the time,” Karnitz said. “You go from high school when your parents are at almost every event. Then you go to college and it’s hard for them to get to everything. They really enjoy that we’re doing this, and they appreciate it.” According to senior Krystal Walker, her family and friends have tuned in to Periscope to watch her perform this season. Walker said she thinks more teams will be using Periscope in the future. “This is going to start becoming a thing for Periscope because not a lot of Division III schools get their meets or sports streamed through the school live online,” Walker said. “I think this is a way for people to view it, so I think it’s going to be a big hit.” Walker’s mother, Mary Brown-Walker, lives in Chicago and attended all three home events in Oshkosh this season as well as the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship in La Crosse on March 4. Brown-Walker was introduced to Periscope and watched the other five events using the app on her iPhone. “I’m a parent that previously went to all of Krystal’s competitions when she was home,” Brown-Walker said. “I try not to miss any of the competitions in Oshkosh, but when she travels further distances and out of state, it’s very beneficial for me to be able to still see what she does and how well she performs.” In prior seasons, Brown-Walker said she did not have live access to her daughter’s competitions. “The sad part about it was that I had to wait for the meet to be over and hope everything went well,” Brown-Walker said. “Then she would call me right afterwards and let me know how she and the team had done.” In addition to live-streaming the entire competition, when some of the gymnasts are not competing at the time, they interact with fans on Periscope answering questions and providing updates on the current scores. “It is interactive in a sense that you see what other people say and can choose to respond or not,” Brown-Walker said. “I think it is a great way to feel like you are present even though you’re not.” On Jan. 23, Brown-Walker and family traveled to Mississippi to watch her nephew Deontre Brown, who is a senior point guard on the University of West Georgia basketball team, at the same time Walker was performing at the UW-Whitewater Quadrangular.” As a family, we want to support both of them,” Brown-Walker said. “One weekend, I traveled to visit [Brown] and see him play in person. I was in the bleachers and also watching Krystal, so we as a family were watching both competitions at the same time. Brown-Walker recalled a moment during the game when she was in the bleachers of Walter Sillers Coliseum in Cleveland, Miss. while watching Walker perform on Periscope. “I remember screaming out during the game because Krystal fell on bars,” Brown-Walker said. Walker said she is happy that her family was able to see each of her competitions during her senior season. “It’s awesome that both my parents were able to watch because it’s my last year and everything,” Walker said. “It just made it that much better that they were able to see them all.” Oshkosh finished fourth in the WIAC Championship as a team and Walker recorded season bests in four of the five individual categories. Walker will represent Oshkosh at the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association Championship for the second straight year in Brockport, New York on March 18-19. “I’m actually going to be there,” Brown-Walker said. “I’m going to New York, but I do have family that will not be there who will be watching back home.”