I met Andy Beal some 11 years ago at The Bee.
He came into a conference room booming of good cheer with an idea of using the Internet to launch high school sports into a new era. His venture would be called MaxPreps. One of Beal's suggestions was to have football coaches input statistics into a data base system for all to see, enjoy and compare, in addition to standings, statistics, photos, rosters, schedules and results. A complete, one-click destination for all things preps, in other words. And then grow from there to other sports.
My biggest concern? The coaches, representing the very core of prep sports.
Some of these grizzled old sorts were trying to figure out these newish items called cell phones 11 years ago. For scores of coaches, any sort of technology - even the view of a keyboard - made them flinch and frown. They preferred a rotary phone and written mail. To a throw-back coach, the idea of a hard drive was an 80-yard march in the mud, all trap plays against a formidable front, with a league championship on the line.
Turns out, Beal had the right vision. The coaches, and some of us initially leery reporters, saw the light. Coaches could adapt, or rely on an assistant coach or statistician to master that keyboard. The Internet remains the right way. Stat cards mailed to The Bee, often arrived torn to shreds during delivery. A treasured roster was laminated and put under lock and key in our Bee prep headquarters.
Stats and rosters are readily available online for any team in any part of the land. There are nearly 15,000 high schools across the country, and the MaxPreps motto remains the same: contribute for the general cause.
MaxPreps celebrates its 10th anniversary on Saturday with a party at the Rancho Cordova Marriott, and we toast them as well. Beal, the MaxPreps founder and president, will buy all the rounds.
MaxPreps was acquired by CBS Corporation in 2007, but the headquarters remain local, in Cameron Park. And a good many of the tireless talents who put it all together are local, or are from California.
Senior writer Mitch Stephens, based in the Bay Area, is an award-winning, human-interest expert. Another writer, Kevin Askeland, gave readers an inside peek at small-town athletic pride.
Director of photography Todd Shurtleff got his sports start as a Bee part-timer in the late 1980s, enthusiastically tracking down prep football results from Burney to Shasta in the north part of the state (coaches would often say, "as soon as I get my axe out of the wood, I'll call you back"). Shurtleff still exhibits the sort of energy that tempts Mountain Dew uppers to look to him as a sponsor, not the other way around.
MaxPreps executive editor/director of editorial content Steve Montoya is a closet Placer Hillman fan for good reason. He and Hillmen football coaching brother Joey grew up in Auburn. Chris Stonebraker, a MaxPreps product manager, has filmed various sports and championship events with such subtly that the coaches and athletes don't even see him. He never seems to freeze in the December chill while the rest of us shiver.
On Aug. 19, The Bee is co-sponsoring with MaxPreps the annual National Football Foundation Sacramento chapter Coach's Prep Football Kickoff in Carmichael. Beal will offer new technological ideas and concepts in his endless quest to enhance the prep product. I know what some of the old salt coaches will do. They'll exhale, but they'll figure it out.
- By Joe Davidson
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