Jul 20, 2017 11:00 AM
DURHAM — A University of New Hampshire power wheelchair soccer player and coach is launching an online streaming platform to showcase various parasports nationally that otherwise wouldn't be broadcasted.
Tony Jackson, who is currently the power soccer coordinator at Northeast Passage, said he has been playing power wheelchair soccer since 2009 and has broadcasted the sport since 2013. He said he officially founded ParaSportsLive in February for a couple of reasons.
The first was the demand that Jackson saw for parasports to be broadcasted.
"I saw all the other adaptive sports that aren't being broadcast out there, and that's why I started ParaSportsLive to bring these sports to everybody," he said.
Jackson, a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism where he began broadcasting college athletics for the school's radio station, said he had seen the benefits of broadcasting parasports firsthand.
"When I've done the power soccer broadcasts, I've seen the positive impact that it has on a lot of people," Jackson said. "Family members, friends, relatives from all over the country and world can see their loved ones competing. Seeing that has really pushed me forward to do this."
While Jackson only plays power soccer, he said the whole mission of ParaSportLive is to eventually bring a cornucopia of adapted sports to viewer's computers and mobile devices.
"I want to go out there and bring track and field events, swimming, sled hockey, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and so many other adaptive sports that aren't being shown right now," he said. "The Disabled Sports U.S.A. Junior Nationals are taking place in Wisconsin right now, and those aren't even being livestreamed out to anybody."
Jackson said that future Paralympians could be competing in the Junior Nationals, yet nobody aside from the people at the event can watch them compete. He said there are over 60,000 adapted sports athletes in the U.S., and with the increasing popularity of online video livestreaming, the potential market for streaming parasports is large.
The second reason Jackson said he started ParaSportsLive was to create opportunities for other disabled individuals pursuing a career in broadcasting.
"The goal is to find people like me who studied broadcasting in school and aspired to be broadcasters and journalists, and have never had the opportunity to work in broadcast media," Jackson said. "There are very few people with disabilities in the broadcasting industry now, so I'm hoping that with ParaSportsLive we can bring some more of those talented people into the fold and let them showcase their talents."
Jackson said he had made a number of connections in the adaptive sports community while traveling the country broadcasting power soccer, and he hopes these connections will get on board with his new platform.
"I've reached out to them and sent proposals in an effort to broadcast the events that they host every year," he said. "Ideally, we hope to eventually cover events every month throughout the year."
Jackson said that while the Paralympics receive a lot of media attention, once they are over, coverage of adapted sports is greatly diminished. He said that just because the media coverage stops doesn't mean the adapted sports do, and that's where ParaSportsLive comes in.
The streaming platform is still a work in progress, but Jackson said there is an official website and a GoFundMe campaign has already raised over $3,000. He said he hopes to be streaming games by October.
"Northeast Passage hosts a wheelchair rugby competition every October, so the goal is to have all of the equipment together and have everything up and running before then so that way we can use that tournament as our maiden broadcast," he said.
To learn more about ParaSportsLive and to make a donation, visit their GoFundMe page. Below is an introduction video from the company's GoFundMe campaign.
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