Aaron Brown’s Web site, Illpolo.com, has been instrumental in bringing more publicity to water polo players such as Lyons’ Kirby Kaptur (above), a second-team all-state selection last season. (Joe Shuman/ For Sun-Times Media)
First in a series about high school sports Web sites
For the past eight years, Aaron Brown has been a one-man editor, writer, blogger, videographer and even does his own rankings for Illpolo.com. His Web site has become the state’s definitive resource for news, individual honors and team results for boys and girls water polo.
Illpolo.com even has a fan page on Facebook.
Brown took time to answer questions via email:
Q: How did Illpolo.com get started?
A:The site was meant to be a simple resource with schedules, team listings, and information back in 2003, since there wasn’t any other place to find water polo information in Illinois. When I realized I could also keep track of scores, standings, and other information and that there was a high demand for it, I started adding more and more to the site.
Q: What do you love about the sport?
A: I like the following things: Fast action, quick games, and a chance to recognize hard-working athletes who may not get the recognition elsewhere.
Q: Were you a former water polo player? Where did you play in high school or college?
A: I played club water polo, swam in college, and coached age group and high school water polo before I started the web site and reporting on the sport.
Q: What do you do when you’re not running Illpolo.com? I believe you teach some where?
A: I teach TV/Video Production at Bolingbrook High School.
Q: Any guess how many hours you devote a week to Illpolo.com during the season?
A: To be honest, it’s basically a 24-7 endeavor. I’m not working on it every minute of the day, but there is a lot of research, communication, and technical work that goes on behind the scenes to get the site ready each day and there are frequent updates to report on throughout each day.
Q: Your scoreboard is amazingly up to date? How do you get scores posted? Does someone help you?
A: I get scores and recaps updated because I have built up a good amount of resources and get cooperation from coaches, parents, and players. There are still a few teams that don’t send in much information, but the word continues to spread about the site each year. Also, my wife Julie helps out a lot with updating the site.
Q: What part of the site do you have the most fun putting together?
A: Being able to recognize athletes for their performances is the best part about the site.
Q: Optional technical details… What Web service do you use and is it very costly?
A: Probably not important to mention…though the cost of web hosting, bandwidth, domains, and equipment like wireless internet and so on can get pretty costly each year.
Q: Follow up to that… Are you always looking for donations and new sponsors? Loyola boys coach Daniel Hengelmann (pictured, right) says he’s such a big supporter of the site, that he also wanted to sponsor it with his business?
A: I’m always looking for help and support with either donations or sponsors. They help to ensure that the site can continue to operate each year.
Q: Is it hard to find sponsors to support the site?
A: Most sponsors are parents or coaches involved in the sport. The site does generate a lot of traffic, so I’m surprised there isn’t more interest in advertising.
Q: Is sponsorship and getting advertising the biggest challenge to running a high school Web site such as yours?
A: Time is the biggest issue in operating the site. I’ll put it this way…my social life disappears during the water polo season.
Q: What are the biggest challenges to running your site?
A: Other than it being time-consuming, there are so many games and tournaments to cover now that it is impossible to be everywhere to cover games like I used to. Couple that with having a full-time job and graduate school, and it can get to be a great challenge and a very tiring one as well.
Q: You seem to have broken new ground with Illpolo TV and streaming of matches. Was that part of your original plan for the site? How long ago did you add video?
A: When I have time, I will film and edit videos for the site, which I started doing in 2006 and 2007. It became difficult to do a lot of that but I try to make sure there is video from the important state tournament games and anything else I can get during the regular season.
Q: Some coaches have told me they love the video for scouting? Did you foresee its use that way?
A: Not really, since most of the footage is edited to show the highlights instead of entire plays and how they develop. But I could see how it could be used in that way.
What coaches are saying…
Glenbrook North girls coach Robin Walker: “I tell my players to watch it. He’s got highlight clips on the state series. I go to it for the highlight clips. Secondly, it’s had a great affect on getting recognition for players and teams for the water polo community. It’s a nice place to go. Without a doubt, I check it daily for scores. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Glenbrook South boys coach David Lieberman: “I look at it at least every week or a couple of times a week. I understand its one man’s opinion about the state, but he’s usually fair. The kids like it more than anything else.”
Loyola boys coach Dan Hengelmann: “I’ve always been a big supporter of his; the amount of work he does for no money. Its greatest asset is getting all the scores at your fingertips.”
Naperville Central boys coach Bill Salentine: “I give it a look a few times a week, just to see who is beating who and by how much. If we have a game coming up, and I may not have a good scouting report on, I look to see who they have played recently, common opponents, to size up how we might do. In the ‘old days’ I might call up a few coaches that I have a good relationship with, and ask them who they played recently, how they did, etc. I don’t have to do that now. I will talk to coaches at tournaments, and get info, but far less than I used to.”