In an ever-changing world, it’s essential for organizations to adapt and evolve over time to maintain their competitive edge, continue to grow and carry out their vision.
Several years ago, Chris Dodson started the Majorly Minor Show, which was a video production covering this level of football around Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas. Around the same time, James Burkheart formed the Springdale Sports Network in Springdale Arkansas to cover the NWA Battle, the Impact Football League and eventually other local sports at the high school level and beyond.
“I saw what James was trying to accomplish and said if I ever got a chance with a guy that did work like that, this is what i would do,” Dodson said. “I started thinking things through from graphic work, to openers, how it would look, like an NBC Sunday Night Football is what i’m trying to achieve. When I found out we were moving here, I reached out to James, we got to talking, met up, and discussed how we could bring in Majorly Minor which had been in its third or fourth year at that point, kind of like a merger if you will. We’re going to be together a long time.”
In 2018, Dodson moved to Bentonville, Ark., from Seattle, Wa., and the two joined forces to form the Southern Sports Network
“Majorly Minor started as a side project and morphed from there,” SSN Chief Financial Officer and Senior Producer told Developmental Football USA. “When I moved down here and got together with the guys doing the Springdale Sports Network, I knew that could be something kind of fun.”
Last year, Dodson, Burkheart and Joe Mitchell did simulcast play-by-play coverage for Elkins (AR) High School, but this year they’re upping the ante and taking things much further.
“We’ve got the University of Arkansas College of Communications on board,” SSN Chief Financial Officer and Senior Producer told Developmental Football USA. “We have an internship partnership with U of A. Some of their writers and students can apply for an internship with us, earn a little money and get the basic dynamics of what they are going to need before they get out into the real world.”
The internship will provide real-world experience in a competitive field, in an age where some employers expect five years of experience for entry level positions.
“The partnership was a win-win for both parties,” Dodson said. “It helps us have a larger staff with our budget and also helps us produce a great quality product no other team is able to create. We give the students an outlet to apply what they’ve learned and we get to do and we get to try some cool ideas.”
Dodson and Mitchell teamed up for live play-by-play commentary last year and over time found their groove in covering games effectively.
“He’s definitely one that can talk through a whole game by himself,” Dodson said. “He’s done it on several occasions where he’s play-by-play and color commentator. For us, it was getting familiar with each other, knowing when to talk, when to shut up and taking cues from one another and that’s the next thing we are going to teach these kids, how to incorporate that.”
This year, SSN is planning to cover three are high schools as well as some games from the 4-State Football League.
“Everything is streamlined,” Dodson said. “We know what to do from conception to birth, setup to teardown. We have taken an idea that started off as a ‘What if?’ – you always have those in your life, ‘What if we did this and put it together with that and put it together with pieces of the puzzle?’ and it takes shape sometimes different than what you intended to become and it becomes a beautiful portrait in a setting.
“It’s an open book that we’re able to write.”
SSN will utilize Facebook Live, with a technology called Blue Frame, which they can then upload to Apple TV through Firestick, at least that’s what Dodson said, that’s a little over our heads.
“We have the ability to partner up with more businesses around here like Grubs Bar & Grill,” Dodson said. “They will be streaming our content through their TVs because they use Apple TV. We have our website that will be launched this weekend. We’ll have a lot of content pushed out in different areas so we can simulcast at the same time.”
The new features SSN is providing will certainly get the word out.
“We want to get the viewers to see it, accumulate fans and accumulate football players,” Dodson said. “There are a lot of former U of A football players that are great talents and could continue on if they wanted to.”
Dodson has been around the developmental level for 15 years and has worn many hats from player, to team owner, to league commissioner, to announcer and producer and has not stopped believing in using his talents to continue to advance this level of football.
“This has kind of become almost a ministry in a way,” Dodson said. “Some people have compared it to that. After managing a league, I really wanted to pay attention to the media side. It was fun and no one else was doing it. It gave me a way to stay involved and explore some of my own creativities.”
Like we’ve learned at Developmental Football USA, Dodson has learned that sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward at this level. Sometimes he’s had to help teams market themselves better so that he’s able to make for a more complete product whether at a league level or beyond.
“This level of football is the hardest when it comes to getting information,” Dodson said. “You’re dealing with people that, a lot of times, are trying to figure it out for themselves. They are trying to create the wheel and don’t have experience from other leagues. These teams are fly-by-night. You don’t see many teams last for five years and the average lifespan is 2 1/2 years. You really see how much patience a guy has and how much patience his wife has.”