BAR HARBOR — “Welcome to Tiger Town,” Heather Webster announces to start the middle school basketball games for Conners Emerson School.
“Folks, this epic battle is about to begin,” she says at tipoff during a recent matchup between the Bar Harbor school’s Tigers and Trenton Elementary School’s Timberwolves.
“Heather Weir Webster, I think you do a Fabulous job!! Keep up the good work!!! SERIOUSLY!!!” wrote James Hanscom, whose son plays on the boys’ team, on the Facebook page in the comments from a recent game. “Heather Webster, your [sic] definitely great at your job but I’m thinking you may have missed your calling as sports broadcaster!!!”
Chris Popper might have some competition calling high school basketball games next year if Webster, who is Conners Emerson School’s assistant principal, decides to throw her hat in the ring.
As school staff adjusted to new roles and responsibilities this schoolyear because of COVID-19, Webster is no exception. With attendance at athletic events being restricted, she has added sportscaster to her resume.
“I agree! The best part of the game was the play-by-play Heather Weir Webster did!! Amazing!!!!” wrote Michelle Mensink Shaw, another parent watching online in order to see their child’s team play.
At the request of the school’s athletic director, Webster has been calling plays for the middle school basketball games since the beginning of the season. They are broadcast live on the Conners Emerson Athletics Facebook page and the recording can be viewed there afterwards.
‘It’s a lot of fun, actually,” Webster said in a conversation with the Islander. “I do have to brush up and watch a little SportsCenter to get a few new phrases and terms.”
In the spirit of an excited parent capturing play from the sidelines, Webster comments on a shot from ‘downtown,’ says another student got herself into the ‘bucket of the month club’ after making a basket and notes that another play will surely be featured on ‘Mr. Worcester’s highlight reel.’
Maybe it is because her son is a player on the team or because as a leader at the school, many of the students feel like her own children, but it isn’t just the Bar Harbor players she is rooting for. After baskets are made by opposing team players, Webster shows the same enthusiasm for their achievement.
“Hayden from the Timberwolves just scored a beautiful basket,” she said following two points by a Trenton player.
As the pace of play picks up, Webster gets into the groove of following along, often commenting on how electric it feels in the gymnasium. Not only is Webster calling the plays, she is also filming the game on her phone at the same time. It was something she began doing during soccer season when only parents or guardians could attend games. Webster’s son is a seventh-grade player on the basketball team and played soccer as well.
“Basketball is a lot faster,” said Webster about calling the play-by-play as it moves from one side of the court to the other. Games are about an hour long and Webster, along with the players on the court, needs to make sure she stays hydrated. “I generally suck down some liquids at half time.”
In true multitasking fashion, Webster records and calls the games on her phone from a spot up against the bleachers where she can get the best view while balancing the list of the opposing team’s players’ names.
“At the beginning of the games, I’m trying to learn the names,” she said. “It probably sounds better in the fourth quarter than it does in the first quarter.”
Outside of comments on Facebook, Webster gets to hear directly from her fan base in the student drop-off and pick-up line at school each day.
“I get stopped in the arrival lane in the mornings and they ask, ‘are you doing the game tonight?’”
By streaming the games online, not only can parents/guardians from the school district watch, but extended family can also tune in from around the country.
“It’s a way to show everyone what’s going on with the school,” said Webster, noting members of other schools’ staff have also been announcing their team’s games. “I’ve been thinking, if we do this, what other ways can we share things with our families?”
When she was young, Webster’s sport of choice was gymnastics, not basketball. But over the years she has become a fan and announcing up to three games a week can really cut the learning curve. “Great job on the play-by-play, thank you,” wrote another parent, Wyman Tapley, on the Facebook page.
“It turns out that I really, really like doing it,” said Webster, whose goal is to offer a positive for every player during each game. “Chris Popper, give me a call. I’m ready for the big league.”