Our 10 Most Popular Live Streaming Blog Posts

Our 10 Most Popular Live Streaming Blog Posts

When we say we have freakishly good support (what, you haven’t watched the video about our super support powers yet?), we’re mostly talking about the always-available, hands-on help we provide for our live streaming partners. But we’re pretty proud of our live streaming blog, too, because it’s another way for us to support live streamers everywhere who are as psyched as we are about always learning and improving.

After some data-churning, it became clear that the live streaming blog posts below are our top 10 most popular, so we rounded them up for easy access. Here’s hoping that you count our blog among your favorite live streaming resources going forward—if there’s anything you’d like to see more of, just give us a shout.

1. High Definition, Three Camera Inputs, One Laptop, $3,500

An oldie but a goody, this classic live streaming blog post was written by the director of multimedia and production at Harvard University Athletics. Everyone wants to know how he pulled off a small production setup on a tight budget; he provides the details here.

2. Evaluate Your Live Streaming Platform On These 4 Features

Shopping around for a live streaming platform? Don’t make a move until you’ve read this article, which describes the four areas that define the quality of any platform provider and why they’re critical to your future live streaming success. We promise you’ll sound smarter when you’re ready to comparison shop.

3. 3 Important Church Attendance Statistics & What They Mean For The Modern Church

If these three statistics are any indication, modern churches need to change to keep pace with new attitudes and new ideas. What can your church do to stay connected? We have some ideas; read about them here.

4. How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

It really is as easy as 1-2-3. Take a moment to read these instructions and tips, and you’ll be all set to live stream at a moment’s notice.

You have the equipment, but are you really prepared to go live? To pull off a live stream flawlessly, download this extensive checklist outlining what you need to do before, during, and after your event.

5. How To Set Up A Multi-Camera Live Streaming System

Fans of article #1 will also want to check out this one, which has additional, updated recommendations for small-scale, multi-camera live streaming on a limited budget. Here we offer three options: one based around a MacBook Pro, another using a hardware mixer called ATEM Television Studio, and a third for PC desktops.

6. 40 Live Streaming Tips To Make Your Broadcast Better

“Expect the unexpected” is a good way to describe live streaming, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll take all the concrete tips we can get to help make the process go more smoothly. In this article, experienced live streamers dish out the best of their advice on everything from equipment and setup to preparation and process.

7. How To Live Stream Using A Camera You Already Own

Have camera, will live stream…. as long as you have the right setup. Even if you’ve never live streamed before, you can still make use of that camera you found hiding under the seat of your car. This article outlines how to transform it from a recording device (or a dust collector) into a live streaming machine in three easy steps.

8. 6 Fundraising Ideas For Small Churches

Live streaming church services is one way for small churches to expand their reach, but we know that fundraisers help keep the doors open. This list of six creative fundraising ideas (we’d love to have a “help squad” in our neighborhood!) hopefully includes at least one or two that your church might consider worthy of giving a go.

9. Essential Equipment: The Checklist For Church Live Streaming

This one’s for all you church leaders out there who’ve ever said (or thought) “I don’t have the staff to live stream,” or “I don’t know enough about tech to live stream,” or even “Live streaming is too expensive.” You can do it with the help of our live streaming resources. Start by reviewing this equipment checklist specifically for churches, then check out our step-by-step instruction guide on how your church can get started.

10. Live Streaming Setup For The Computer Illiterate

For everyone out there who knows nothing about technology and assumes that live streaming is beyond your reach, here’s a nontechnical guide to live stream setup (including pictures!). This basic equipment list is perfect for first-timers and includes a link to our extensive live streaming checklist with detailed instructions on how to prepare for an event.

These are our top 10 posts, but there’s plenty more where these came from! Check out our live streaming blog for something new every week, and visit our website to find out more about the Stretch live streaming platform.

 

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

The 21 Best Church Websites

The 21 Best Church Websites

We’re not much for top 10 lists around here (why does it always have to be 10?), which is why we didn’t think twice when we went looking for some of the best church websites on the internet and came up with a list more than twice the size—21, to be exact.

We like these websites for lots of different reasons, but you’ll see the words “welcoming,” “simple,” and “straightforward” mentioned quite a bit in the explanations below. Live streaming aside, these churches did an awesome job (in our view, anyway) at designing sites that drew us in and made us want to stay awhile. So if you’re a church looking to revamp your site, check out some of the entries on this list as well as our previous article on web hosting options for churches. Between the two, you could probably come up with a nice wish list for your own acreage on the web—maybe even a top 10 list, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Are you ready to join the ranks of churches that are live streaming their services? This free guide has everything you need to know to get started.

The 21 Best Church Websites

1. New Vision Baptist Church

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Why we like it: The visual on the homepage drew us in immediately; it feels warm and inviting. We think a lot of people tend to shy away from churchgoing because they feel intimidated, so a “warm” welcome is key. Also, the navigation on this site is very straightforward—only four options—and prioritizes the things the church wants visitors to be aware of (I’m New, Events, Watch Live, and Give).

2. One Church

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Why we like it: The design is simple and straightforward. Within 10 seconds of looking at the site, a visitor would have a good idea of what this church is about and some of its core philosophies. Admittedly, the navigation is a little cluttered, but we still think it’s effective.

3. The City Church

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Why we like it: We like the clarity of this site’s design. There is very little vertical scroll; when you do scroll, you are presented with campus locations and upcoming events. It’s clear this site has a singular mission—to connect people to the church by telling them when and where they can participate. But there are navigational buttons if visitors want to find out more.

4. The Grove

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Why we like it: This one is worth highlighting for the somewhat bold strategy of autoplaying a video of the lead pastor when visitors load the site. This strategy is high-risk/high-reward as it can turn some people off immediately or draw people in who otherwise wouldn’t have played the video on their own. Other than that, the site does a good job of visually representing its worship space and gives visitors a good idea of what to expect.

5. Red Rocks Church

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Why we like it: We like the visual appeal of this one, which makes good use of color in its branding to tie in with the Red Rocks name. It also offers a media section that includes nicely produced videos of various events—baptisms, roundtable discussions, and location launches (there’s one in Belgium)!

6. First Church

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Why we like it: Visitors see three prominent calls-to-action right away: watch a sermon, join the congregation on Sunday, and learn more about the church. The design is modern, clean, and welcoming. We think it’s important to represent the tone of your church with your design and color scheme—do you want to be soft and welcoming or are you trying to express action and urgency with a bolder look?

7. Bethel Church

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Why we like it: Bethel Church’s website seems to “unfold” as you scroll, which has a nice feel to it. Upcoming events, testimonies, and learning courses are attractively laid out and well organized. The site as a whole has a peaceful, welcoming feeling to it (kind of like the website says—“on earth as it is in heaven”).

8. The Summit Church

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Why we like it: The juxtaposition of navigational images is lively and interesting. Plus, visitors are introduced to the pastor and his blog right on the homepage, which we like because it lends a more intimate, personal feel to what could otherwise seem like a very large church. Every page makes good use of white space and is easy to read.

9. Flatirons Community Church

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Why we like it: The hoverable side navigation is unique and lets the main images take center stage (it only pulls out when you place the cursor on it). Church members can immediately find service times and locations as well as ways to give online. There are also video sermons along with discussion questions, making it a great resource for learning.

10. Southeast Christian Church

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Why we like it: Scroll down on the homepage and you’ll see neatly delineated sections for upcoming events, “Life @ Southeast” (social media postings), locations, and information for new visitors. We also like that they have a “Statement of Faith” page that links the church’s core beliefs with scripture references—a unique and powerful way of stating who they are. Attractive visuals and sparse text combine to make an inviting site.

11. Fellowship Church

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Why we like it: The current promotion on this church’s homepage shows it has a sense of humor (“Family Business” refers to a series of teachings about the purpose of family). We also liked the messages that accompany the visuals on the homepage, from “We’re saving a seat for you,” to “Welcome to the best hour of your week,” to “Fellowship Church loves kids!” The message is enthusiastic and clear—join us!

12. NorthRidge Church

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Why we like it: According to NorthRidge, it does church “without all the churchiness.” The text conveys the message well, coming across as friendly, casual, and welcoming—and maybe a little different than the next church, too. A beautiful, clean design also helps.

13. Bayside Church

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Why we like it: Visitors will know right away if they can identify with this church thanks to well-designed text boxes that “pop” against the black-and-white background image, each briefly encapsulating the church’s mission. We also like that this site doesn’t try to do too much: As this is the main website covering all campuses, only the essentials are provided—locations, who they are, and media clips. From there, visitors can navigate to the websites of each individual campus for more information.

14. Ada Bible Church

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Why we like it: With visually appealing curated lists of everything from the latest happenings to “next steps” for congregants interested in moving their religious journey forward, Ada Bible Church’s website is both beautiful and easy to find your way around. The blue faded background visuals play nicely with the main images throughout, so what should stand out, does.

15. Church Of The King

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Why we like it: The Church of the King site tells visitors everything they need to know, with a more unique look than many of the other churches on our list. The circular navigation icons are attractive and thoughtfully designed to command attention. The top part of the homepage (not pictured here) gives priority to promoting the current discussion series. There’s no endless scrolling here—it’s a short way down, but you can easily get what you came for.

16. Gateway Church, Austin

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Why we like it: Gateway clearly invites people to come as they are—“no perfect people allowed.” All of its content reinforces that message. The bright green and black color combination is lively with a touch of sophistication and serves to highlight important text. It’s easy to navigate and enjoyable to look at.

17. Judson Memorial Church

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Why we like it: Everything about this website is striking, from the homepage to the FAQ page. It treats everything a little differently than other church websites, including the fun navigational icons, the words and design for the navigation menu at the top, and the bold font that stands out (that last part we’re not crazy about, but it works with the rest of the site design). Clearly this is a different kind of church.

18. Trinity Church Boston

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Why we like it: The accent colors of blue and gold tie everything on this site together, giving it a more sophisticated, stately look (red is also pulled in under the menu items). Nicely chosen images and a well-organized layout make for an attractive, appealing website.

19. Connexus Church

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Why we like it: Two words—clean and clear. There’s no chance of getting lost on this website, and you’ll enjoy roaming around while you’re at it. Attractive illustrated icons direct visitors to “take your next step” midway down the homepage. And rather than just relying on a “contact us” menu item, the church comes right out and asks if you have any questions that haven’t yet been answered, which leads you right to a contact form. Finally, the “About Us” page shows a friendly team of church leaders and invites visitors to learn more about each one. You’ll find yourself wanting to spend time here.

20. The Old North Church

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Why we like it: The website for Old North Church not only has to reflect the fact that it is Boston’s oldest surviving church building and a historical site, but it also has to be modern in design. This site covers both these angles, with a unique brick background on the homepage, an authentic historical font, and clear and attractive navigation boxes and menus as well as social media links.

21. Mount Pleasant Christian Church

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Why we like it: This church does a better job than most at keeping a consistent look and feel throughout the different parts of its site—including on the homepage, where the scrolling images are different but clearly part of the same whole. The brown, tan, and green color scheme makes that possible and is used to good effect throughout. (Plus, to us it feels homey and warm.) It also includes a prayer wall where visitors can post prayer requests, making the site interactive.

Have something to add?

It’s impossible to cover all the best church websites—but we’re pretty sure you can help! Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know what we missed!

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Starting An Event Video Production Company? Here Are Some Founders’ Tips

Starting An Event Video Production Company? Here Are Some Founders’ Tips

I wish I’d known that….

This sentiment is familiar to just about everyone who has, at one point or another, tried something new. We always hope we know everything going in, but that rarely turns out to be the case.

Starting a business—the grandaddy of new things—is no exception, but the prospect of being underprepared doesn’t seem to have lessened our resolve! In 2015, 330 out of every 100,000 adults in the U.S. started a business in any given month—an upward trend since 2013. Clearly there’s something about busting out on our own that agrees with us.

Starting your own event video production company doesn’t have to be a journey filled with surprises. Plenty of people have done it before you, so why not use their “I wish I’d known” moments to your advantage? You won’t be able to avoid mistakes completely (where’s the fun in that, anyway?), but you can at least head into it with a little more confidence. Below are some of the best tips we’ve seen from people who’ve been there, done that.

Tips From The Pros On Starting An Event Video Production Company

Tips On Equipment

Consider renting equipment at the start.

Although renting equipment won’t make financial sense for long, it may be worth doing briefly in the very early stages of your business. You may want to test-run a variety of gear to see what you like the best and what performs well. It’s also a good way to handle equipment that you’ll only use occasionally (see the next tip). If you’ve already tried it out, you’ll know you’re making the right decision when it comes time to buy.  

Don’t buy what you don’t need.

Investing in good quality gear is important, but so is buying the right gear in terms of what you actually need. Video equipment is expensive, and there’s always something else to buy—but avoid the temptation! Take stock of the gear you’ll actually need to create the kind of videos you intend to produce. For example, you don’t need complex lighting equipment if most of your shooting will be outdoors. Ask yourself: What are my video production needs? What can I afford to spend? Then go from there.

When you buy, invest in good quality gear.

If you’re going to make an investment anywhere, do it here. To ensure you’re buying the best quality gear, combine a healthy amount of independent research with a sprinkling of advice from a pro (or pros). Travis Johansen at Provid Films suggests contacting a company that is producing videos you admire and asking for some insight. Ideally, your contact should be from a different geographic area than you so they don’t feel threatened sharing information. He says it will save you “literally thousands of dollars,” because buying cheap equipment first and upgrading later will actually cost more. Enjoying and mastering the right gear from the start will pay off in the long run.

Consider buying equipment that supports live streaming.

These days, live streaming should be on every videographer’s radar due to its growing popularity. Even if you don’t do live streaming right out of the gate, make sure that the equipment you buy supports live streaming for eventual use down the road. For instance, every production company needs a video switcher, but some switchers natively support live streaming while others would require a separate encoding solution.. Give yourself options for future growth by buying high-quality equipment that does more.   

Interested in adding live streaming to your company’s product offerings? Become a live streaming expert with this extensive checklist.

Tips On Marketing The Business

Spend time building a top-notch portfolio.

A beautiful portfolio is your best salesman, according to Maksym Podsolonko, founder of Magic Day Luxury Experiences. To build an expert portfolio, make sure you can deliver great footage before you start any marketing, then reach out to local event planners and offer to shoot a wedding or any other celebration for free, showing them your first videos as part of your pitch. At the same time, launch a website and start creating content to gain organic traffic from search engines. With three great videos in your portfolio, launch a Facebook campaign targeting newly engaged couples in your area. You can also offer a 10% referral fee to photographers, event planners, and venues in your target area.

Be smart about advertising.

Advertising can be an invaluable source of new clientele if you handle it right. Robert Barrows at R. M. Barrows Advertising & Public Relations suggests establishing an advertising budget and marketing goals that make sense for your company, and then discussing them with 3-5 ad agencies. Choose the one you think will do the best job for you, but don’t sign a long-term contract—make sure any agreement you sign can be canceled by either party with 30 days’ notice.   

Competitive research is boring—but do it anyway.

In the ancient military treatise The Art of War, Chinese General Sun Zi (and Michael Corleone of the Godfather—whichever you prefer) advised to keep your enemies close. Substitute the word “competitors” for “enemies,” and you have one of the first rules of conducting business. Once you get past the tediousness of performing market research (it’s below zero on a scale of 1-10), there’s serious value in knowing more about your competitors. Johnathan Paul of 2920 Studios says that knowing his competition helped him define his own company’s strengths and weaknesses, which led to a stronger marketing strategy that clearly set his business apart. He also advises not to undercut the competition. It’s a strategy that never seems to pay off and may even backfire.

Market your niche.

It’s helpful when you’re just starting out to focus on one type of video business, and market yourself as such. Corporate videos, special interest videos, and consumer video services (like weddings and other similar events) are all possible paths; choose one that plays to your strengths (and your competitors’ weaknesses, if possible) and start there. You can always expand gradually as your business starts to take off. But starting small gives you a chance to fine-tune your brand and stand out in a particular area.

Tips On Running The Business

Always do your absolute best.

Regardless of your level of experience, Johansen advises to strive to be the best videographer you can be and consciously try to improve your work to match the quality level of other great video production companies in your area. Too often, videographers starting a new production company produce lesser quality work because they aren’t getting paid much, but that’s a mistake. Instead, always go the extra mile. You will be rewarded with referrals, repeat business, and great reviews that will bring in new clients who had no connection to your old work other than seeing it online.

Join local professional event organizations to make connections.

Industry relationships are vital to cultivating a successful business. Jeff Kear of Planning Pod says that meeting other local events professionals helped his event management software business get the traction it needed in its early days. Through organizations like Meeting Professionals International, International Live Events Association, Professional Convention Management Association, and National Association for Catering and Events, you can develop relationships with event planners, venues, caterers, and other local event professionals who can be valuable referral sources as well as resources for learning more about the industry. He also recommends contacting the local chapter president of each of the above associations and asking them how being a member can benefit your new production company.

Keep your overhead as light as possible.

Do you really need an office? Do you really need additional staff? While it might be nice to have these things, they will be a huge drain on your business at a time when you simply don’t have the resources to cover them. Determine what you actually need to get the job done—what’s the minimum you’ll need to survive? It’s entirely possible to run a successful business from your home, says NextShoot’s Dominic Sutherland.

Hone your business instincts.

Let’s face it, not everyone is naturally suited for running a business. A passion for video production isn’t enough to guarantee the success of a media production company; you also need to be smart about managing and completing tasks, understanding finances, and tracking down business opportunities. On top of that, there’s a good deal of stress involved. Long hours and financial insecurities top the list of small business owner stressors. Use this checklist to find out if you have what it takes to run a business and identify areas you may need to work on. Once you’ve started your company, keep the juices flowing in the right direction by hooking up with other small business owners. Join a local Chamber of Commerce chapter, or consider getting a business mentor through SCORE, a community of entrepreneurs who volunteer to help and advise other business owners.  

Build a solid business model now.

It’s essential to define the ways in which your company will deliver products and services, and how you’ll generate revenue. Also, consider whether live streaming could become an additional revenue source for your business, and how it might work. Will you charge for your live stream content? If not, who will pay for it? Local sponsorships of tournaments or events give valuable coverage to small organizations and a boost to your production company at the same time.

Do you have any of your own tips for starting a media production company? If so, tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!

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4 Top-Notch Leadership Books Pastors Are Reading Today

4 Top-Notch Leadership Books Pastors Are Reading Today

We asked Tim Ahlman, senior pastor at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church in Gilbert, Arizona, to share with us his thoughts about the best leadership books for the modern pastor. Here’s what he had to say!

Most pastors are in this business because they love people and love Jesus. But despite those genuine intentions, some pastors really struggle with leadership skills. I strongly believe that pastors need to invest in leadership books that are both sacred and secular, so they can grow in their ability to connect with their congregants and with the community.

There are so many great leadership books out there I could recommend—but these four (organized alphabetically by last name) are worth checking out as soon as possible.

1. The Four Disciplines Of Execution

By Sean Covey, Jim Huling, & Chris McChesney

The Four Disciplines of Execution” is an excellent book for those who want to become better leaders. It walks through four distinct rules good leaders tap into: focus, leverage, engagement, and accountability.

While this book is written from a secular business perspective, its themes can easily be applied in a church setting. Many churches strategize well, but when the rubber meets the road and it comes time to carry out a plan, they get stuck in what this book calls the “whirlwind”—or the day-to-day grind. This is a very helpful read for anyone who feels like they may be stuck.

(If you want a sneak peak into the theme of the book, check out this Q&A with Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel and the three authors.)

2. Simplify: 10 Practices To Unclutter Your Soul

By Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels is a long-time pastor from Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area. He is one of my favorite authors in the Christian leadership genre because his work is so practical and applicable. “Simplify” talks about how the exhausting pace we live at can leave us spiritually drained—and offers advice on how you can break free from this harmful pattern.

3. The Ideal Team Player

By Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is a best-selling author of many business leadership books, including “Death by Meeting” and “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive.” In his most recent book “The Ideal Team Player,” Patrick identifies three different values or characteristics that define a key teammate: someone who is humble, hungry, and smart. This has been instrumental in helping me identify ways to interact with my non-paid and paid leadership staff.

You can learn more about Patrick and his work on his website.  

4. Communicating For A Change: 7 Keys To Irresistible Communication

By Andy Stanley & Lane Jones

Andy Stanley is the pastor of North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area, and Lane Jones is the executive director of membership development there. Together, they created “Communicating for a Change,” which is a must-read for pastors today. In it, you’ll learn seven critical methods to connect with your congregants, like moving them through a “one point” sermon.

(Also, check out Andy Stanley’s website—he hosts a wonderful monthly podcast!)

What leadership book are you reading today?

Tweet us @strechinternet and let us know, and your recommendation might end up in an upcoming article!

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From Streaming on a Boat, to a Live ESPN3 Broadcast – The Flexibility of Wirecast

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Editor’s note: We are giddy to present another guest blog from Imry Halevi, who currently serves as the Director of Multimedia & Production at Harvard University. Imry has worked directly with Stretch in the past when he served in a similar capacity at Northeastern University, and he is truly one of the best in the business. Though Harvard is not currently an active Stretch Internet client, Imry has continued to be a tremendous resource and has stayed active with the Stretch community. If you haven’t read his previous guest posts, do yourself a favor and check them out here

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Wirecast 6.0 has Twitter Integration, But Why Stop There?

twitter

One feature we’re really excited about in Wirecast 6.0 is Twitter integration. This new feature allows you to take Tweets in real time and overlay them during a broadcast. And there are plenty of ways you can use this during a broadcast, whether it’s interacting with fans during a pre-game show or making halftime more interesting than just a shot of the middle of the court… unless you hired this guy for your halftime show. Nothing is more entertaining than “The Amazing Christopher.”

So, how do you get your hands on those sweet, social media interactions? It’s quite simple.

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For the love of sports

I was born with “The Sports Gene”. I love sports. All sports. I love competing, spectating, blogging, and I love debating sports. I was the only graduating senior in my class to play 3 sports per year all four years of high school. I love basketball, baseball, soccer and golf. And though I was not built to be a football player (I tried it, once. I was pancaked by a guy 3 times my size within my first 2 minutes on a practice field and decided there were other sports that could appreciate my talents more), I definitely enjoy watching a good football match up.

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Thank you for Calling…

Just a little intro and background for you guys. My name is Nick Oliver. People call me Nick but you can call me Dragon. I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in political science and minor in international studies. Now you may be asking yourself, what am I doing over at Stretch?

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