PAUL VALENCIA: Developer calls time out on gshlfootball.com

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Bryan Levesque exceeded his dreams, turning an idea for a college project into a wildly popular Web site.

Admittedly, he did not have a business plan. Not that it mattered back in 2008. All he wanted to do was provide a unique perspective on high school football in Southwest Washington.

He knew it would take money to make it right. A lot of his own money.

That was OK. But he probably never envisioned how much time he would have to devote to make it work.

Levesque only has himself to blame. He did something so right, almost perfect, that all of his followers wanted more.

So he expended more energy into his passion. He made gshlfootball.com, with video highlights featuring teams from Class 4A, 3A, and 2A in Southwest Washington, a go-to site for football fans.

The Columbian could provide stories, photos, and recaps of all the games. Social media allowed for anybody to find out the scores. But only gshlfootball.com produced video highlights of all of the teams. Plus, the site gave readers easy access to give their opinions on all things high school football.

Levesque has had help, with a small army of videographers and a friend who volunteered his writing skills. But Levesque edited every piece of video, he coordinated the coverage, he designed the site, updated the site, moderated the comments on the site.

Before he could do all this, he had to convince coaches and athletic directors of his credibility. In short, he was the site.

Sometime this year, he came to the realization that he could not keep up the pace.

Heck, a single, unemployed 19-year old with nothing better to do would

have a tough time keeping that pace.

Levesque is 34, married, a father of four with another one on the way, and commutes from his home in Battle Ground to work in Beaverton, Ore.

I'm exhausted after just writing that sentence.

Last month, Levesque sent an email to coaches and athletic directors, explaining that gshlfootball.com was going on a hiatus.

He said he has invested more of his own money than he ever received in advertising.

But again, that was not the main issue. It was the time away from his family.

He said he will keep the site up, but with no new content. The site will remain a great source for journalists and fans looking for records and scores from previous years.

The site also has an excellent package on all the stadiums in the region.

Levesque did say he hopes to find a way to make it work in the future, but at least for this year, he owes it to his family to step away from the site.

We at The Columbian will miss our partnership. Last year, we teamed up with gshlfootball.com, a cross promotion that I know benefitted us and helped the site, as well.

Personally, I hope to see Bryan at some of the games, even if he is not working them.

I know we will continue our crazy banter, going back and forth on all things football. He never backed down, even though I was always right. Or maybe it was the other way around.

While the future of gshlfootball.com is uncertain, at least Levesque will know that his dream became a reality. Over the past 10 years or so, we've seen a number of sites pop up, promising to deliver. Because Levesque was so committed, so determined, his site did deliver.

This summer, other coaches and players noticed Levesque was not around, with camera in hand. Some asked me if I knew where Bryan was. After all, he was not only the football guy during the season, but he was at the spring drills, the weight training, the camps. The coaches noticed he was gone because in those few short years, he was always there.

At the time, I was hoping Bryan was taking a much deserved break, and that he would regroup and be ready to jump into the 2012 football season.

Later, he showed me a copy of the e-mail he had sent. He wasn't just taking the summer off; he was taking a long, undetermined break from the site.

Football practices officially begin Wednesday.

Already, the football community has suffered a big loss.

Even if it is a huge victory for Bryan and his family.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com. Follow him at twitter.com/360paulv