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No. 1 school sports site is divine

By Loren Nelson, 08/04/14, 6:15PM CDT

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Minnesota's Academy of Holy Angels tops list of high school athletics sites.

With summer nearing an end and schools opening their doors in earnest, we focus our latest installment of site rankings on high school athletics websites. As always, the top grades go to the sites with the best content, although design and navigation are factored into the report card as well.

Wondering why your site didn't make the list? Want to put your site in the Top 5? Contact loren.nelson@sportngin.com for a free consultation.

Number 1

Academy of Holy Angels Stars

URL: www.ahastars.org

Location: Richfield, Minn.

Sports programs: 22

Activities: 21 listed on the site


Boys' Hockey page (click to view)

Overview:

The Academy of Holy Angels is a catholic, co-ed school just south of Minneapolis in the first-ring suburb of Richfield. The school has an enrollment of just more than 650 and, unlike some massive public schools where single-sport specialization is commonplace, students are encouraged to participate in as many sports and activities that they can handle.


Hall of Fame page (click to view)

What we like:

The site’s blue and gold-ish design matches the scheme from the school’s main site, and the header and top navigation also have a similar look. Switching back and forth between the two sites, you wouldn’t know they are built on different platforms. The home page doesn’t have a dozen competing elements but instead makes clear the handful of priorities (fall sports registration, current news and full calendar of events). Widgets on many of the team pages pull statistics, schedules, rosters and boxscores from the Star Tribune’s network of high school “Hubs.”

Registration, Schedules:

Getting students registered for their activities and then making it easy to find updated schedules have to be two of the biggest priorities of any high school site. Too often that information is buried or, even worse, not available at all. As mentioned earlier, the link to registration and schedule information sit front and center on the site – no bloodhound needed.

Navigation:

The top navigation separates the sports and activities programs, so it takes just one click to get to the landing page of choice.

Did you know?

Academy of Holy Angels has won 11 state championships in the last 11 years, and the school’s boys’ hockey team reached the state tournament five times from 1999 to 2005, winning big-school titles in 2002 and 2005.

Bonus content:

The Hall of Fame page lists inductees from 2007 through 2011 and includes a nomination form.

Number 2

Trinity Knights Athletics

URL: www.trinityknights.net

Location: Santa Clarita, Calif.

Sports: 11

Webmaster: Matthew J. Dixon


Alumni page (click to view)

Overview:

Trinity Classical Academy is a K-12 Christian school in Santa Clarita, about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The school opened in 2001 with 26 students has grown to more than 500 students for the current school year.

What we like:


Letterman Jacket page (click to view)

It can be risky to have a heavily horizontal news slideshow dominate your homepage, but the gamble pays off here thanks to consistently great photos and smart cropping decisions. The distinctive design allows for all of the site’s most important features (calendar, registration, news, social networks) to be visible “above the fold.”

Registration, schedules:

The registration link appears in can’t miss-fashion in the top navigation and again in a huge button directly below the news slideshow. Schedules appear in the Upcoming Events tab on the homepage.

Navigation:

The top nav bar isn’t overloaded with options, as the “Resources” link effectively serves as a catch-all for options that don’t fit neatly under Athletics, Registration or Calendar.

Did you know?

Trinity’s 8-man football team won a California Interscholastic Federation section championship last year by beating Joshua Springs 47-0 for the school’s first CIF title in any sport.

Bonus content:

The alumni page features information on two former standout athletes, James Brooks (Hillsdale) and Kaeli Massetto (Northwestern Christian), who are continuing their careers in college.

Number 3

Prior Lake High School Activities

URL: www.plhsactivities.org

Location: Prior Lake, Minn.

Sports: 27

Activities: 12

Clubs and intramurals: 15

Webmaster: Beth Fuller


Football page (click to view)

Overview:

Prior Lake High School, with an enrollment of about 2,200 (grades 9 through 12) is located in Savage, Minn., about 22 miles south of Minneapolis. The school was founded in 1953 and a new high school, designed for expansion, opened in 2003. The site also includes pages for 21 middle school sports and activities.


Business Sponsors page (click to view)

What we like:

The site’s design, color palette and navigation mirrors that of the Prior Lake-Save Area Schools site, including the static top navigation bar. All that’s missing on the athletics site home page is a dominant art element (perhaps a width-of-the-page slideshow?). 

Registration, schedules:

Despite the lack of a prominent slideshow (we love showcasing great photos!) this site gets high marks because links to the sports and activities schedule and online registration are smartly placed at the top of the home page.

Navigation:

There are a lot of options in both the top navigation bar and the left navigation rail, and in some cases those links are duplicated. Still, it’s easy to find the entry points for the most important and heavily trafficked pages.

Did you know?

Prior Lake’s robotics team is one of the best in Minnesota, winning a Minnesota State High School League championship in 2012 and finishing second in 2013. It also has won several national awards.

Bonus content:

The Laker Athletic Booster Club section includes a news aggregator highlighting students’ accomplishments and a page that lists the club’s many, many business sponsors.

Number 4

Brookfield Central Athletics and Activities

URL: lancers.elmbrookschools.org

Location: Brookfield, Wis.

Sports: 25

Webmaster: Todd Sobrilsky


Senior Athlete Spotlight page (click to view)

Overview:

Brookfield sits 13 miles to the west of Milwaukee and has a population of about 38,000. It has two public high schools, Brookfield Central and Brookfield East, and both use Sport Ngin for their athletics and activities sites. Although the sites are similar in many ways, we gave the slight edge to Central based on some extra content that caught our attention.


Where are they Now? page (click to view)

What we like:

There’s great variety of content on the home page, with a mixture of news stories, social media updates, Quote of the Week, Senior Spotlight and other features. Schedule, roster and statistics content from the Wisconsin Sports Network – also on the Sport Ngin platform – is mirrored seamlessly on some of the team pages.

Registration, schedules:

The calendar button in the top navigation drops you into a page that makes it easy to scan through all of the sports’ schedules. The Forms & Documents landing page has links to 11 documents, ranging from a welcome letter to activities code information. If registration for fall sports is being done -- or was done – online, we couldn’t find the link.

Navigation:

There are two navigation areas to choose from (top bar, left rail) and some consolidation could be in order. Tabs such as Sports Medicine, Links and Weight Room – among others – could easily be grouped under a catch all “Resources” header.

Did you know?

Brookfield Central’s summer baseball team won the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state championship. It was Brookfield Central’s first title since 2000 and fourth overall, tied for the most in the state

Bonus content:

The Senior Athlete Spotlight -- a quick Q and A feature -- is a great way to highlight the school’s top athletes. The eight features from the Class of 2014 are organized nicely in using the tab page element. The Where Are they Now? feature on former athletes now playing in college is also done well.

Number 5

Northgate High School Athletics

URL: www.northgatebroncos.org

Location: Walnut Creek, Calif.

Sports: 23

Webmaster: Steve Chappell


Gold Block N Award page (click to view)

Overview

Northgate High School is located about 28 miles northeast of San Francisco in Walnut Creek. The school, built in 1974, has a grades 9-12 enrollment of about 1,600.

What we like

The design won't blow you away, but it is simple, clean and effective. Besides, the strength of this site is its


Pride Foundation page (click to view)

depth of content, and the home page does a great job of identifying what is most important.

Registration, schedules

Speaking of priorities, we love that the 2014-15 Online Sport Registration information is at the top of the home page. Schedules, as loaded into the On Deck calendar, also are in a prime position on the home page.

Navigation

The top navigation bar is limited to seven tabs, and the subcategories below are nicely organized. There’s no extra clutter here. Links to all of the school’s sports appear in both the top navigation and again at the bottom of the home page.

Did you know?

Doug Davis, a former major league pitcher, and Keith Clearwater, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, both graduated from Northgate. WWE Diva Eva Marie (formerly Natalie Marie Nelson) is a 2002 graduate who played soccer at Cal State-Fullerton.

Bonus content

Who says the days of the multisport athlete are over? The Honors link in the top navigation includes four subcategories, including the Gold Block N Award, which lists athletes who played at least six seasons of varsity sports and participated in three different varsity sports.   

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About Loren Nelson

Loren Nelson is Community Manager at SportsEngine. He is also the National Media Editor and has served in a variety of other customer facing and media roles since 2009.

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