High School Sports Stays on Schedule
The State Journal
by Ann Ali
August 29, 2008

It may seem that multi-tasking and scheduling dilemmas are signs of the times, but the ways to keep organized have changes with the times.

Wheeling-based HighSchoolSports.net is keeping time for high school sports in every state and staying on the edge of technology with help from another Wheeling business, Direct Online Marketing.

Back in 1964 in Midland Park, N.J. Adolph “Sonny” Santorine, a former professional baseball player, was teaching and coaching at an area high school. He became the school’s athletic director and was in charge of every facet of every fastball, volley and sack.

Santorine realized planning each facility, coach, official and bus took a lot of organization, and to keep himself on the right page, he created a custom book, much like a day planner. When he attended conferences at the league, state and national levels, he showed it to his peers who soon wanted similar planners.

So he went into business with his wife, Helen, after they purchased a small printing press for their basement, and as technology changes the world, Sonny and Helen’s business changed for technology, too.

Sonny’s oldest son, Adolph, helped design a software package for schools that wanted an electronic organizer, which folded the next generation into the business.

“I started writing software for athletic directors in 1988,” said the younger Santorine, who now is head coach and president of the family business that is known nationwide as HighSchoolSports.net. “We came (to Wheeling) when our 18-year-old daughter was a year old with our manufacturing company because at that time there was a push for manufacturing jobs in the valley.”

“Then, in about 1995, we ended up seeing the manufacturing business was definitely not happening, so we kind of took up the business, and I ended up taking over in 1995 when we sold our manufacturing company.”

Santorine said he knew there was growth to be had with the business, but he had no idea the levels it would reach.

HighSchoolSports.net now has more than 6,500 schools subscribing to its system, and its overall goal is to raise the profile of each school’s athletic program with the motto “my school, my team, our world.”

Each school’s athletic director supplies the site’s content on a daily basis to provide the most up-to-date and accurate schedules for all sports at all levels, which is important for schools without websites. The site includes driving directions, news stories, scores, training schedules, photographs and videos.

“I expected it to be a nice little five or six-man operation I could run through retirement,” Santorine said. “We just hired our 62nd employee. We have an office in New York City, one in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Nashville, and 52 of our 62 are from Wheeling.”

Santorine recently retained Direct Online Marketing of Wheeling to direct Web traffic to his site.

“It was one of those fortunate-timing-type things,” said Justin Seibert, president of Direct Online Marketing. “He ended up meeting me in an association of IT professionals’ meeting about six months ago, and about two months ago said ‘let’s have lunch.’”

Seibert said his company is one of the few in West Virginia with qualifications from Google, and HighSchoolSports.net’s growth has moved faster than any other client.

He said just last month, about 1.2 million searches for “high school football” showed him the appetite for Santorine’s content.

“They’re such a massive site, and I see this stuff all the time, so I’m not easily impressed,” he said. “We make sure that if you search ‘Linsly schedule,’ or ‘Linsly sports,’ or anything like that, this site shows up in search engines.”

“We are making sure people find you; otherwise it’s useless for most companies, no matter how nice your website is.”

Seibert said about 99 percent of Americans use search engines, and $12.2 billion was spent last year on search engine marketing. So targeting responses is becoming a necessary addition to any marketing or Web initiative.

Santorine said Wheeling has amazing talent in a tiny package.

“Most of our people are local, highly organized and motivated,” he said. “It’s always extremely difficult to find talented and motivated people, and when you find them, you don’t let them go.”

Santorine said he could have started his business anywhere, but Wheeling was where he wanted to raise his children.

“I’m five minutes from my kids’ schools, eight minutes from the office,” he said. “How good is this? It’s a low cost of living area, and there’s not a whole lot more you could ask for than four seasons of fun stuff to do.”

The above article originally appeared in its entirety in the print version of The State Journal.

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