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Sam appears in the Top 100
Innovators & Entrepreneurs Magazine

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Sam Hopkins

Sam Hopkins, the CEO of County Sports Zone (CSZ Network), is at the forefront of revolutionizing high school sports coverage. Founded in 2018 and headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, CSZ has swiftly emerged as a leading platform providing comprehensive coverage of high school sports. With a vision to bridge the gap left by traditional local newspaper coverage, CSZ empowers users to share scores, game commentary, and videos, creating an immersive and engaging experience for high school sports enthusiasts.

Under Sam's leadership, CSZ has rapidly expanded its reach, boasting a network of over 370 schools across 23 counties in Maryland, as well as a growing number of districts in surrounding states and nationwide. With approximately 400,000 users and 8 million page views in 2023, CSZ has become a vital hub for high school sports teams, athletes, and fans.

Sam's diverse professional experiences play a pivotal role in driving CSZ's success. With a foundation in journalism and technology development, coupled with experience in music production and teaching entrepreneurship, Sam excels at integrating his multifaceted skill set into startup work.

Sam's educational achievements reflect his dedication to continuous learning and growth. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Kansas, with a degree in linguistics and international studies, Sam further honed his skills with an MBA in health care and entrepreneurship from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and his post-graduate work in research commercialization with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, helped to fine-tune his focus on both mission and the marketplace.

We spoke with Sam to learn more about his background and CSZ’s contribution to high school sports and the communities where the company makes its impact.

Sam, can you share a bit about your background and how that led you to CSZ?

Moving to Baltimore in 2005 started a significant chapter in my life, but my roots are in the Kansas City area. Some of my fondest memories revolve around attending Royals games and playing baseball. Unfortunately, an arm injury during high school halted my baseball career prematurely, which led to a real sense of loss.

Thinking back on my playing years as an adult, I realized the absence of proper documentation for my own baseball journey. A piece of paper handed out at the end-of-year dinner was the only record of our team’s achievements, and for more than a decade, I thought that my batting average was much lower than it really was, just because I had read an adjacent player’s stat line on that summary sheet. As a parent and coach of student-athletes who will soon be in high school, I was shocked to learn that in the modern era, such gaps in documentation still existed.

While working in the Entrepreneurial Finance class at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, my path intersected with John Steuart, the co-founder of CSZ. I was drawn to John's vision of using sports as a means to support educational communities. Through CSZ, we honor the importance of sports in education while ensuring that every player's story is celebrated.

Tell us about County Sports Zone.

We're addressing a major void in local sports news, once filled by reporters who often overlooked high school contests outside varsity levels of marquee sports. CSZ catalyzes a community-driven approach, ensuring comprehensive coverage that captures those cherished moments. These memories hold immense value, yet student-athletes often lack avenues to share them beyond their own recollections and a few photos taken from the stands. Our innovative technology empowers coaches to report scores right as the game ends, quickly updating standings, and helping teams size up the competition. Additionally, it enables fans, schoolmates, and community members to contribute and share content, get energized through our Spirit Points rewards system, and nurture a sense of belonging and pride in their local high school sports scene. CSZ provides all of this at no cost to schools.

In addition, our advertising and sponsorship initiatives give back to the communities we serve. By connecting local advertisers with nearby audiences hungry for sports info, we offer a unique opportunity for businesses to reach the most relevant consumers, and a portion of those advertising proceeds are donated to school-based academic and athletic programming which further boosts communities.

What makes CSZ unique?

Our primary focus is on sparking community engagement, with schedules and scores serving as the core elements of our platform. What sets us apart is our commitment to complete score coverage of all levels of every sport from freshman badminton to varsity football, providing players with updates even while they're on the bus ride home from a game. Our automated system streamlines the process for coaches to report scores and share highlights effortlessly. With just a few clicks, they upload scores, photos, and detailed game summaries, ensuring that each game and player receives recognition and that athletic directors and fans are fully informed. Our platform mirrors the excitement of cheering from the stands while introducing gamification elements to amplify the online experience—think of likes on Nextdoor or leaderboards on Duolingo that keep you excited to learn and contribute through friendly competition with other members. CSZ’s Spirit Points reward users for doing things like creating an account, posting content, or accurately predicting game outcomes. Through our creative approach, we're not only enriching the high school sports experience but also building a vibrant and dynamic online pep platform that excites and educates fans at the same time.

Why is CSZ’s high school sports coverage important to keeping communities thriving?

We all crave a sense of belonging and community—that who we are and where we are from matters. Yet, connection to what’s going on locally is becoming harder to cultivate, especially in areas where local news outlets are dwindling. With hundreds of counties across the United States classified as news deserts, and newspapers folding at an alarming rate, access to information about high school sports has become a challenge. School absences have also increased sharply, and sports are a way to restore connection and reinforce the importance of showing up each day for class and extracurricular activities.

Weekly publications fail to provide timely updates on varsity games, let alone junior varsity and freshman matches, leaving parents, students, and fans in the dark. By speeding up the flow of information, we aim to offer people a deeper connection to their identities as athletes, students, and community members. We know that high school sports are more than just a pastime; they're a vital part of the culture that defines neighborhoods and towns. CSZ provides a jolt of energy in those areas. In an era marked by division, we believe that sports can serve as a unifying force, keeping people informed and invested in the shared experiences that make us proud of our kids and the communities we love.


Sam Hopkins
County Sports Zone   



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