Top 5 Things Every School Should Consider Before Buying A Race Timing System
It is the beginning of the Spring High School Sports season and mailboxes, inboxes, and coach’s boxes are filling with all of the “up to date” catalogs and magazines from every possible manufacturer and apparel maker across the country. Just flipping through the high colored glossy pictures brings back memories of all the new and interesting training equipment, uniforms, and timing systems to help take programs to the next level.
But investing in the right tools of the trade is critical to helping advance each program based on where they are in development, skill, growth-rate, and funding. So, in a world that comes down to literally seconds, let’s look at 5 critical considerations all programs need to address when buying that ever-important timing system for their track and cross country programs.
The first is “meet efficiency”.
One of the big goals for my programs as a past Athletic Director was to be able to host an organized, streamlined, and professional style meet. Even at the high school level, whether it be a dual meet, a league meet, or even a league or conference final; my goal was to be professional and represent both the school, district, and our programs with the most organized meet possible. This meant I needed an easy to run, easy to follow, exact and accurate timing system that all parties involved could set-up, run, and follow effectively.
The next is “clear communication”.
In correlation with the meet-running process above, the timing system needed to be functional. It had to do what it was meant to do efficiently and so that all could understand it. And by all, I mean from the officials to the coaches to the athletes and to the parents in the stands. This system needed to be complicated enough to track and follow multiple runners and programs simultaneously as well as simply displaying the results in live time so everyone could follow. All the while, easy enough to set-up so that as the director, I could task that to on-field helpers to set-up with ease so the meet manager could set up computers and stage runners without the worries of dealing with a clock.
Appearance at a distance vs. price.
Stadiums and cross country courses are big areas to have to cover. Part of that responsibility, as both an Athletic Director and a coach is to try to get the running and finishing time projected as far as possible. This is one of the biggest goals and challenges, especially on the cross country course. The farther or bigger the area, the more expensive and harder it can be to track the running and final time around the area for other participants and parents/spectators to see. By accessing various budgets or fundraising, additional clocks can be bought to do this but then syncing them becomes the new issue. Once vast systems are priced out, priorities will usually change and money will be put somewhere else.
As a race or meet comes to an end, the displayed finish time for each race & racer is critical.
Being able to produce the most accurate information for splits, transitions, and final official times is imperative. This is the next indicator of a great timing system – its capacity and accuracy. In connection with a meet managing software system, the timing system should communicate flawlessly and be able to produce the most accurate splits and final times at specific points in the race and at the end. This can then be recalled on a scoreboard or put into a report that is produced for final results. The goal is to physically see these times in any way the meet manager wants to produce them and the timing system should be able to accurately keep up with endless times that the manager wants to recall. This adds to well-needed data and enhances the professionalism of any meet.
Finally, any program wants to expand their usable dollars as much as possible
A timing system would be ideal if it had the durability for multiple uses past the meet. To be able to use the system for designated practices, scrimmages, and time trials would only benefit the training process and add to the importance of each racers’ time goals. By choosing the timing system that is durable enough and easy enough to set-up and use for these purposes, then its value increases with every use and now it becomes more than just the expensive and difficult timing system brought out on meet days; it has turned into the invaluable training timing system that can be used to improve a runner’s season as a whole.
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Many times when coaches or even Schools Athletic Directors look at large purchases, they can look at just the “newest” or “most improved” gadget without looking at the true purpose or potential use. By using these steps above, any program can increase both their short term and long term goals, expand the use of their fundraising and accounts, and add organization and efficiency to their meets.