Feature Article - March 2004
Find a printable version here

The Perfect Score

Selecting the right scoreboard and timing systems for your needs

By Kelli Anderson


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Aquatic scoreboards that can be programmed are especially useful during training when each swimmer can program his or her workout and respond to the results accordingly for more efficient and individualized results.

Using scoreboards with programmable features for workouts and training programs isn't just for swimmers, however. Scoreboards as a practice and workout tool is a hot trend for other athletes and even physical-education classes as well. Not only do many more users benefit from a formerly one-use-only scoreboard, but it makes a stronger case in persuading the purchasing-powers-that-be that a scoreboard is an asset throughout the week and not just for a handful of games.

"Our system is also used for practices," says Jim Tonkovich, head swim coach for Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., of its recently upgraded timing system and full LED display. "The scoreboard is used approximately six hours a day, six days a week, 300 days a year. It is also utilized for phys-ed classes for dry-land work, upper-body work, and lanes are programmed with different workouts, too. Ninety days out of the year it's getting an additional five hours of use from phys-ed."

BELLS AND WHISTLES

With greater technology for the scoreboard has come wider application. No longer just a display for stats, scores and times, scoreboards have taken on the role of adding spectacle, entertainment and even generating revenue. For high-budget venues like colleges, universities and pro-sport stadiums, scoreboards now include television-like features of instant replay, full-color video, color animation, graphics, and ad displays for vendors and corporate sponsors.

For the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., with a football stadium that averages 105,000 spectators per game, buying its recent scoreboard was not only about big bucks but about big effects.

"With a complete video replay system, it takes producers, camera operators, mixing boards and more to put on an entertaining show," says Gary Wyant, executive associate athletic director for the University of Tennessee. "We're also in the process of putting in a new baseball video scoreboard, which is a matrix and a huge video component."

The new system will feature a speed-of-pitch radar gun display, instant replay, moving animation and between-inning-antics entertainment. Also newly installed is the university's track scoreboard, which Wyant describes as having programmable numerical data that is shown over live video of the race giving the scoreboard a TV-like effect.

Choosing scoreboards and timing systems has come a long way from the days of flipping numbers and clicking a stop watch—with technology expanding the possibilities, it is about assessing needs and knowing current product options to get the right product for the job.


THE RIGHT STUFF

Whether your scoreboard and timing system are state of the art or basic multipurpose, knowing what to look for to make the best buy is universal. The following are some of the most common areas to consider before you plunk down your money and sign on the dotted line:

Durability  Know how much abuse your scoreboard and system will get and buy accordingly, especially if the scoreboard will be portable or in a school gym.

Service  Not all company services are created equal. Getting parts overnight or having a local parts exchange certainly beats waiting two weeks for a delivery. Or, it can be a game-saver when a company provides local service reps or 24-7 phone support to help at a moment's notice to fix an untimely malfunction during that all-important competition. Shop around and be sure you can get the best service you can afford.

Expandability  Knowing that your scoreboard can keep pace with technology and can expand with your needs can save you from having to buy a new system when a dead-end product has become obsolete.

Product quality  Buying the best product you can afford, looking at warranty information and getting word-of-mouth testimonials by others who use the product will save you future maintenance-related headaches of "getting what you paid for."

Company history  With scoreboards lasting from 20 to even 30 years, it's a safer bet to stick with vendors with some history behind them to ensure that they'll still be there when you need them.

Readability  Look for scoreboards that are bright enough to see and have easy-to-read digits and letters.

Portability  Assess your needs for portability, changing console locations and the pros/cons of trenching up fields to supply power sources to determine if wireless scoreboards and radio-controlled consoles are for you.