Feature Article - March 2004
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The Perfect Score

Selecting the right scoreboard and timing systems for your needs

By Kelli Anderson


LED matrix scoreboards, however, are one way to combat the back-to-the-basics blues. Having a matrix scoreboard is rather like having an electronic chalk board which, when programmed, can display sport-specific information at the touch of a button. With this style of scoreboard comes the possibility of scrolling text and even animation. Bells and whistles, to be sure, but if not affordable at the outset, can at least be considerations for the future.


All scoreboards, whether basic or sport-specialized, share a common enemy: water. Having scoreboards housed in a noncorrosive metal like aluminum or steel is one way to keep rust at bay, but keep in mind that even steel can rust from the inside out. In the case of water sports where the environment is especially corrosive, water-resistant efforts include coated circuitry to prevent malfunction.

Swim boards, like basic scoreboards, can be as simple as having lane, times and placement information or scrolling that information over a single line scoreboard that rotates through the results of each competitor. But the more sophisticated the information, the more helpful to the swimmer and the spectators. Swimmers can use upgrades in timing information to pace themselves, and spectators can get information more quickly thanks to the newest generation of timing consoles with software that interfaces with laptop connections.

Graphics and color-coded information can help make the plethora of swim-meet information easier to see and more quickly understood. With automated timing systems, using touch-pads in each lane that sends information to consoles, spectators can see the touch-pad times posted on scoreboards almost instantly.


Everybody has the benefit of looking back and realizing they could have done something differently. When it comes to buying scoreboards, there is plenty of advice to help avoid some of the most common pitfalls.


One of the most important features in a scoreboard to look for is visibility. Be sure all seating areas can easily see the board from their locations, that the board is bright enough and that the digits are easy to read.

Going out of business?

Be sure your vendor is no fly-by-night. Cheap price is no substitution for a tried-and-true company with history to back up its products. Getting stuck with a scoreboard after a company fails will leave you with a dead-end product without repair or replacement service. A strong warranty speaks volumes about company longevity and quality.


When adding to a system, be sure to insist on compatibility or interchangeability—either by having all scoreboards components and timing systems from the same vendor and of the same quality or being very, very certain that compatibility is possible between differing vendors. It's common for well-meaning purchasing departments to go for the bottom line, but the bottom line won't count for much if four and five different systems don't work together or are mismatched in quality and performance.


Be sure to consider carefully all the uses the scoreboard can have in your facility. It's not uncommon to overlook a scoreboard's use beyond the competition or the swim meet. Think about whether a board will be used for practices, classes or other events.

Only the best

When possible, try to get the best quality you can afford. Always going with the cheapest product can often cost more money down the road.


Talk to people using the system you are interested in buying. Be sure they use the system as much as you anticipate using yours to compare apples to apples.