Choosing a Scoreboard and Timing System That will Fit Your Budget


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When a swim team wants to hold meets, looking at a quote for what is needed can be daunting. While it may look complicated, swim meets can be run quite affordably.    

There is a difference between  products that are required  and products that can be used to run a swim meet. Teams can run an efficient and effective meet with very basic equipment. Adding to that basic equipment can help the meet run more smoothly and supply interest for the spectators and the swimmers.    

At the bare minimum, a swim meet needs a system for recording times. The most affordable version of this is two stopwatches and two volunteers per lane, plus someone to collect the times and someone to record the times, places and score the meet. It is affordable, but this system also relies heavily on human volunteers who can be hard to come by.    

The next step up from stopwatches is a semi-automatic timing system. This usually includes a computer with software for collecting, recording and tabulating the times, two or three backup buttons per lane, a starting device, and a cable to connect everything. In this system, the starting device starts the race and the time automatically. The race finishes in each lane when the backup button is pushed by a volunteer. The times are sent automatically to the timing computer to record and score the event.    

From there touchpads can be added to make the system fully automatic. The touchpads hang on the wall in each lane and connect to the deck cable, along with a single backup button in each lane. This system reduces the number of volunteers needed in each lane from two to one, as well as taking the timer’s human reaction time out of the swimmer’s recorded time.    

Once you have your timing system, you can add on the bells and whistles. The biggest decision is typically which scoreboard to purchase. There are options out there from a one-line, numeric-only scoreboard to an 8-foot by 14-foot or larger video matrix board that displays a scoreboard, as well as a live or recorded video feed.

Which type of scoreboard to purchase depends on the budget, as well as how the pool is used. If the pool is only used for the swim team, a numeric-only LED board will give more than enough information for the spectators and swimmers during the meet. If the pool is used for more than just the occasional swim  meet, then a video board is a wise investment. Video boards are flexible and allow users to run movie nights, presentations, advertising and much more when there is not a swim meet happening.    

Additional items like relay judging pads, remote start devices, programmable pace clocks, under block speakers and other things are nice to have, but not strictly necessary. Many people find starting with a smaller semi-automatic timing system frees up the volunteers to just watch the meet. This, in turn, encourages them to help fundraise for a touchpad system so fewer volunteers are needed. Timing systems can be built up over time, from basic to very complex.    


Eve Julian is  a sales and support specialist for IST, as well as a high school swim coach, former swimmer and current swim parent. For more information, email or visit

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