A leading competition provider has described the Roster Athletics competition management system as a “potential game changer” in supporting the creation and management of events more efficiently in the digital age.
As current chair of the Midland League, a senior member of Rugby and Northampton Athletics Club, coach, former athlete, technical official, and event organiser, Bryan Acford can certainly be described as someone who has ‘worn many hats’ during a long and distinguished volunteering career in the sport.
From first becoming involved in the organisation of races as a university student he’s now responsible for managing club road races and other multi-layered events such as the Northants Association Track and Field Championships.
It’s safe to say that for Bryan and other competition providers, tasks such as the recording of results have certainly evolved for the better over the years.
“I have been involved, one way or another, in the organisation of races since I was at university, so I have seen the evolution of the offerings which are around, and since the mid-1990s I have used software on a PC to do road race results.
“[In the past] all results were taken manually. To do relay results, you had slips of paper with the names of each team athlete written on and a team of people writing-up the results. Afterwards you had to type it all up and post them to participants. It’s gone from that to the early days of PCs with small software packages you could put entries and finishers into and print out results. That has evolved to making everything available on the web.”
With his background in information technology, Bryan knew the next logical step in this evolution of competition organisation needed to be cloud-based, as is the case with the Roster Athletics system, meaning there isn’t any local installation or the requirement to download elements onto a PC.
“Roster has the potential to be a game-changer,” added Bryan. “I am not thinking just in terms of doing entries and results. With Roster, I am thinking of the entire process from setting up the entries through to then setting up the event itself, for example, doing your seeding and lane draws.
“You don’t want to battle with multiple spreadsheets and a separate website – with Roster the integration is the key thing. It’s all one seamless process.”
Another big plus according to Bryan is the real-time response you get from the Roster Athletics team when dealing with questions that come up on race day.
“People will inevitably have queries when they are setting up the event, or they’ve got something wrong that they need to change,” he said. “In the run up to our event, we both had some queries and Roster themselves spotted an anomaly in our entries. I’ve never seen that happen before and I was very impressed.
"The third thing is I had some technical queries as I was doing the results. It was a weekend afternoon; I emailed Roster and got a reply within 90 minutes and that’s what you want. We typically organise events in the evenings and at weekends so need support in that timeframe, athletics isn’t a Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm activity!
“So, it was the amount of work I had to do to deliver the meeting which was the big bonus for me, that’s why Roster has the potential to be a game-changer.
“I would certainly recommend other competition providers to use the Roster Athletics system. The beauty of Roster is that it didn’t need me, as a man in a white coat, to make it work. As well as overseeing the results and keeping an eye on Roster, I was the announcer at the meeting and running around sorting out problems as well. I was able to watch the athletics rather than being in the backroom scratching my head.”
Bryan is firmly of the belief that as well as making the most efficient use of the sport’s resolute and enthusiastic volunteer workforce, athletics needs to embrace technology to attract the next generation of athletes, volunteers, and competition providers before it’s too late.
“The sport of athletics has a challenge to adapt or die and we’ve got to make it as interesting and as accessible to the clients as much as we can and we’ve got to make it as efficient as we can for the people who deliver the sport,” he said. “We know the sport is very top-heavy age-wise and to get smart, younger people involved, they’ve got to be able to do it from their mobile devices quickly and without having to think too hard about it.”
The Roster Athletics system includes an online entry system, web-based competition management system, meet management app and spectator app. If your organisation is affiliated with England Athletics you can start using the full Roster Athletics system for your competitions and events for free now.
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