Swim Meets in the era of COVID-19

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Normally this time of year I would be reminding you to get your timing equipment out, clean and test everything, update your computer and get an RMA from us for any items that need repaired. If you are going to be able to start your season, go ahead and do all of that! Call us at 800-835-2611 or email support@istime.com.  This year looks like it’s going to be very different from previous years because of the pandemic. If you are able to practice and hold meets, here are a few things to keep in mind

Learn about COVID-19

There is a lot of information out there on the virus, and it changes nearly daily. Keep up with the latest science and recommendations.

USA Swimming has a Facility Reopening Plan Guidelines for club teams. They also have a COVID News page on their website with links to information and resources.

The National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) is the best place for high level info on what sports can participate and how for high schools. They have a document that you might find helpful: Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities.

The NFHS also has a free course on COVID-19 that coaches can take: COVID-19 For Coaches and Administrators. There are lots of other great courses on NFHSlearn.com too.

The NFHS isn’t a governing body. They can only make recommendations to the member State Athletic and Activities Associations. This means that in your state the rules may be very different. Be sure to check with your State Association or State Coaches Association for their rules and guidance. Finally, your league or district may have additional rules. Also, you will have to abide by your state government’s executive and emergency orders, so make sure you check those.

In Person Meets – Some Considerations

If you can run your meets in person, there are some things to think about. How many people will be on deck, including athletes, coaches, officials, timers and the computer operator. What equipment will need to be sanitized? Likely that will be anything that gets touched by multiple people. What will you use to clean and sanitize? Who will be in charge of making sure it happens?

Secondly, can you social distance? If not, will you require everyone to wear masks? If everyone is wearing masks, what will the swimmers do with theirs while they are racing? You don’t want a swimmer picking up someone else’s mask – that could be a recipe for disaster! Consider getting a hanging organizer with pockets, enough for each team member to have their own. Hang it on the wall behind the lanes and label the pockets with the swimmers name or  a number for each team member. That way, as the swimmer gets ready to step up onto the block they can drop their mask in their pocket, and pick it up as soon as they finish the race and put it back on.

Finally, what will you do about spectators? Can they social distance? Will they be required to wear masks? Will someone be assigned to enforce mask wearing? What kind of signage will you need? What if you can’t have spectators? Can you download some crowd noise and play it during the meet? Could you have one parent in the stands live streaming the meet from your public Facebook or Instagram page?

Virtual Meets – Some Considerations

There is a possibility that meets will be run “virtually” with both teams swimming in their own pools. The NFHS and some State Associations will be releasing guidance for these meets in the coming days.

Virtual meets will still require non-team personnel. At minimum there will need to be a starter/referee, just like in a normal dual meet. You will still need backup timers and a computer operator. Check the NFHS and NISCA websites for their guidelines on running virtual meets and requirements for National Records and All America swims. That information should be coming out soon.

How will you set up a virtual meet? Will the coaches be required to release their lineups prior to the meet? Will both teams live stream the event? Will both teams swim at the same time? Alternate events so the swimmers on team A can watch team B’s live stream of the 50 free, and then swim their own 50 free while team B watches?

Who will oversee the meet results? Will both teams send results and score the meet to make sure there is agreement? How will the results get combined? Who will oversee posting the results?

How will you generate the excitement of a meet for your team at their home pool with no opponents and possibly no spectators?

 

There are so many things that are going to be different this year. If there is anything that we here at IST can do to help you make it run more smoothly, please let us know. In the meantime, good luck and be well!

 

Preparing your computer and software for the upcoming season

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Hopefully our seasons will be getting underway soon (fingers crossed!). In preparation for your upcoming season, it’s a good idea to prepare your computer and software so it will run smoothly right from the beginning. Here are some tips for “cleaning up” your software.

Update your Computer

If you are like me, you haven’t been to the pool in a while, or even turned on the computer you use for running meets. Now is a good time to do that, since you’re bound to have Windows updates waiting! Get your computer connected to the network and run Windows Update. Remember, their updates aren’t cumulative, so you may need to run it a couple times to get all caught up! You may also need to run Windows update the afternoon before your meet – just in case they try to sneak one in there during the meet. You can also set your update preferences so that it won’t install updates during meet times. This is important since Windows will sometimes shut off ports and networks if there is an update waiting to go in.

Clean Up Old Meets in IST Software

Now that you’re done with the season, it’s a good time to get rid of the old meets in your system. Before you do these next steps – MAKE A BACKUP. Go to Utilities/Backup/Backup, select a location (preferably a removable drive that you can keep with this season’s paperwork) and click BACKUP. That way you’ll have the data if you need to go back to it.

In MEETWARE, it’s easy to start a new season. Just go to Utilities/New Season and click SETUP A NEW SEASON. It will ask you to back up, which you can skip if you’ve already done that. Then it deletes all your meets, ages everyone on your team and away teams up 1 year, and adds your graduating seniors to an alumni roster. That’s it, you’re ready for a new season!

If you are using TIMEWARE, you can delete the meets that you ran last year. Go to MEETS/MEET SETUP, select each meet and click Delete.

Meets should be deleted periodically. You can only store 99 meets in TIMEWARE or MEETWARE, and if you don’t delete a few now and then you’ll end up duplicating meet numbers and seeing weird data.

Finally, it’s also a good idea to clean up your meet files on your Meet Manager computer. Go into your SWMEETS folder and delete any of the .gen files that are still in there. Clean up this folder. Move any old .mdb files into a different folder for safe keeping.

Clean up your computer

Once you have cleaned up your files, you can run a Windows Disk Clean Up as well. For newer versions of windows, type Disk Cleanup in the search bar to find it. Clean out all the old and temporary files. You can also defragment your hard drive (search Defragment in the search bar) to help thing run smoothly.

Update your Software

Now that you have a nice clean computer, make sure that your software is up to date. If you look at the top left of the window, you will see the software name, the version number and a date in parenthesis. Take a look on the IST website and make sure that the date on your software isn’t older than the date on the update page: https://www.istime.com/support/software-updates/. If it is out of date, click the link to download the update.zip file. Save it somewhere you can find it, and make sure it doesn’t have a (1) in the name! Then go into your IST Software under Utilities/Update, select the update file and click UPDATE. Then just follow the prompts on the screen.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Also, if you need help with any of this, or you would like a refresher course on the software please reach out. We are happy to do on-line training and support sessions using Team Viewer, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. You can reach us at support@istime.com or call 800-835-2611.

IST’s Stance on Recent Events

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Hello everyone, we here at IST wanted to take the time to address what is happening in the world right now and where we stand on the matter. First, before anything else, we hope that no matter what you are doing and or how you feel about the issues at hand, you are taking the proper precautions to keep yourself safe and healthy. There is still a worldwide pandemic going on. So, please wear a mask and bring proper protective gear if you are gathering in crowds.  

With that being said, IST is a company built on serving its community and all the people in it. Our customers are people who want to better their pools to create an atmosphere that athletes, staff members, and observers can all enjoy, no matter what their background is. We share that same mentality towards the issues presented throughout the world. We don’t discriminate against who you are, and we support those who are passionate about creating a world built on equality and peace. We find the actions taken against George Floyd were heinous, and the officers who have unjustly overused their power that is meant to protect the people should have the proper disciplinary actions taken against them. There should be appropriate repercussions for anyone who takes unnecessary harmful actions towards another human being, no matter who they are and what their position is.  

IST stands with the black community, as well as other communities that feel oppressed or unfairly treated, and with those who take the appropriate actions to support people in need. We support the Black Lives Matter movement and their message of promoting equality for communities that feel they are treated unfairly That message of equality needs to continue, even once the dust has settled. At the end of the day we are all people just trying to get through life one day at a time, so why not make every day enjoyable for yourself and everyone around you?  

“Picket lines and picket signs 

Don’t punish me with brutality 

Come on, talk to me 

So you can see 

What’s going on…” – Marvin Gaye (1971) 

 

A message from the IST family 

Celebrating the Class of 2020

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Some of the high school seasons came to an abrupt end in March, and spring sports are non-existent. Some coaches have been thinking about ways to celebrate their Seniors who will be graduating this year. Here are a couple of ideas that we’ve stolen from other coaches!

Social Media Shout Outs

If you have social media accounts from your team you can create a series of “shout outs” for your seniors. Use a photo from the season, or maybe a photo from their freshman and senior seasons, or a copy of a senior photo if you can get one. Next, use a photo editing software package (I like MS Paint, it’s really simple!) add their name and any other relevant information. GPA, best times, records broken, where they are going to school next year, etc. Then get the senior and/or parents to sign off on the images that you are using. No surprises!

Finally, post the photo on all of your social media accounts and encourage their teammates to share the posts and their congratulations with the senior. Make sure you tag the senior in the photo. If you aren’t connected with them on social media, have one of their teammates tag them. This could be a great project for your Juniors to work on too!

 

NISCA Academic All America Award

If your senior has a 3.75 (weighted or unweighted) GPA and has earned (or would have earned this year) a varsity letter with your program, they are eligible for the NISCA Academic All America award. Applications can be submitted on-line. You will need the athlete’s home address for the certificate to be mailed. Also, you will need to submit a signature form and copy of their transcript.

If you are going to do this, you need to start TODAY. You have to get everything collected electronically and emailed to the coordinator no later that June 15th. For more information see the NISCA Website under Awards / Academic All America. If you have a lot of smart athletes, you might also want to consider applying for the NISCA Scholar Team award. See their website for more details.

 

Create an Instagram-able Spot Near Your Pool

Do you have an area outside your pool that would look good in pictures? Something that identifies it as your pool or school and gets great lighting? Glue or duct tape some paint sticks into the back of kickboards (bonus points if they are in your school’s colors) and stick them in the ground. Create a banner, sign, chalk art or other image that you can hang on a blank wall or on the sidewalk.

Let your team know about it and have them stop by (one at a time, maintaining social distancing of course) and have them take photos in front of that stop and post them on Instagram. Ask your team to tag their Seniors in their photos and comment with their favorite memories of the team.

Videos/Power Point/Prezi Presentation

Collect as many photos of the team as you can, even if they aren’t from this year. Create an “end of year” slide show that features the Seniors. Bonus points for background music.

Similarly, you can also ask your team members to send in short videos of themselves talking about their favorite memories of the team, or the seniors. Assign an underclassman to talk about a Senior so everyone is represented. Take those videos and photos and edit them into a single YouTube video in honor of your Senior class.

The year may have ended abruptly for the class of 2020, but we can help make it a little less bittersweet. Use your team’s creative energy and imaginations (and extra time) to come up with a fitting tribute to your Seniors. Have fun!

When plugging in your touchpads, polarity matters!

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Ground Tabs

If you have ever looked closely at the banana plugs on your touchpads and backup buttons, you will see that there is a ground tab on each of them.

This ground tab indicates that the ground wire (black wire) is attached to that terminal. On the deck cable, you will notice that there is a red and black collar on the plug.

Proper Connection

For the touchpads and backup buttons to work properly, the black wire needs to plug into the black collar and the red wire needs to plug into the red collar on the deck cable. In other words, the ground tab needs to go on the black collar.

Check that you have everything plugged in correctly.  Make sure that the ground tab points to the middle of the lane box, like this:

Plugging the connectors in properly means the ground tabs line up with the center of the box. Just make sure that you have the touchpad plugged into the PAD side and the backup button plugged into the BACKUP side!

What happens if the polarity isn’t correct? If it is just on one touchpad, you might see it work intermittently. Plugging in multiple touchpads incorrectly can cause interference. This can cause several to work intermittently or not at all. You may notice that your pads just don’t seem to register hits all the time. The first thing to check in that case is the plug polarity.

Repairing the Connections

If the collars on the deck cable are broken and the connections are rusted, you might want to consider replacing the boxes on the deck cable ($85/box) or replacing the entire deck cable. Especially if making sure the pads and buttons are plugged in correctly doesn’t correct the problems you are having.

Have more questions about diagnosing and fixing deck cable and touchpad issues? Look at the Tips and Technical Support page on our website for information on diagnosing and troubleshooting issues with Touchpads, Deck Cables and Backup buttons. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page:

As always, if you need something repaired, give us a call at 800-835-2611 or email support@istime.com to get an RMA number. Deck cables, backup buttons and touchpads all have a 2-year warranty.

 

IST Cables – Info you need to know!

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Many of our products come with cables that connect them to other items – the cable from the CTI to the computer, the CTI to the scoreboard, Deck cable to the CTI, etc. Often if there is hardware issue, the likely culprit is a cable or connector on a cable. Cables have a 2-year warranty, so if it is less than 2 years old let us know and we’ll get it fixed or replaced.

If its more than 2 years old, you have a couple options. You can purchase a replacement cable from us, or you can clean or replace the cable yourself. Here is what you need to know about the various cables.

 

SCOREBOARD CABLES

Our scoreboard cables look like phone cables. A word of warning – THEY ARE NOT! If you look closely at the connectors on both ends of the scoreboard cable, you will see that the wires are in the same color order from left to right on both ends of the cable.

For example, blue, orange, orange striped, green. If you look at the ends of a phone cable, the wires from left to right are blue, orange, orange striped, green on one end and  green, orange striped, orange, blue from left to right on the other end. This cable switches the polarity, which isn’t a problem for the phone company, but is a big problem for your scoreboard! A normal phone cable will not allow your scoreboard to get communication from the CTI.

If you need to replace the cable to your scoreboard, you can use a phone cable, but you must make some adjustments. Get an RJ11 connector and an RJ11 crimper tool. Cut off one end of the phone cable and strip back a little of the jacket. Insert the cable into the new RJ11 connector, making sure that the colors in the new connector match the order of the colors in the other end from left to right. Press them in and use the crimping tool to keep them in place.

You may find it easier to just purchase a new one. Those are available on our website in many different sizes: https://www.istime.com/product/scoreboard-cables/

CLEANING SCOREBOARD CABLES

Sometimes the issue isn’t in the cable itself, but in the connector. If you look at the RJ11 connector you should see strips of shiny gold on the end.

If you see dull gold or green, your cable needs to be cleaned. You can use a product called CRC Contact Cleaner (available at Lowes, Home Depot and WalMart or on our website). Spray the contact cleaner onto the connector and scrub with a pipe cleaner until it is shiny again. You can also clean the connector in the CTI and end of the scoreboard the same way.

If cleaning the connectors doesn’t work, and a new cable doesn’t work, you may need to replace the RJ11 connector on the scoreboard. That is easy to do and the instructions are on our website: https://www.istime.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Replacing-the-RJ11-Jack-in-your-IST-Scoreboard.pdf

 

CTI CABLES

Our older CTI’s have a 25-pin to 9-pin serial cable.

Most computers no longer have serial ports. These cables require a USB to Serial adapter. If you have a failure of the cable from the computer to the CTI, the adapter cable is the first thing to check. These are available on our website or at your local computer store. Make sure when purchasing the USB to Serial adapter cable that it is compatible with the version of Windows on your timing computer. If that doesn’t work, then you will need to replace the serial cable. You need a 25pin male to 9 pin female serial cable. These are available on our website, at a local computer store or on Cables To Go.

Our newer CTI’s have a USB cable from the CTI to the computer.

This is called a USB-A cable. It has a square connector on one end and a regular USB connector on the other end. They are commonly used for printers. You can purchase them from our website, at a local computer retailer or online.

 

DECK CABLES

If you are having issues with your deck cable, there are several things that you can do to diagnose the issue. You can find a white paper on diagnosing deck cables on our website: https://www.istime.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Diagnosing-IST-Deck-Cable-Problems.pdf

One common problem found on the CTI is that one of the pins in the 25-pin connector has been bent or pushed in.

If you see a pin that is not completely straight and even with the others, you can gently pull it out or straighten it using a pair of needle nose pliers. If the pin is broken or missing, you will need to send the CTI back to IST for repair.

Our deck cables can’t be replaced by anyone but us. However, you can replace the 25-pin connector if you know how to do that.

It is important when replacing the 25-pin connector that you get all the wires back into their correct places. If you are going to replace the connector yourself, please contact IST for a wiring diagram. You can also send the deck cable to us for repair. Replacing a 25 pin connector costs $75. Call 800-835-2611 or email support@istime.com for an RMA number before you send it to us.

TOUCHPADS, START CABLE, BACKUP BUTTONS

Look at the plugs at the end of your touchpads, start cable and backup buttons. Those 2-prong plugs are called “banana plugs”.

They can get corroded, the prongs can become compressed, the plating can wear off and the wires can come loose. Corrosion can be cleaned off with electrical contact cleaner (see the paragraph about scoreboard cables). Anything else requires banana plug replacement. This is easy to do on your own. You can purchase the banana plugs from us. The instructions for replacing the plugs are on our website: https://www.istime.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Banana-Plug-Replacement-1.pdf.

Keeping your cables clean, dry and free of kinks will help extend their life. If you have cables that need repaired or replaced give us a call at 800-835-2611 or email support@istime.com. We’re happy to help!

Come visit IST at the Eastern States Clinic!

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IST will once again be at the Eastern States Swim Clinic in Cherry Hill, PA October 4-6. Join us on Friday the 4th at 6:30pm for the “Technology Corner”. Make sure to stop by our booth while you are there to sign up to win a 4-digit SWIMCOUNT Pace clock.

SWIMCOUNT-HX

There is a GROUP DISCOUNT available for the Eastern States clinic. Register 5 coaches and get 1 free or register 5 swimmers and get 1 free. The more coaches you have attend, the better your chances of winning a pace clock!  See you at the Clinic!

Eastern States Swim Clinic infographic

Our scoreboards are so easy to repair, even I can do it!

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I want to tell you a story, a true story, that happened to me this winter. First, a little background information.

Background

My name is Eve Julian. I am the Sales and Support specialist for IST. I also coach the Boys Swim and Dive team at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, MI. That is where I swam in high school, and it is also the home of the very first ever IST alphanumeric scoreboard. That board was designed by my father, Dick Farnsworth. It was assembled by my high school girls swim team in 1991 and has been in continuous use at Ottawa since then. While I do work for IST, I am in no way an engineer. My specialty is the software. I don’t know a whole lot about the hardware side of things – I typically leave that to the techs and engineers.

At the beginning of the 18-19 boys season we had some issues with the scoreboard either not coming up or randomly putting nonsense up on the board.  I had Dick come to the pool and change out the master controller. This scoreboard is his favorite, since it was his first, and he’s really the only one who knows how the old tech works. It worked great for about 2 months, until the morning of our OHHS Invitational.

The Story

On Saturday morning at 7am I arrived at the pool and fired up the scoreboard, but nothing happened. I tried powering it off and on again (yep, that really does work sometimes), and this time I got some junk to show up. A little desperate, I climbed up on top of the motor for our pool cover, unplugged the master controller on the scoreboard, plugged it in again and ran the test again. The board worked great. Then 15 minutes later I looked up and realize that it was putting up nonsense again.

Knowing that Dick was out of town and diving was going to start in less than an hour, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I climbed back up to the bottom of the scoreboard and started fiddling with the master controller. I discovered that if I gently wiggled the connector, the board would light up, but after a moment it would go back to showing junk data again. As I looked closer, I realized that one of the wires leading into the connector had broken off.

I climbed back down and went in search of my building maintenance supervisor. Fortunately, he wasn’t far away and he was able to find me a small screwdriver and a too-big pair of wire strippers. Armed with these tools I climbed back up to the scoreboard. I removed each of the wires from the connector, carefully stripped them back a little farther, reinserted them into the connector and plugged it in.

Eve Julian repairing the scoreboard while Hasting Dive Coach Todd Bates shows his support.

My assistant coach powered the board back up and it came right on with all the correct data. Still sitting on top of the pool cover motor I raised my arms in triumph and shouted, “I am awesome!”. Only then did I look up and realize that the bleachers were filling with diving parents and fans. Oops! I’m sure they thought I was pretty odd. The scoreboard ran perfectly for the rest of the season, so that was awesome indeed.

The Moral of the Story

Our scoreboards are designed to be user maintainable. If *I* can figure out how to re-wire a connector to the Master Controller, anyone can. If you can’t fix it, we can. It’s designed so that the important parts (LED Panels and controllers) can be removed and shipped to us. We’ll repair it and send it back. We can fix any age of scoreboard, including the 28-year-old original one. You should consider IST Scoreboards. They are low maintenance, have all the information that you need, are easy to read and last FOREVER!

How are NISCA All America Divers Chosen?

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Every June, the top 100 male and female high school divers are selected to be NISCA All Americans. It’s a fascinating process, and IST is proud to be a part of it.

What is All America Diving?

The National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) selects All Americans in Swimming, Diving, Water Polo and Academics, as well as supporting the Scholar Team program and National Dual Meet Program.

In order to qualify for All America Diving consideration, a diver must be in 9-12th grade, competing for an interscholastic team, academically eligible based on their state’s requirements and diving in an 11-dive Championship format meet. Boys must score a minimum of 375 points with a D.D. of 13.3 or higher for their optional dives. Girls must score a minimum of 375 points with a D.D. of 13.0 or higher for their optional dives.

At each 11-dive meet through the season, coaches or parents record the diver performing the dives. They also collect a copy of the final, signed dive sheet.

All America Diving Applications

The application process begins on November 1st, when the on-line All America application portals open. Coaches can enter up to 2 applications per diver. Each application is for a single 11 dive meet, no compilations are allowed.  A video, copies of the signed dive sheet and a signature sheet accompany the application. Videos are uploaded to YouTube or Drop Box and a link supplied in the application. A DVD can also be mailed with the accompanying paperwork.

Once the application has been submitted and accepted, the videos are compiled into a list onto “master” DVDs. There is one set for boys and one set for girls. They organize the paperwork to match the order of the divers on the DVDs. This is an ongoing process through the year.

AA Diving Weekend

On the first weekend in June, 16 diving judges from around the country convene in Bloomfield Hills at the home of Don Mason, the NISCA All America Diving Chairperson. They arrive on Wednesday for training and socializing, and on Thursday morning they begin the process of judging.

The judges are dived into 2 groups, a boys room and a girls room. Each room has a computer operator, a video operator, an announcer and 5 judges. The computer operator uses a specially modified version of the IST MEETWARE Diving software which has the list of divers and their individual dives that were uploaded from the applications earlier in the week. Instead of doing everyone’s 1st dive, the software walks through each diver’s list of 11 dives from top to bottom.

Judging the Divers

First, the announcer reads the name of the diver off the sheet. The computer operator confirms the name. The video operator cues up the first dive in the video. Then the announcer reads the first dive number, the computer operator confirms the dive and the video operator plays the first dive. The video is paused at the end of the dive and the judges key in their scores on their IST Judge-Touch consoles. Finally the computer operator reads all the scores out loud, then they move to the next dive.

It takes about 5 minutes to judge each diver’s video. The sheet is set aside to be researched if there are issues. Issues can include dives out of order, not matching the dive sheet or missing dives.  If the discrepancies can be resolved, the video is judged later. The judges try very hard to judge every video and give the kids a fair shot. Occasionally videos come in that are incomplete or scrambled and can’t be judged. Notes are made on those applications as to why they weren’t judged.

This weekend the judges will be watching 11 dives for 230 boys and 290 girls. They have a rotation, so that periodically they can take a 5-minute break from judging. They don’t judge any diver that they know or is from their state. There is a “spare” judge in the room that will judge those videos instead. The panels rotate through both rooms. Periodically both rooms take a full 15-minute break to move around, stretch, grab a drink of water or check their phones.  They will judge for about 8 hours on Thursday and Friday, and another 4 or 5 hours on Saturday.

The Volunteers are Incredible!

Don Mason and the judges volunteer their time to put together and judge the All Americans each year. They are a dedicated group of individuals that are absolutely devoted to advancing their sport. IST is proud to provide the hardware and software that helps make their job a little easier. At least they don’t have to do the score calculations by hand anymore!

For more information about the All America Diving program or other All America programs supported by NISCA, visit the NISCA Website.

For more information about IST’s diving software and touchscreen diving modules, visit our website at https://www.istime.com/products/diving-scoring-systems/.