Scoreboard Watching

by James Zug

Team squash is a core element of the game in the U.S. There are thousands of team matches every winter across the country, running from youthful ones—middle school, high school and collegiate team play— to adults in league play and championships like the Howe Cup. In intercollegiate play last year alone, there were nearly a thousand dual matches. Until recently, though, no one easily could follow the story of an unfolding match. Court assignments, lineups, the score—it was all a mystery.

Greg Born was a typical squash parent. He first learned about squash through his children who picked up the game as teenagers. His son David played for the Bates Bobcats, and when Born attended David’s matches there was often whispering in the gallery: “What’s the overall score—who’s winning? Who is playing next?“

“I remember one dual match for David,” said Born, a computer software engineer from Westbrook, ME. “The final match of the day ended, and the head coaches looked at each other not sure which team had won. They had to gather up the scoresheets to confirm it. The uncertainty of what was happening at a facility made the whole experience frustrating for parents and spectators. Fans were deprived of knowing the excitement of the story as the match went along. In this country, we are accustomed to being told when a sporting contest is exciting by scoreboards. But this wasn’t happening with squash.”

Greg Born

Born decided to use his software expertise to build a scoreboard system focused on the specific needs of squash. He created a lightweight software system to replace the white dry-erase boards traditionally used to show the progress of team matches. Then he donated to Bates a large monitor to show the results electronically. It was installed in the fall of 2014 and showed the results for each individual match as the dual match progressed. Someone had to collect scoresheets from referees and enter the scores manually into a laptop but the venue monitor explained what was happening throughout the venue. It showed court assignments before matches and the head-to-head team scores during a match.

A few months after the system went live, Bates head coach Pat Cosquer was at Trinity College and saw that US Squash was using iPods to do live scoring during matches at a junior event. Cosquer sent an email to Born (who was now also acting as a Bates assistance coach). Born immediately drove down to Hartford. “The implications of what the technology could do for the sport were profound,” Born said. “The real-time collection of live scoring data via the Club Locker live scoring app meant that this data could be displayed in other ways—like on scoreboards. This would revolutionize how squash spectators and players followed the results during a match. I didn’t have to go get the scoresheets and enter scores manually; they just flowed seamlessly from the person marking the match to the Club Locker datastore in the cloud. The scoreboards told the story of what was happening, and they were always up to date.”

Live scoring was one of the earliest components of Club Locker, the technology platform developed by US Squash. Club Locker now provides full services to national federations, clubs, coaches, players and fans—offering a range of integrated functions including all aspects of tournament and league management as well as a globally relevant rating and ranking system, membership and match history, multi-sport facility reservation and program management modules, and numerous solutions for players to engage with squash from following live scores to finding matches with players worldwide. Today countries such as England, Canada and Finland are using Club Locker through an international collaborative organization.

In 2015 Born began working with US Squash to integrate Club Locker’s live scoring capabilities into his scoreboard concept. This became Club Locker Venue. It delivers a fully integrated squash facility scoreboard and digital sign solution, and Bates became its proving ground. “Replacing obsolete scoreboards with high-definition, custom-designed scoreboard displays that are more intuitive and interactive helped us compete in the ever-changing college squash landscape,” said Cosquer. “Bates is proud to be on the front lines of this innovation in working with Greg Born and Club Locker Venue, especially as a smaller program located on the outskirts of the traditional squash community.”

Club Locker Venue is simple. During matches the individual scoreboards display the live results at each court, while venue scoreboards track the results of the overall matches being played. Players, coaches and fans know immediately what is happening where and how the matches are progressing. “Everyone at a venue is empowered to understand the story of the match,” said Born. “With Club Locker’s live scoring, that empowerment extends to anyone around the world. A parent or fan unable to attend the match can follow along online.” The venue scoreboards can show who is coming up next on court and all current results. Team league, box league, ladder and friendly matches can display live scores. When no competitions are scheduled, the scoreboards—which are flat-screen monitors—display venue-specific branding and slideshows. For facilities using Club Locker for court reservations, venue scoreboards can show the booking status of all courts (or allow members to book courts in the case of touch screens) and court scoreboards can show upcoming reservations on that specific court. “Last week, I used Club Locker live scoring to track my sister from across the country as she crawled back from 3-10 down to win the match 16-14 in the fourth game,” said Barrett Takesian, president of Portland Community Squash, “and at the same time we were using Club Locker at PCS for everything from reservations to results display.”

In the fall of 2015, Middlebury because the first Club Locker Venue customer, installing one venue monitor. In the past three years, thirty more facilities—high schools, colleges and clubs—have installed scoreboards. The system ran during the College Men’s Team Nationals in 2018 at Trinity, only a month after the venue displays were installed. “Having the individual and team scoreboards at Trinity revolutionized the experience at our home matches,” said Trinity men’s coach Paul Assaiante. “In the final against Harvard, more than a thousand fans on site could track the status of the overall match. In the past, they would have been stuck watching one court, straining to hear the score and sending texts to their friends about what’s happening on the next court.”

Club Locker Venue technology allows flexibility in the scope of implementation. Some facilities just have one or two venue scoreboards showing an overview of matches going on in the facility, while others have scoreboards at each court and additional monitors sprinkled around the facility. US Squash provides the software, which is preconfigured and installed under consultation from Born on the optimal solution for each location. The system also now can overlay a virtual scoreboard for live-streamed matches. At its new facility, Phillips Academy Andover put in twelve screens, one for each court, and then four more for the venue. “We needed innovative technology to complement our new courts,” said Andover director of squash John Roberts, “and it’s completely changed the dynamic of our team matches and made the spectator experience much better.”

Unlike prior scoreboard technologies, Club Locker Venue is largely software-driven. With screens able to display whatever is fed to them, new functionality developed in Club Locker can be seamlessly integrated, further enhancing the user experience for clubs, players and fans. “We are just scratching the surface of what this technology can do,” said US Squash vice president of technology Ryan Rayfield. “Club Locker Venue is already making a dramatic difference to the experience of our community, and we are eager to build on this momentum into the future.”

 

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