Aquatics Blog

Timing Systems

Touchpads, relay take off platforms, deck plates, wall plates, scoreboard locations, scoreboard sizes, pace clocks,… the list is long and extensive for pieces of equipment that are critical to a running a timing system for both practice and a swim meet. Here are some items to consider when planning a new timing system at your next facility.


The scoreboard should have an appropriate read-out, corresponding with the number of lanes in the competition pool. The scoreboard may be attached to the wall at the end of the swimming pool or natatorium opposite the diving pool, or mounted on a support structure or rack. It should be mounted in a way that it can be seen from the entire deck and spectator areas.

For outdoor venues with stand-alone scoreboards, the structural support system calculations should include appropriate wind loads.

Scoreboards are available with wireless communication capability but power must be provided. The scoreboard power requirements will range from 20 amps to 100 amps depending on the size of the scoreboard. The final power requirements will have to be coordinated with the timing system manufacturer.

Timing System Connections

There are two options for connecting your touch pads to the timing system. Rough-in conduit, junction boxes and pull boxes can be provided for each lane of the facility to connect the touch pads back to the timing system and the scoreboard.

Alternatively, a timing cable harnesses can be laid directly on the deck, eliminating the requirement for boxes, deck plates and wall plates. Although potentially a bit unsightly, it can save money, and may be an option on those facilities where a permanently installed timing system is not a priority. Many owners have reported higher reliability and lower maintenance expenses with cable harnesses. Typically, a timing cable harness is the same price as a single deck box.

Provision for locating the timing console within the natatorium office may be a consideration. This must be planned for early on in the design process. Many coaches like to use the timing system on a daily basis to “run practice” so a lockable place for the console is important. Ideally, the location should have line of sight to the scoreboard.

Quick Connects

Quick connects allow for connection to the relay judging platform, touchpad, speed lights, individual land speaker, and backup buttons for the judges in the deck plate under the starting block. The quick connect system provides greater convenience than traditional deck plates and less possibility for corrosion from pool chemicals and water.

Timing Systems

Timing systems coordinate incoming information from the start system, touchpads, relay judging platforms, backup buttons, and remote judging terminals for diving and synchronized swimming. It will send information to scoreboards, meet management software, printers, water polo horns, and shot clocks.

Start Systems

Start systems can drive speakers that are individually mounted under the starting blocks as well as speed lights for a visual start signal. Start systems typically are provided with a wired microphone, but can come with a wireless microphone if specified. This can serve as a limited public address system, allowing for announcements at practices and swim meets.


Simply put, touchpads tell the timing system when a swimmer has completed a lap or a race. Touchpads are hung from the gutter and are located on the vertical wall at the start/finish end of the pool. High-end facilities will have enough touchpads for both walls in a racing course. One spare touchpad should be provided for every ten touch pads.

Touchpads have a uniform fine grit and non-abrasive surface that prevents swimmer slippage in any direction. Touchpad brackets are typically custom made to fit the pool gutter or bulkhead.

Long course races require touch pads at each end of the racecourse so conduits must be provided to and from each end of the 50-meter course with deck-mounted boxes at starting block locations both on the bulkhead and on the deck.

Cable deck boxes should be provided at the starting platform anchor locations on the pool deck and in the bulkheads. The box assembly should be installed to the side and below each starting platform location either on the deck or on the bulkhead, as recommended or required by the manufacturer.

Touchpad caddies should be specified for easy transport from storage before and after swim meets.

Relay Judging Platforms

Relay judging platforms (RJPs) are the most accurate way to judge relay exchanges. Relay judging platforms are able to judge a relay exchange to a hundredth of a second. All Division I NCAA Championships must use electronic relay judging. Reaction times can be coordinated to be displayed on the scoreboard. RJPs plug into the same deck plate as the touchpad.

Speed lights can be provided on the leading edge of the relay judging platforms. The speed lights flash simultaneously with the start tone and strobe light. Speed lights assist reaction times and allow for a more even playing field with hearing-impaired swimmers.

Judging Terminals

Judging terminals allow diving judges to enter their scores from the judging stations. Up to ten may be provided. Many facilities choose to manually input scores that coaches display on cards. High-end facilities generally prefer automatic entry via terminal.

Digital Pace Clocks

Digital wall mounted pace clocks by timing system manufacturer are often provided. Location and quantity of such clocks should be discussed with the coaching staff. Clocks with wireless capability eliminate data cables – only power is needed. A single switch should be provided to allow all clocks to be turned on/off simultaneously. Clocks may be flush mounted or recessed. Power should be located behind clock to hide cord.

Underwater Speakers

Underwater speakers are useful in broadcasting a recall tone during a false start, clearing the pool, and potentially talking to swimmers underwater and during SCUBA instruction. If it’s intended to be used for communication or instruction, it should be paired with a wireless microphone. The recommended water depth for installation is 6 feet deep. However they may be installed in water up to 50 feet deep. One underwater speaker is recommended for a 25 yard pool and two underwater speakers are recommended for a 50 meter pool. These can be provided by timing system manufacturer and plugged into existing deck plate.


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