I’ve used Hy-Tek Meet Manager extensively for the last eight years. Although it’s missing some functionality, Meet Manager can do just about everything you need to do. There is a lot built into Meet Manager that most people never even know is there. However, Meet manager is old and has not kept up with the times. I’ve fiddled with RaceTab and LynxPad and neither was very impressive.
When I first heard that DirectAthletics was going to release their own meet management software I was super excited. I thought, these are people who understand what a meet management software could be. A commercial product written from scratch and specifically designed to interface with DirectAthletics and TFRRS could be a fantastic piece of software.
First Look at MeetPro
When I first downloaded the the beta version of DirectAthletics MeetPro I was a little disappointed. I thought this would be an opportunity to rethink the way meet management software is designed. MeetPro is laid out exactly like Hy-Tek Meet Manager. It has a much cleaner design, looks fresh and new, but the software flow is basically the same.
After playing with MeetPro for a while I meet with DirectAthletics Developers at the USTFCCCA Convention in San Antonio, TX. Talking with them for about an hour I could clearly see the vision they had for the software. I could look past the similar flow to see what the potential for the software was. If they implement the things that we talked about, MeetPro will be an unbelievable piece of software. (I’ll get to some examples later)
Why I didn’t use MeetPro: Live Results
I tested and evaluated MeetPro through the beta and into version 1.0. Ultimately I decided not to use MeetPro for Willamette meets because of the live results functionality. MeetPro offers a couple live results options. The first option is a direct upload to MeetPro’s servers. This is great for people who don’t have access to a server and just want to get the results on the web. I didn’t really like this option for Willamette for a couple reasons. The URL to the results is too long and in general I like to keep everything on the willamette.edu or willamettetrack.com domains.
http://livestats.willamette.edu/live/track/ or http://live.willamettetrack.com
I like to customize the live results with the Willamette Cardinal and Gold colors. I also like to have a twitter widget on the live results page. These were not possible with the default MeetPro upload to web option.
The second option is through Amazon S3, which is really interesting, but probably only viable for large timers who get lots of traffic to their sites.
The third, and my prefered option, is ftp. This option generates results just like the default and S3 options, but I can upload them to the server of my choice. All the uploaded results are styled with an external CSS file which means I can restyle them and make them look how I want them to look. This is fantastic and I was super excited about it, but I could never get it to to work. I tried a variety of ftp servers and none of them worked.
Actually using MeetPro
Last weekend I timed a meet at Western Oregon University and they wanted to try MeetPro. They could see that MeetPro could be the future of meet management software and they wanted to dive in. For me, it was a great opportunity to really put MeetPro through its paces.
If you use DirectAthletics for entries, setting up a meet is very easy. In order to take entries you should have created a meet on DirectAthletics with all the appropriate events. From the MeetPro software you can create a new meet from DirectAthletics. Basically you enter your DirectAthletics credentials and select the meet you want to create. It sets up all the events based on your setting in DirectAthletics. Once the meet is created you can download entries the same way. It takes about 60 seconds to get a meet setup from scratch. This is one of the strongest features of MeetPro.
Dealing with entries
One of the features that I requested during the beta that MeetPro built in was the ability to assign competition number only to athletes who are in non-lane races. In most of the meets we run at Willamette competition numbers are soley used to identify people in the distance races. In Hy-Tek we found a workaround using session that would allow assigning competition number only to athletes who are in non-lane races. MeetPro has this feature built in.
There was some issues with assigning competition numbers. When you download entries, if a team has anyone entered in the meet the whole team’s roster is downloaded. This is nice because if there is a late change, you don’t have to worry about the TRFFS ID. When assigning competition numbers there is an option to skip athletes with no entries. This work for all but one team. For some reason one team had numbers assigned to everyone, even those not competing.
Although I wish there was a quick way to reorder the events, it was very easy to create a session and order the events as I saw fit. The user interface is pretty nice and it’s pretty easy to get things setup.
Actually seeding events is pretty straight forward. However, one complaint I have is with the user interface. By default multi select is turned on. What this means is, every event you click on is selected, where you would normally hold down the control key to multi select.
This becomes really annoying when working in the seeding menu. Say for example that you select the first four events to seed and then click the seed selected button. You go through the seeding process for those events and everything it pretty normal. You are then returned to the seeding menu with the first four events still selected. At this point you would click the fifth event and expect it to be the only event selected, but in fact the first four remain selected and you have to click on each one in order to deselect it.
Once you have seeded everything and are just looking through your seeded events this multi select issue continues to irritate. Double clicking on an event should bring up the seeding edit screen and it kind of does. However, if you have multiple events selected and you double click on another event the topmost event that was previously selected is opened, not the event you clicked on. To edit an event, you can do one of two things. You can click the select none button and then double click the event you want to edit, or you can single click on on the event you want to edit, then single click on all of the other selected events to deselect them, then you can go back and double click the event you want to edit.
Other than this minor, but really annoying UI choice the layout of the screen with quick access to filters is really pretty nice.
Entering results is pretty straight forward, but I have mixed feelings on the UI. There were no deal breakers, but just a couple things I didn’t really agree with. I found the Heat and flight selection method a little cumbersome. It’s not bad, but you have to click a little button to scroll through the heats or flights. With a small meet this is not that big of a deal, but with a large meet it would get old fast.
There is quick access to filters for gender, event type and session, but there is no way to hide completed events. There is a completed checkbox for each event that you have to manually click. This is nice because you can enter results and not have them marked as complete until you have someone double check the results. There are a couple places throughout the software that allow you to filter by completed, unfortunately one of them is not the enter results screen.
Entering a field series works, but had some bugs. The best mark is calculated after entering the first in the field series. However it is not calculated correctly until the whole field series is saved. Saving the filed series was really slow, however that has been fixed in the most recent update.
Getting the running results from Lynx is just like in Hy-Tek, but it was a bit slow. I’m sure that will be fixed in an upcoming release.
Western Oregon usually doesn’t provide live results but it was really easy to setup using the MeetPro servers. I still can’t get the FTP option to work, but the MeetPro servers worked great for this meet. I did find it irritating that the published results button was so many clicks. It’s buried three levels deep, but there should just be a button on the enter results screen.
Reports and Results
The reports are the area of MeetPro that I found the most disappointing. For the most part everything is there, but there are several bugs, missing features and lack of polish. If there it is a non-scoring meet why is there a points column in the results? I expect this from Hy-Tek, but not from the latest and greatest meet management software. There are a lot of other examples of things that just aren’t quite finished but I’m hoping DirectAthletics is working on them.
One of the biggest holes in the reports is the lack of an option to generate a single html file. You can get html versions of entries, heats, and results, but they are divided up and a page for each event is created. It looks real nice, but I want to be able to dump a file on a web server that has the entries listed. Now I could just use a pdf, but that is not the best practice. This is especially annoying for posting final results. At willamette we archive all of our results and an html page for every event, for every meet, for every year, is a little much for my tastes.
Uploading results to TFRRS or DirectAthletics is was easy as getting the entries. However, I was not really sure which one I should do. I usually upload to DirectAthletics because that’s where we collect entries and from there it gets posted to TFRRS. From MeetPro I used the TFRRS upload option and it seemed to work, but I still don’t know the difference between the two options.
DirectAthletics is a service provider and they approached the MeetPro pricing model as such. At $300 per year it’s a fully inclusive affordable option, though it may not be that much cheaper that Hy-Tek. Hy-Tek has all kinds of options and plugins that is charges extra for. Most colleges will spend about $1000 to get a new version of Hy-Tek that has all the options a typical college would need. MeetPro come with everything for an annual subscription, but after four years MeetPro becomes more expensive. In the long run cost is probably a wash and MeetPro will probably end up being much better product.
As it sits now MeetPro is a good piece of software. Most people could replace Hy-Tek with no issues. As with any new software there are some bugs, but DirectAthletics has been issuing updates a couple times a week. MeetPro has tremendous potential and will most likely become the software of choice for track & field meet management. Although I haven’t really talked about what some of the future features could be (maybe that’s another post) there are some exciting things that can be done with this product. I am very excited about the future of MeetPro and I hope they continue developing as fast as they have been over the past couple months. I hate Hy-Tek, but it does the job. Hopefully next year I’ll be using MeetPro full time.