It seems like most of my free time has been consumed with swim team lately. I volunteered to help bring the MacDolphins into the 21st century this year and it has taken quite a bit more time than I expected it would. A lot of that is because it is fun working a technical problem and doing it right.
We had some goals for the season.
- Report results in a timely manner.
- Capture times and keep a history so swimmers and parents could monitor their progress.
- Electronic registration to minimize data entry errors.
- Communicate quickly and effectively.
After searching the internet for an existing swim team solution I determined there really wasn’t anything suitable do I decided to write my own WordPress plugin to address part of the problem. I had no aspirations to build a complete solution but I did want to offer something which addressed goals 1, 3, and 4 above. I started working on the plugin early this year and for the most part, it is working out pretty well. I wish I had a few more things done but I am happy with what I have been able to do.
For actual meet management, our team (actually me) ended up choosing WinSwim over the industry standard Hy-Tek solution. I went with WinSwim mostly because their support was excellent and their ability to import our roster electronically. For whatever reason, Hy-Tek has made doing this difficult if not impossible to do. (Read more on my wp-swimteam plugin blog regarding my dealings with Hy-Tek.)
WinSwim is easy to use but it hasn’t been without some problems. Fortunately they don’t seem to mind the volume of e-mail and issues I am sending them and they turn around solutions really quickly. To distribute the data our parents and swimmers want to see (mostly their times), I have learned quite a bit about Crystal Reports. It is pretty powerful once you get the hang of it but the learning curve is non-trivial. This weekend I think I had the “ah-ha” moment because now I am able to edit and create new reports pretty quickly.
The season is coming to a close and I still have a few things to do. I need to get end of season reports done for our banquet. I think this will be pretty straight forward now that I think I have a handle on Crystal Reports!