Among some track & field clubs, several myths exist:
- It is difficult for organizers to coordinate the complex range of activities required to set up and run a meet.
- Organizers are only able to run large meets when using an external timer.
- The track season is only a few months long during the spring.
These myths are wrong!
The reality is that:
- Organizers can run small and large meets alike using the club’s own resources.
- Organizers can drastically increase the number of meets they run with less resources, which benefits the local track community.
- Organizers can run meets (almost) all year round.
This is a short and simple guide to setting up a small track and field meet for first-time organizers. The primary focus in this guide is on track events.
This guide is divided into the following sections:
EQUIPMENT NEEDED FOR A MEET:
- A suitable venue (e.g., public, school or club track).
- A timing system (electronic or manual) – you can contact Roster Athletics or the ATL Club Office for help with both.
- A starting device (e.g., starting gun).
- A bell or other device to indicate the last lap for runners in races with more than one lap.
- A backup stopwatch (can be a mobile phone or similar).
- One or more wind gauges (if you want to measure wind in sprint events and long jump/triple jump).
- Starting blocks or other implements (optional). All races can be performed without starting blocks.
- A couple of chairs and a small table for the photo finish operators.
- An active internet connection (e.g., a mobile hotspot).
- Two white flags and two red flags for track events.
- One white and one red flag per field event.
- Printed bibs and/or hip numbers.
- Access to the Roster Athletics meet management & registration platform.
- An extra block of paper and some pens at the finish line.
PEOPLE NEEDED BEFORE THE MEET:
One Meet Director to perform the following tasks:
- Set the date of the meet and ensure the venue is available.
- Set up the meet in the Roster Athletics platform.
- Decide on events, meet entry fees, and set up registration in the Roster Athletics platform.
- Set a meet schedule.
- Promote the meet on relevant channels.
- Order the equipment needed for the meet (e.g., hip numbers).
- Decide on potential awards (if any) and obtain them.
- Secure meet officials - the earlier, the better.
- Finalize registration and seed all events.
- Print out score sheets (we recommend an environmentally friendly approach without paper printouts and using only the Roster Athletics apps).
PEOPLE NEEDED DURING THE MEET:
With modern technology, you don’t need as many volunteers/officials as before, but it never hurts to staff up with a few extra people. Since it can be hard to find volunteers/officials, this guide outlines the minimum number of people you will need to run a meet. At the end of the guide, you will find some helpful things to consider.
For all events:
One Meet Director
- Function as the main administrator and supervisor of the meet.
- Ensure all volunteers or officials understand their assignments and duties.
- Coordinate the planning of all aspects of the meet.
- Ensure that all events are seeded and heats/groups are assigned.
NOTE: This role can be filled by an experienced Photo Finish Official or Roster Start list and Result Operator
For track events:
- Take a position appropriate for the type of race being run (i.e., “on your mark” - “set” - “gun”)
- Initiate the starting process when the Finish Line Official gives the white flag.
- Be ready to recall a race if there is a false start.
One Start Line Official
- Have the competitors (in each heat if more than one) ready to step on the track.
- Position each competitor in their proper lane and appropriate starting line and/or starting position.
- Remind competitors that they MUST finish in their assigned lane (for laned events), distribute hip numbers, and ensure they are properly attached to the competitor’s left and/or right hip.
One Photo Finish Official
- Record the finish of each race.
- Save and read the finish of each race.
- Go back and read the finish of a race if an error occurs.
One Roster Start list and Result Operator
- Make heat/lane changes to the start list on the Roster Athletics platform, if necessary.
- Mark events finished in the Roster Athletics platform when all results are recorded and verified.
NOTE: This role can be filled by an experienced Photo Finish Official
One Event Timing Official
- Alert the starter with a white flag when the Photo Finish Official has armed the timing system and is ready for the next race. Until then, the Timing Official will hold up the red flag.
- Count laps for each competitor where races are longer than one lap.
- Operate the bell when one lap remains for competitors.
- Operate the stopwatch as a backup for the electronic timing system in case of any failures.
One Wind Gauge Operator (only if you need wind measurements)
- Set up the wind gauge device at the designated area (e.g., after 50m of the 100m race).
- Read and record wind reading for relevant races and report the reading to the Photo Finish Official.
For field events (the following people are needed per event):
One Field Event Judge
- Responsible for the competition area and ensuring that it is prepared and ready for warm-ups and competition.
- Review assignments with all officials/volunteers for the event.
- Check in competitors early to allow time for warm-up attempts.
- Call the competitors during the competition with “up”, “on deck” and “on hold.”
- Hold one end of the measuring tape and read the result.
- Announce measured distances loud and clear.
- Type the result into the Roster Athletics Meet Mgmt app.
One Field Event Helper
- Ensure the competition area is ready for the next competitor (e.g., rake the sand).
- Hold the other end of the measuring tape.
- Collect the implement and bring it back to the throwing area.
One Wind Gauge Operator (only if you need wind measurements for LJ/TJ)
- Set up the wind gauge device at the designated area (e.g., in the middle of the run-up).
- Read and record the wind reading for relevant races and report the reading to the Field Event Judge.
WORK AND PROCEDURES
PREPARATION WORK BEFORE MEET DAY:
All of the preparation work is typically done by the Meet Director. It’s advisable to prepare as much in advance as possible. The following is based on a simple competition without advanced features.
Follow these steps:
- Set up the meet in Roster Athletics platform, including events, time schedule and participant registration.
- Decide if you want to do a team competition, individual scoring or other scoring formats.
- Monitor and answer questions related to the meet.
- At the registration deadline, reach out to participants who have registered, but not paid and give them a chance to finalize their payment. Thereafter, you can reject all approved, but unpaid registrations.
- Assign BIB numbers to competitors.
- Seed all competitors into heats/groups and appropriate lanes.
- Mail out BIB numbers in advance or hand them out on the competition day.
- Collect all relevant equipment for competition day.
WORK DURING THE MEET:
You might need to add competitors, re-seed qualifying heats or other activities in the Roster Athletics platform during the meet, but it is solely up to the Meet Director if such changes should be permitted.
These are some of the important activities during the meet:
Roster Start list and Result Operator or Meet Director
- Seed subsequent stages/rounds based on results from qualifying races and/or qualifying rounds for field events.
- If using check-in functionality in the Roster Athletics platform, re-seed based on checked-in competitors.
- Mark events final in the Roster Athletics platform when results are checked. This action can be done directly from the Meet Mgmt app or the Roster Athletics web interface.
Start of track races
NEVER start a race before the Photo Finish Official has indicated that he/she is ready. This is typically done by showing the white flag. The following procedure is the best practice before a race and in preparation for the next race.
- The Start Line Official ensures that all competitors are ready to step on the track appropriately (if one competitor is not present, the Start Line Official will leave the lane open).
- The Start Line Official hands out hip numbers based on the start list (this is in the Roster Athletics app). Ensure that hip numbers are placed correctly on each competitor. Hip numbers are VERY IMPORTANT in events longer than 400m, but are beneficial for the Photo Finish Official even in shorter races. Hip numbers are usually placed on both sides, but at a minimum on the side where the photo finish camera is located.
- The Start Line Official reminds competitors that they MUST finish in their assigned lane (for laned events).
- The Photo Finish Official loads the correct race in the photo finish system and “arms” the system.
- The Event Timing Official prepares to take hand times on a stopwatch (in case of malfunction of the electronic timing equipment).
- Once both the Event Timing Official AND the Photo Finish Official are ready, the Event Timing Official waves a white flag to the Starter (indicating that the finish line is ready). The Event Timing Official will wave a red flag if they are not ready.
- The Starter will return the signal waving a white flag (indicating the start line is ready). The Starter will wave a red flag if not ready.
- The Starter will start the race. If there is a false start, the Starter will recall the race. If that happens, the Starter will wait for the Photo Finish Official and Event Timing Official to reset the system and stopwatch and NOT start until the Starter sees a new white flag from the finish line.
- If the race is longer than one lap, the Event Timing Official will count laps for each competitor and ring the bell with one lap to go.
- Once the competitors cross the finish line, the Photo Finish Official will mark and save all of the results.
- The Roster Start list and Result Operator will mark the event finished, and the Photo Finish Official and Event Timing Official will prepare for the next race, and the process will start from the top again.
- Schedule: If this is your first meet, set a schedule that allows for some slack for potential problems. It can be very stressful for officials and competitors if you run behind schedule. As you become more experienced, you can decrease the amount of time between events. The ideal time is 1-3 minutes from when one race ends to the start of the next race.
- People: This guide is based on a minimum number of officials/volunteers required to successfully run a meet. If you have additional volunteers, split the tasks among different people. Consider having an Announcer who can give messages and updates to all of the participating competitors and their coaches/parents. More competitors require more officials/volunteers.
- Weather: Prepare yourself with tents, umbrellas etc., in case of rain. The finish line (including all the timing equipment) is especially sensitive to rain.
- Overall experience: Remember that it takes practice to run a smooth track and field meet.
CHECKLIST FOR THE ROSTER ATHLETICS PLATFORM
Before the meet:
- Are all relevant heats/groups/finals seeded?
- Have you read and responded (if necessary) to messages from competitors?
After the meet:
- Do all athletes have results, DNS, DNF, DQ, or SCR status?
- Are all events marked finished?
- Do all relevant events have wind measurements?