Reaction Light System makes NCAA debut

Reaction Light Systems

CAZENOVIA, N.Y. – Student-athletes competing in the 2016-17 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships from Feb. 17-19 were the first group to take part in an NCAA-sanctioned championship meet with a Reaction Light System.

A rules interpretation from the NCAA permitted the NEAC to utilize the system at this year’s championship meet. The Reaction Light System was installed at meet host Cazenovia College and was used, in addition to traditional starting protocol, to start all events throughout the weekend.

“I am truly grateful for the work that Brian Gordon, secretary rules editor, and other NCAA staff members did to allow us to use this device,” NEAC Commissioner Candice Murray said.

The product, which is used to start an increasing number of high school meets, originally was developed by Nick Santino, a Newark, New York, resident and owner of Reaction Lights of New York LLC, to help deaf and hard-of-hearing swimmers get a fair start in competition. Reaction Light Systems were refined and commercialized through the Innovation One business incubator at Trine University, which now manufactures and ships the systems.

Reaction Light Systems were installed on all starting platforms and use colored light tubes to signal the start of each event. The lights turn flashing red followed by a steady red to signal swimmers to get ready, blue to take their mark, and green to go.

“I think it’s great that the NEAC is on the forefront of improving communications for deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes and spectators,” Murray added. “It’s a benefit to all student-athletes to have a visual starting command.”

Jason Blume, executive director of Innovation One, said that Reaction Light Systems are on their way to becoming the standard for the sport.

“The reality is today, through growth in usage of Reaction Light Systems, many coaches and officials at all levels have identified that if the product is used in just one lane for a hearing-impaired athlete it gives that athlete an advantage, due to the simple fact that light travels faster than sound,” Blume said.  “This has made Reaction Lights a necessity for all athletes.”

In addition to using the Reaction Light System, the NEAC also used visual public address announcements this year to provide an inclusive environment for all those attending the championship event. Throughout the weekend, a PowerPoint displaying captions for all audible announcements was displayed at the venue.