The September 2010 issue of Database Trends and Applications features an article written by Joyce Wells titled MVP Software Scores With Online Sports Scheduling Application.

Revelation Software's new O4W module supports new web application for high school sports management.

Imagine the job of a high school athletic director - juggling the full spectrum of  seasonal sports, planning for fields, gymnasiums and pools, transportation to the events, as well as the assignment and fees of the officials, timekeepers, scorers, security, and other necessary personnel, for all of freshman, JV, and Varsity teams - all with little, if any, staff. Add to that mix, the inevitable last-minute scheduling changes that occur due to inclement weather and there is the potential for some very unhappy students, coaches and parents if those changes are not shared in a timely manner.

MVP Software eases this burden with Sportspak, a software application which provides game scheduling and official assignment management to a league, conference or district-wide office, and a more recent product, SportspakAD, which serves the needs of high school athletic directors by providing modules for student athletes, teams and rosters, equipment, coaches' certifications, awards, budgets inventory, facilities and alumni. A third product, Sportspak.Online  can be used with either Sportspak or SportspakAD, allowing a central office or school to publish current, up-to-the minute game schedules, personalized directions, news, and web links to the public. It allows officials to submit their availability and retrieve and confirm their own assignments from the web. Coaches and athletic directors can get contact information of other schools, view the current status of their coach's certification expiration and completion dates, and after each game post game stats and rate the officials.

Using O4W (OpenInsight for Web), a new module within Revelation Software's latest release of OpenInsight, MVP has been able to quickly revamp Sportspak.Online, improving the features offered in the application and also improving the ease with which changes can be made to fit the changing requirements of customers. Phil Hessemer, president of New Jersey-based MVP, was in fact so intrigued by the possibilities presented by O4W that he began using it before it was generally available and with only minimal product documentation.  "I jumped on O4W when it was in its alpha phase because I knew it was the right web development tool for Sportspak.Online.  We can program in OpenInsight's BASIC+ programming language and seamlessly integrate with an OpenInsight database.  So the learning curve for our web development allowed us to come up to speed quickly and offer our Sportspak.Online product way ahead of schedule.  We started the new Sportspak.Online development at the end of February of this year and recently made our first sales based on our demos."

Sportspak was originally developed in Revelation Software's Advanced Revelation (Arev), explains Hessemer, who was introduced to Revelation in 1985 and has worked with the Revelation product line ever since. "When we made the decision to move Sportspak to Windows, considering our history, OpenInsight was a natural migration path for us. But it was in its early stages and not as robust as some of the other Windows development tools at the time. There was also no viable web development tool we could easily integrate with, which was a necessity. We decided to migrate it to Visual Basic with SQL and used Visual InterDev as our web development tool." While successful, the move to Visual Basic with SQL was not a trivial task, says Hessemer. It took longer than expected since it was an environment that he was not familiar with and the AREV database needed to be normalized for SQL. Still, MVP sold and implemented their initial release of the products in city board of education offices and large state section offices each servicing up to a hundred high schools.

Several years ago, Sportspak was due for some major enhancements and Sportspak.Online needed a facelift. Around that time as well, SportspakAD development was starting up as a new offering. "I decided to move Sportspak and SportspakAD to OpenInsight 7.0," says Hessemer.  "It was a thrill to be working with Sportspak in the MultiValue environment again. The product is a natural for multi-values."

OpenInsight is a database application development toolkit that allows users to create applications that run on a PC, across a network or across the web. It allows users to design and create data tables, data entry forms, editors for programming, search tools and reports using its own set of tools. It includes web, thin client, and XML interfaces, providing a complete turnkey solution for the database application developer.

The new O4W development toolkit, which just became available in July in the 9.2 release of OpenInsight, makes it possible for developers, with limited or no HTML/XML/JavaScript experience to develop feature rich web applications. It can be used not just for OpenInsight, but can also be integrated with U2, D3 and SQL Server databases, as well. While users with more web development experience can use O4W's advanced features, any software developer can create modern web applications (using JavaScript, XHTML, and Ajax) through O4W's APIs.

MVP is one of the first vendors to use O4W in a finished product, introducing its updated version of Sportspak.Online in April 2010.  "The timing was right," reflects Hessemer. "The economy had hit everybody across all industries but I think it is starting to come back now in the school systems. Schools are now applying for grants that are specifically targeted toward technology. A lot of the schools out there are looking to see what is available and if they can find a better product than what they are currently using or something that encompasses more of the things that they do within one product, they are going to look at it.  Many schools are still using spreadsheets, word processing and different software products to handle different functions - one to handle their budgets, one for scheduling, and another for assigning officials, one for teams and rosters, and another for equipment and inventory. SportspakAD is designed to cover all of these functions all in one product with one integrated database, plus with the online feature they can easily provide services to the public," he explains.

And, because many schools have minimal staffing for athletics MVP's solutions are especially welcome. "There is the athletic director and a secretary if they are lucky. Sportspak.Online keeps the information current but exposes it to the web, eliminating phone calls and reducing postage and communication time. And the beauty of Sportspak.Online is that the schedule changes are immediate." In other systems, schedules that are posted on websites are created at the beginning of the season and they become obsolete, for example, as soon as there is the first rainout. "When there are changes to games, the officials and other personnel have to be notified, they may have to switch fields and schedules change. If people are using an old schedule, they might go to a game only to find it is at a different time or at a different facility. Because Sportspak.Online ties directly to the OpenInsight databases, what people are getting is up-to-the-minute information, up-to-the-minute schedules," he adds.

"It could be 2 o'clock in the afternoon and they want to see where their kid is playing especially for away games. They go to Sportspak.Online, they click in their school, sport, level, and date to find the game, they click on the facility, and they get personalized directions using Google Maps. They can print it out and they are off to the game knowing that it will be played at that time and at that location and there haven't been any changes." O4W's data retrieval has proven to be very quick and efficient.

Hessemer knows first-hand the challenges of sports scheduling, having worked as a high school math teacher, basketball and track coach, and high school soccer official.  And, his MultiValue development experience spans 30 years, starting with Prime Information, a flavor of the Pick O/S. The use of O4W has allowed him to work in the environment he is comfortable with, leverage his knowledge of OpenInsight, yet also develop applications quickly.  For example, when requests for changes and enhancements to Sportspak and SportspakAD come in, they often need to be programmed and installed before the start of the next season's sports activities by MVP. "OpenInsight is a tool that allows me to make those changes quickly, so turnaround time for requests is much faster. I've always felt the development tool should be a secondary concern for us and not one we have to struggle with. Our primary concern is learning our clients' business, solving problems, and providing solutions. OpenInsight and O4W combine to make the ideal development tool set to allow us to do this."

As a MultiValue programmer, using O4W for web development was a "no-brainer," Hessemer reflects. O4W uses the industry accepted "jQuery" as its underlying JavaScript\html base, and uses the Ajax techniques so data can be retrieved and refreshed on the web pages quickly.  Using CSS for styling and the option to choose from the library of add-on jQuery plugins available from within our O4W programs allows MVP to offer professional-looking websites that comply with the industry web standards of today. As a result, Sportspak, SportspakAD and Sportspak.Online are able to meet today's Windows and web standards. "More importantly, "says Hessemer, "they meet the needs of our clients' athletic programs."

For more information about Sportspak, SportspakAD and Sportspak.Online, visit the MVP Software website.

For more about OpenInsight 9.2 and O4W, visit the Revelation Software website.