Midwestern Girls Softball League Uses AcuRite to Help Stay Safe During Inclement Weather
Walkie-talkie communication about lightning distance and detection from an AcuRite Atlas help keep players on the field safely or evacuated if necessary.
When one thinks of Indiana and sports, Indiana University basketball usually comes to mind. Beginning play in 1900, the men’s basketball program has a rich history that includes five NCAA national championships, 22 regular season conference titles, and a whole lot of candy-striped pants. However, another Indiana athletic program is rich in history in its own right — the Greater Whiteland Girls Softball League.
Operating since 1968, the GWGSL is an all-girls softball league in Whiteland, Indiana, 19 miles south of Indianapolis. The recreational league sees approximately 150 girls ages 3 to 16 participate every year in five different age-based divisions. Games are held usually every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday in the summer, with built-in off days in case of inclement weather. Speaking of, given the high level of weather unpredictability in the Midwest, league staff must stay on top of conditions around-the-clock to plan makeup games, manage practice schedules, and keep players and spectators safe in the event of severe weather.
“I’m always looking for ways to improve the league,” said Bryan Fields, GWGSL equipment manager and one of nine all-volunteer board members. “This year, I began to think a bit more about the weather and how there has to be a better way to get weather information than from phone apps.”
As a self-proclaimed “weather nerd,” Fields stays on top of local weather conditions and forecasts with an AcuRite weather station at his home. Knowing the reliability and hyperlocal-focused nature of his own AcuRite weather station, Fields decided to get one for the league and upgrade its severe weather protocol.
“2023 is my first year volunteering on the board,” Fields said. “When I joined, they told me the severe weather protocol was to pull everyone off the field and send them to their cars if we heard thunder. Being into weather, I know that even if you can hear thunder, there may not be the threat of lightning. I figured that if we were able to actually know if lightning was in the area and, if so, how close it was, we could make a better-informed decision about keeping teams on the field.”
Fields installed an AcuRite Atlas Weather Station with lightning detection at the crest of the concession stand building and put the HD display inside, behind the counter. The league’s severe weather protocol transformed from too-early evacuations after thunderclaps to a sophisticated, lightning-in-area communication system. If the outdoor AcuRite Atlas sensor detects lightning in the area, it relays that information to the indoor HD display. The trained employee behind the concession counter then reaches out to a board member via walkie-talkie, giving the board member the first warning that lightning is in the vicinity.
When the HD display exhibits that lightning is estimated to be within 15 miles — remember, the AcuRite Atlas can detect strikes from up to 25 miles away — a board member again gets informed via walkie-talkie. They then access the league’s PA system to announce that their weather station has detected lightning within 15 miles of the softball fields and urges everyone — fans, players, and coaches — to take shelter in their vehicles and wait for a further announcement. That announcement can call for a return to the fields of play or a notice to head home, depending on if lightning has moved out of the area.
“I just knew there was a better way to monitor the weather and help keep everybody safe,” Fields said. “Sure, there are the usual weather apps, but their information isn’t always relevant to our exact location. The AcuRite weather station gives us the precise weather knowledge we need to make informed decisions to help keep our players, coaches, and families protected.”
Fan Reaction and Fall Ball Plans
The weather station and its display have been a welcome addition for the fans and families of the GWGSL. Whenever someone in the concession stand points out the display behind the counter, GWGSL staff explain what it is and how it’s utilized. The league’s new lightning-detection safety protocol adds a level of technology that’s not always seen at local recreation leagues, and the GWGSL is looking forward to continuing its newfound protocol even when the seasons change.
“Everyone who sees the display inside is intrigued and thinks it’s neat,” Fields said. “We’re currently in the middle of our summer season but will continue to utilize our AcuRite Atlas into the fall, during our popular ‘fall ball’ season. It’s really an affordable way to help keep games going when it’s safe to do so, and it’s also a great tool to use to help keep people safe when the weather is threatening.”