© February 2010
Imagine playing one of your biggest games of the year, on the road in a hostile environment against a formidable opponent. At a critical moment in the game, when it’s absolutely imperative that you get usable information from your staff in the pressbox, instead of hearing your coaches on your headset, all you hear are…truckers.
It can happen and it has happened to Mark Speckman. “We also picked up other teams’ signals, radio stations and cell phones at various games,” he recalled. Speckman, the widely-known and respected Head Coach of Division III Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, had for years been frustrated with the performance, or lack of, from the team’s headset system. For a program that had enjoyed much success during Speckman’s 12-year tenure, including multiple appearances in the NCAA playoffs, not having a reliable sideline communication program was unacceptable.
So, prior to the 2008 season, Speckman and the coaching staff at Willamette replaced their system with the recently-introduced DX300 headset system from HME.
Some might have considered it a risk to invest in a product that had, at the time, been on the market for less than a year. But, according to HME’s Pro Audio Product manager Rick Molina, the transition into football was a natural extension of an already-proven system. “HME had been in business for over 35 years and we actually introduced the first wireless intercom system for professional users in 1979,” said Molina. “The DX300 is the latest in a long line of HME wireless intercom systems. We sell and service our wireless products in over 95 countries and we have been granted 29 patents.”
In the three years since HME’s entry into the headset communication system market for football coaches, hundreds of programs have switched to the DX300 because of its superior performance and exceptional features.
As you would expect from a company that has been a pioneer in wireless communications, the technology built into the battery system of HME’s DX300 is superior. “Constant monitoring of the battery condition in our Communicator® is unnecessary since you don’t have to take it out of service while the battery is being charged,” said HME’s Molina. “You just snap in another battery from our stand-alone four-port battery charger and go. The communicators will let you know to change batteries about fifteen to twenty minutes before they need to be charged. With up to twenty hours on a full charged battery, most users will never hear the ‘change battery’ message.”
For Mark Speckman, what really mattered was performance, and, with the DX300, that’s what he got. “The HME system has been flawless”, he said. Did the HME system contribute to the team turning around its record from 4-6 in 2007 to 11-1 in 2008 and 8-2 in 2009? That’s hard to say. But, as Speckman would tell you, having a clear, reliable system for sideline communications is of critical importance, especially in big games. Unless, of course, you don’t mind talking to truckers.
AFM recently had the opportunity to speak with Coach Speckman about his experiences with the HME DX300 system in greater detail.
AFM: Before you changed to the HME DX300 headset communications system in 2008, what problems had you experienced with your previous system?
Mark Speckman: Before switching to HME, several times we had been in stadiums where we had no signal at all. We have three coaches in the pressbox and eight on the sideline, so communication between the staff is critical.
In addition to the spotty quality we sometimes experienced on the road, affordability was also an issue. I was frustrated having to send our headsets back every year for reconditioning. The annual maintenance bills cost us hundreds of dollars.
Before we bought the HME system, we tried three or four different systems and it was just a disaster. One of the systems didn’t work at all. Most high schools and small colleges don’t have a dedicated staff member to deal with equipment issues or personnel to solve these problems. So we really needed a reliable system – something that we could count on to work in big stadiums or small stadiums.
How does your two-year experience with the DX300 system compare to you what you had used in the past?
We’ve had zero problems in two seasons of using the HME system. The range is great and farther than what we need. The clarity and reliability have lived up to their billing. I’m no scientist, but HME has certainly figured out how to make a superior product. Plus, we no longer have to worry about the annual cost of reconditioning.
What features of the HME system are most important to you?
Most importantly for me, the system has great range and great clarity. The signal is the clearest I’ve ever heard. The headsets are very lightweight and comfortable. Also, the HME system is very flexible. You have the ability to mix and match and set up whatever configuration you want for your staff. The DX300 system is simple, it’s easy to use and it works great.
What has been your experience with HME’s customer support?
As I said, we’ve had virtually no problems with the system to speak of. We did have one minor issue where HME provided a quick-fix and took care of it overnight.
What would you say to other coaches that are looking into new headset communication systems – would you recommend HME?
I would recommend them and I have recommended them. There are lots of programs here in the Northwest that are now using the HME system. There are so many “average” products on the marketplace – this is not one. They’ve delivered on everything they advertise.
Sideline communication during a game is critical. We needed a good system and now we have one with HME.