Barb Snow, an 'unsung hero' celebrating 40 years as a water ski scorer

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, August 9, 2014

JANESVILLE—People in the world of competitive water skiing know Barb Snow is no force to be reckoned with, at least that's what Brad Springbrum says.

If you were just meeting Snow, you'd think she's one of the nicest ladies in Janesville. And it's true, she is.  She just happens to take her job as a water ski scorer very seriously. 

“She expects it done correctly and quickly,” said Springbrum, another water ski scorer. “She is one of those unsung heroes. She hides away in the trailer. Nobody ever sees her because she does a phenomenal job.”

After tournaments, Snow goes over calculations for a third time at home—just to be safe, Springbrum says.

A scorer is in charge of ensuring every team registers its team members and the events they are participating in, collecting and tabulating judges' scores and double-checking the math. They're the first person called when someone has concerns about the results.

This is Snow's 40th year as a scorer.

Snow, 64, of Janesville began scoring after watching her husband, Duane, water ski competitively for the Rock Aqua Jays.

“I was thrown into the water” all those years ago at the first national tournament in Janesville, she said. She learned by doing.

Each year, she scores between four to seven tournaments.

This weekend, Snow is chief scorer at the 2014 Indmar Marine Engines National Show Ski Championships being held at Traxler Park. On Saturday, she could be found in blue jeans, white tennis shoes, a red lanyard displaying her credentials and a baby blue t-shirt with white, capitol letters spelling out “Official.”

“I do it for the pay, the clothes and the jewelry,” Snow said with a hearty laugh.

Each tournament has a chief scorer and one or two other assistant scorers. This weekend Springbrum and Mark Poulos are assisting Snow. The person who serves as chief scorer changes by tournament. Scorers are volunteers.

Snow says she scores tournaments because of the people, the athleticism she gets to see and the places she gets to visit.

She's traveled the United States to score competitions and visit with other people she has met while doing so, she said.

Fellow scorers call Snow modest, adding she is one of the best at what she does.

“It's all about getting it done and getting it right,” Springbrum said. “Barb is the best person in the business to learn from. If there's a problem, she is, bar none, the best. She's always the one who persevers and knows exactly what to do.”

Springbrum first learned to score from Snow in 1983 and has worked with her ever since.

Snow brushes off complements quickly, though not before sharing a thankful smile as tears begin to form.

Snow doesn't water ski competitively, and she didn't take an interest in judging. She likes watching the performances without the pressure of giving a grade.

Besides scoring, she periodically makes costumes for individual competitors.

Over the years she has seen the sport evolve with the use of technology, and it has made her job easier, she said.

Scoring used to be done with a pen, paper and calculator before calculating by hand. Now, after scores are written down on paper, they are entered into a computer program that tabulates all scores and spits out the results. 

Snow's past jobs that involved a lot of number crunching have made her quick. 

Several years ago, a friend of hers named Jim Lauzon was shocked at how quickly and accurately she could enter results alone. Snow doesn't know how fast she can enter a scoring sheet into the computer, but Springbrum said it's a lot faster than the 15 minutes he takes.

Snow calls herself a statistician because there is more math to scoring than the average onlooker would expect. 

“It's a lot of responsibility, and people have no clue how busy it gets in here,” Poulos said.

On Saturday and Friday, technical difficulties made the scorers' lives difficult. The copy machine wasn't working, there were several computer glitches and demands from people at the tournament.

“It gets terribly busy because everybody wants something,” Snow said.

Snow doesn't know when she'll stop scoring, but one thing is certain; her water ski family will miss her.

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