Crunching the Numbers: Russ Courtney

By Michael Reed


Russ Courtney comes a long way each year to serve as Co-Lead for the Championships Tabulation Team.  The Tempe, AZ resident began his love for pageantry while just a lad in the Elmhurst, IL area.  “I started with the St. Alexis Vikings Drum and Bugle Corps, and then marched with the Vaqueros.  I was involved in the corps since age six,” he remembered. 

He has been around WGI a long time.  “I went to WGI competitions since they started.  The only ones I haven’t attended were Nashville and Buffalo.  I started working with tabulation in 1984, just when they were switching over to computers.  We adapted those programs for the Midwest Color Guard circuit, and I rewrote the programs for the computers they used.”

The area in UD Arena where the tabulation is done has changed over the years.  “When I came here, I worked in the back side of the arena where tab used to be.  We would sit there at tables.”  Now the tabulation functions are done in the suites overlooking the south side of the arena floor.

When asked how things were done back in the days when he was stationed in the back of the arena, Courtney said “Things are a whole lot different from when we started.  It was by hand, then we used computers, and now everything is sent to the Cloud.  The units put in their user name and password and have comments instantly.  Technology has brought us a long way.”

He explained that from tabulator’s perspective, each round is like a separate competition.  Everything within the round has to be verified before scores are released.  Sometimes people wonder if a judge can change scores.  Russ explained “if they need to adjust scores, they can do that, but not after round has ended.  They can only do that while the contest is happening.” 

Both Courtney and Co-Lead Eric Beastrom share the load of duties.  “We trade off responsibilities.  Eric does Percussion and Winds.  I do guard.  We assist each other at the event where we’re not the lead.”  He indicated the most challenging part of his duties is maintaining accuracy.  “It has to be there.  Units demand it and we want to provide it.”    

For Russ, the most rewarding part of his WGI experience are the friends he’s made.  “It’s the sense of family.  Many of these people I’ve known 10, 20, 30 years.  It’s always good to come back.  You pick up right where you’ve left off.  You haven’t seen each other all year but it’s like we never skipped a beat.   We all have a common love for the activity.  Everybody’s here for the same reason.”

In real life Courtney is a Technical Leader for IBM.  “I have group of people I work with and we specialize in a set of products for North America.  I have a summer house tucked in the mountains in Walker, AZ.  I spend weekends there when I have a chance.”  He also likes to play instruments, listen to traditional Irish music, and shoots for target practice.  Despite all the places he’s been, his favorite spot is his casa.  “I travel so much with work, the best part of every trip is coming home.”