Monday, December 16, 2013

Officials

One of the things I want to push with the club in the new year is the role that officials play in the sport. This would be with the aim of getting more people to do their bit.

The way I got into officiating is quite simple. When Kate was 13 I was taking her all over the Midlands to compete in various league fixtures and championships. One day - I think it was in Corby - I realised that I was going to be driving most of the day to watch her run for about two and a half minutes. The rest of the time I was sitting there half-heartedly watching other people's kids and waiting for the time when we could go home.

I was vaguely aware of people in navy blazers standing around doing something or other, but didn't pay them much attention. Mike Smith, the then chairman, said he needed a track judge, whatever one of them was. Anything to liven the day up, I volunteered. And I quite enjoyed it. The people in blazers turned out to be interesting people from all over and we could chat away happily between races and the day was over before I knew it.

When the track was built Mike tried again. "We ought to have a starter now we've got our own track." Well, anyone can fire a starting pistol, I thought, little knowing the technicalities of the start, let alone the legalities of owning - not starting pistols, but real guns.

And the rest is history.

An athletics match needs an enormous number of officials, compared to football or hockey which can manage with three. Just add them up:

2 x starters
2 x marksmen (at least)
6/8 x track judges
6/8 timekeepers
3 x long throws (hammer, discus, javelin) @ 5 officials each = 15
3 x shot putt
4 x long jump/ triple jump
3 x high jump
4 x pole vault

That's 45 people - though of course field officials will usually do up to three events in an afternoon. Plus hurdles movers, team managers, results recorders, first aid and an announcer.

Now, the official leading an event, or in the case of long throws the TWO officials leading the event, have to be qualified and know what they're doing. The rest can be anyone with the merest competence with a tape measure, or even a pen and paper. And this is where the entire sport of athletics depends on parents and friends.

After Christmas I'm going to put aside a week of talking to parents in the clubhouse while their kids are out on the track. The basics of what an official does can be covered in an elementary sort of way in about an hour. I'm hoping that this will encourage some people to register for an official officials' course which is being held locally on March 23rd.

(Is it worth saying that qualified officials who actually turn out to help with a number of matches during the season get a free membership for a child? I didn't think so!)

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