3 March 2009
Article by Stan Burton as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine
As the Officials representative on the UK Members Council, one of my aims is to highlight and address the achievements and the challenges facing this essential cog in our sport.
At the top level we have an unprecedented number of officials who work at international level demonstrating the strength and experience UK officiating provides the sport of athletics in global competition.
At the domestic level however – sometimes officials are only noticed when there are not enough of them to put on a meeting and the meeting has to be cancelled.
What can typically happen in the above scenario is that, the announcer at a meeting will ask if there is anyone in the crowd who is willing to help out and enough people are then recruited to enable the meeting to go ahead. The unfortunate part of this is that the athletes may suffer because of the lack of knowledge or experience of the willing helpers.
The plain fact is that there are not enough officials to go around all of the meetings that are being put on, and more need to be recruited. There is currently a strong recruitment drive to increase the overall numbers and also to replace the existing officials in due course as they retire.
One of the best sources of new officials are the clubs. They have a steady influx of young athletes, and these youngsters usually come with parents or other adults attached. There are always those who are interested in what their children are doing and whilst those parents may need some encouragement, it is amazing that, when asked, a lot of them are only too willing to help.
The next step is for the club to arrange for these individuals to attend a Level 1 or a Level 2 officials course. Level 1 is designed for those people who have had little or no experience of officiating, and gives an overview of what goes on at an athletics meeting. Information is given about each of the discipline areas e.g., Track Judge, Field Judge, Timekeeper and Starter/marksman.
If the parent has some experience and has a pretty good idea of which discipline they would enjoy doing most, then they should opt for a Level 2 course in that discipline. It is not necessary for them to have done a Level 1 course first. These courses are tutored by experienced officials who approach the subjects in a friendly and informal way.
Clubs who are interested should contact their home country federation, who will arrange courses for their prospective officials, or point them towards courses locally which have already been arranged. Clubs and parents themselves can also contact their Home Country athletics federation where they will find details of courses and now is the ideal time to attend one of these courses before the outdoor track season starts.
Come and enjoy the world of officiating, it is great fun, and you might find that you end up like me, a parent who carried on after his son stopped competing because I enjoyed it so much!
Finally, for the more experienced officials amongst you, don’t forget the National Officials Conference to be held in Solihull on Sunday 19th April 2009. Further information can be found on the UKA website at www.uka.org.uk/competitions/officials, or telephone UKA on 0121 713 8400