It’s Not a Meet Without Officials
When you boil a swim meet down to its bare essentials, the whole thing can be distilled down to 4 essential, inalienable items – a pool, swimmers, a timing system and officials. Coaches, timers, parents, sound system, a flashy scoreboard, etc., are amazing and it’s always great for them to be there; however, bare minimum, you need those four.
Unfortunately, across several Local Swim Committees (LSCs), there are fewer and fewer people volunteering to work as an official at local swim meets. This decline mirrors a decrease in the number of volunteers, and particularly officials and referees across almost all sports and the country. Officials with older swimmers are getting ready to move on, so the need for officials with younger swimmers is greatest.
The Chicago Tribune addressed a cross-sport, nationwide shortage of officials in a report by Kate Thayer earlier this year – citing the abuse that officials take from parents and coaches as a primary driver. While the parental abuse certainly happens in swimming, it’s perhaps not as prevalent – mostly because, in any given swim meet, a swimming official is not making nearly as many calls as an official in a sport like baseball or football.
Setting that aside, here are 3 great reasons to become a swimming official today.
Friendship and Support
Officiating is a wonderful way to support your team, your LSC and USA Swimming. It is a great way to get to know parents from other teams, whether on the deck or in the hospitality room during breaks. The swimmers know fellow swimmers from other teams, but it’s rare to meet parents from other teams in the stands. For out of town meets, it’s nice to have a point of reference for the best pizza close by, the local pharmacy that’s still open after finals, and the local grocery store.
It’s a deck-side view of the meet. You are in on the action, sometimes literally as yes, your shoes and clothes will get wet. However, the location can’t be beaten for watching the events.
Productivity During the Meet
How many times have you sat for hours on end waiting for a few minutes of swim time? Why not feel productive on deck? The day goes by fairly quickly as your focus is on the swimmers and their legal strokes. If you are fortunate to have a break, you can visit your swimmer, friends in the stand, and enjoy the amazing food offered by the hospitality team. For parents of younger swimmers, it’s an organic way for your swimmer to become more independent, and for them to turn to their coach for questions, which helps build the swimmer/coach relationship.
If the parent of an Olympian can be an official, you can as well. Joanie Beisel, the mother to Olympian Elizabeth Beisel, has been officiating since Elizabeth was 6 years old. Beisel wonderfully defines the spirit of officiating and the attributes of and benefits to the volunteers. Describing it as “just the best thing I’ve ever done,” Joanie truly appreciates “what you get out of being an official.”
Training is Informative, Not Overwhelming
Becoming an official involves completion of an online officials’ test, a background check, athlete protection training, a workshop with US Swimming officials from your LSC, and several apprentice opportunities during local meets. You will be asked to officiate all ages of swimmers. The rules are the same for a local dual meet as they are for the Olympic Trials. There are opportunities to officiate open water events (from a beach, canoe, boat, or kayak), as well as high school, age group, and national meets. The benefit of the doubt goes to the swimmer and officials are there to educate. Officials do not disqualify, the swimmer disqualifies themselves, the official acknowledges the infraction.
Come One, Come All!
So, contact your local LSC or visit the US Swimming website to sign up for additional information. Come join us on deck, we’d love to have you!