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It’s certainly no secret that swimming isn’t the best spectator sport. While watching our own kids swim, their events can be exciting for the short time their heats last, but swim meets make for very early mornings and extremely long, long, long days at the pool.
When my daughter Reese started to compete at swim meets outside our club, one of the coaches pulled me aside and told me, “Simon, you should start getting involved in officiating.” And so I did, and frankly it has been the best decision I’ve made for both of us; here are some reasons why…
Swim meets are fun! I don’t know about you, but I can’t sit for 8-10 hours reading a book or chatting with other parents in the stands. Instead, I chose to volunteer my time at swim meets. Reese swims, I officiate. The days are still long, but enjoyable. It’s fun to socialize and build friendships with other parents who officiate; you get a fantastic view of the action, and the time flies. Best of all, most meets offer free food for officials so you’ll never go hungry.
You learn a lot. I had no idea the amount of work and effort that goes into arranging a swim meet. Did you know a typical swim meet requires between 40 and 50 volunteers? There are timers, stroke and turn officials, referees, starters, clerical positions, electronics, and on and on. Most importantly, what I’ve learned as I progress through the different officials levels is actually how complex the sport is. I learn something new at every meet. When you understand the sport, you appreciate it even more. Trust me it’s very interesting!
It’s the best way to support your swimmer. As an official, you have to be professional and impartial; so working the deck and cheering your swimmer isn’t an option, but you don’t need to say anything. Just being there and being involved in the sport through volunteering is very powerful. Reese knows I’m there; she looks at me before taking to the blocks for every race and she always looks at me when her race is done. It’s a really powerful connection. I’m right there with her and I’m engaged in her sport.
One very important thing to understand is that swim meets don’t run themselves and without volunteers, they cannot run. It’s very easy to make excuses for not volunteering and it’s really easy to sit back and let other parents step up to the plate. However, just remember that by volunteering and officiating, it’s the best investment of your time in truly supporting your swimmer.
The first step to becoming an official is to take the Swim BC Level I officials clinic where you’ll learn the basics of a swim meet as well as how to be a timer (most important job on deck). Officials clinics are often put on at night, are free, and are offered through your club as well as other clubs in the area. Look out for announcements about these clinics from your club and feel free to ask me questions about officiating anytime. I hope to see you on deck soon!