Peter Tomlinson, cycling official - Passion is the key

Track cycling in action
Author:  Cathy Reid
Issue: Volume 5 Number 2

On the outside, cycling commissaire (referee) Tomlinson Tomlinson appears calm, measured and in control, but just underneath the surface burns a passion for the sport he has devoted a decade of his life to as an official.

‘You have to have that passion if you are going to be a good official,’ Tomlinson said. ‘You’ve got to love the sport.

‘Those who want to be an official for other reasons — such as the prestige or being in the limelight — tend to come unstuck, whereas those who stick at it and do the hard

yards when they’re not in the limelight are the ones who enjoy it the most and reap the rewards.’

Tomlinson should know. He is one of Australia’s top cycling commissaires and is highly ranked internationally. A former competitive cyclist himself, it was a natural

progression for Tomlinson.

‘I’d always been interested in the technical areas of the sport, so when it became necessary for my club to have a commissaire I did the state course, did quite well and

was encouraged to become more involved with the elite side.’

Since then he has made a mark, becoming NSW Commissaire in 1995, National Commissaire in 1997 and International Commissaire in 2000.

His biggest thrill so far has been working as a results volunteer for IBM at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

‘They wanted someone who intrinsically understood the draws and how the system worked. The build up and the whole hype around the Olympics was a highlight, which will be

pretty hard to match.’

Coming close is the track competition at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

‘Particularly the Australian team pursuit world record, which was a wonderful moment, especially after witnessing the German team break four minutes at the Sydney Olympics,

which many said was a record that would stand for ten years.’

Tomlinson has been given the nod for a commissaire position at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

‘The fact that Britain and Australia are two of the best countries in the world in track cycling means it will be a great competition. The standard is up there with the

world championships.’

Officiating has taken Tomlinson around the globe to a number of the world championships and road tours in South Korea, Austria and the United States where he has had to learn to deal with stress.

But it comes with the territory, particularly when he is Chief Commissaire, a role he has filled at the past five Australian Track Championships.

‘There’s a lot of pressure because ultimately the final decision is with you. You coordinate the other commissaires. Generally at a track meet like that there are 15

others to do all the different roles from judging to starting.

‘I’ve grown into the role. I don’t get sweaty palms any more. For the first couple of years I did feel the pressure. But you learn to work with the managers.’

He has also had to deal with the odd unhappy parent, but has a policy of tackling these situations head on.

‘I take the time to discuss the situation in presence of other people, such as a coach or another knowledgeable parent, to avoid things becoming confrontational.

‘If you can make sure they understand a point of view or a reason a decision has been made it works out for the best.’

Tomlinson has never been one to shy away from asking questions himself, particularly when he started out as an official.

‘I was lucky to have a few senior people in cycling, Richie Small, Alex Fulcher and Norm Sargent, who encouraged me. They saw the potential when I first got involved. When

there was anything I needed to discuss during a competition I could talk to them about it. You certainly learn from your mistakes and it helps if you can discuss issues.’

He too would like to be a mentor to others who might like to follow his path.

‘I’d certainly like to be able to help others in the same way I was helped.’

The single most important piece of advice he can give anyone wanting to take on a role as a sports official is to ‘follow your passion’.

‘You have to have that burning desire to do it. Then you have to be patient and persistent and take the good with the bad.’

Tips for being a successful official

  • Have a passion for your sport.
  • Be patient
  • Plan ahead
  • Be prepared
  • Read about and watch your sport
  • Ask questions of your peers
  • Do your homework
  • Be open and friendly
  • Avoid being aloof
  • Tackle issues quickly to clear the air

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