Editorial - A great way to be part of sport

Portrait of Tony Wynd
Author:  Tony Wynd, Manager Coaching and Officiating Australian Sports Commission
Issue: Volume 7 Number 1

Becoming an official is often not a conscious decision for most first time officials.  A person will be asked to help out, or see the need to take on a role, and before they know it, they are an official.  For some, that first time experience of officiating has lead them to a rewarding and satisfying officiating career, be it at the local level or for some, at the international level. 

Australians fill close to one million roles as referee, umpire, scorer or timekeeper, according to recent research*, which means the number of people who officiate is greater than the number of people who coach. 

Recently I was handed the whistle to umpire trial matches in Australian football.  I have played and coached footy, but have only spasmodically filled the umpires role.  There were many trial matches that day and volunteers were in short supply.  While my approach may have been a little unconventional for some onlookers, the experienced reminded me that the role is a challenging one.  The support of my fellow volunteer made it a little less stressful and once we were underway I actually enjoyed the experience.  In the end, the chance to get in and have a go was great for me on several levels.  I would be more confident to do it again but at the same time It also reminded me that the skills and abilities “real’ umpires are generally underappreciated.

Officiating provides opportunities for people of all ages to participate in sport.  For juniors, it is another way children can participate in sport.  Encouraging juniors to take on an officiating role is increasingly being seen as a positive way of engaging juniors in sport, as well as extending their involvement in sport. If juniors are actively participating in a sport and cease to compete, they can continue their involvement by officiating.  Officiating allows juniors to flourish and develop their own skills that will assist them outside of sport.

Not only can juniors extend their time in a sport by taking on the role of an official, retired athletes can experience continued involvement in sport by taking on an officiating role.  The experience of being involved in a sport can assist athletes make the transition from athlete to official.  Consider the fitness required for active officials, or criteria for judging events.  Many athletes already have these skills which can assist in them becoming competent officials.

Having not played a sport does not preclude people from taking on an officiating role in that sport.  Some people may have a keen interest in a sport and the way they can participate in the sport is by officiating.

Parents will often find themselves in the position of officiating in a sport that they do not have a background in, other than their child is involved and a person is required to take on an officiating role.  Parents can take on officiating roles, simply because there is a need for a person to do a job.  This initial experience as an official has lead many parents to continue in a sport long after their children have moved on.

It is great to see so many Australians take on an officiating role.  Regardless of how people find their way into officiating, the important thing is that they do.  They then need support encouragement and assistance from other officials to stay in the role.  The environment officials operate in will impact on their longevity in the sport.  This is an area that we can all work to improve, to make it better for all involved.  Are your recruits in good hands? 

*Source: ABS Involvement in organised sport and physical activity, 6285.0, April 2007

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