Officials Exchange Program

By Michael Lindstrom, Peter Westwood and Sally Hockey

Three Victorian Officials – Sally, Peter and Michael, were selected to participate in the official’s exchange program between ANSW and Athletics Victoria. We all met up at Sydney Airport on Friday evening 6 February with Sally flying in from Avalon, while Peter and Michael arrived from Tullamarine.

A rental car had been organised to transport us and so our first challenge was to find our way to Sydney Olympic Park. Michael had done his research on google maps and was therefore our nominated driver. So with the help of the car rental assistant and Michael’s googlemaps we were on our way.

We arrived at the hotel about 8.30pm and while checking in and been advised that on Saturday we would be sharing Sydney Olympic Park with NSW Rugby league fans attending the Charity Shield game at ANZ Stadium, followed by an all-night rave party and then the “Colourrun” early on Sunday morning, we decide on an early night in preparation for why we really came to Sydney – the NSW Junior Athletic Championships.

Next morning we walked over to the track, where we were met at the gate by Kim Owen, who was the Competition Manager for the weekend and  one of the NSW Officials Anne Grimm, who would be coming to Melbourne the following weekend for our Junior Championships.

We were taken into the Officials room and introduced to several of the NSW Officials. There were a few familiar faces with Officials who had previously been to Melbourne for AA meets and the National Championships. The morning briefing took place at 7.45am and outlined the day’s competition. We were formally introduced and made to feel welcome by everyone.

We did notice a special emphasis in the briefing to those Officials who were doing their “practical” qualification. There was a strong recommendation to those Officials to advise their event Chief or Referee prior to competition commencing that they would require sign off of their grading cards. From an outsider, the NSW Officials made a big thing of Officials completing their Grading exams and the practical requirements. In NSW only B grade Officials are allocated an event Chief role.

So for our first day we were allocated a range of events – Sally was on Throws, Michael on Horizontal Jumps and Peter ended up on High Jump, Shot put and then Triple Jump. It was a long day that finished around 7.30pm.

The weather was kind on day one although day two proved more challenging with temperatures in the mid to high 30s. Both days had favourable tail winds on the front straight and a number of performances reflected the good conditions.

We are spoilt at Lakeside with our Victorian Officials getting water delivered to the event sites – In Sydney Officials must take their own water bottle with no top up during the event.

It was also interesting to note that there was no call room operating, no club helpers and only athletes and Officials were on the ground. There was also a lack of tent structures at each site for Officials and athletes which made it tough for everyone as the temperature increased.

Day 2 and after enduring the all night rave music and dodging the “colour run” athletes at breakfast, we headed back to the track where we expected another hot day with forecast high temperature in the high 30s

Peter had an early start as Chief on the Pole Vault whilst Sally and Michael were again on Throws and Horizontal jumps.

We came together for our last event – a Triple Jump on Sunday afternoon before retracing our steps back to Melbourne. Unfortunately Michael and Peter had to endure a 90min delay on their flight that made their weekend even longer by the time they arrived back home in Melbourne..

Our weekend was full on, eventful and overall a great experience.

We made several observations including:

  • The measuring tapes used in Sydney are also prone to break as we witnessed in the TJ event –  an athlete’s trail measurement was delayed for over 5 minutes with Peter having to remain rock steady with the spike in the sand pit whilst a replacement tape was found and delivered to the event site;
  • Plasticine boards were used for all horizontal jumps but as the temperature increased the plasticine melted and was impossible to smooth out in hot weather  – no such problem in Melbourne weather;
  • Experienced Officials required for TJ and PV recording to deal with the different set up for athlete trials. The PV in Sydney required a mentor to sit alongside a novice official;
  • PV event was a single combined event for all male groupings on the Sunday – only 12 athletes;
  • Communication between the Referee , event Chief and event Officials should at all times be carried out in a calm and reassuring manner and not criticism;
  • More emphasis on Officials undertaking their duties in a proper manner;
  • No Call Room for athletes – athletes just turned up in time for warm up and competition start;
  • Event programming seemed staggered sufficiently to allow several 10 min breaks between event finish and athletes arriving for the next event, although his could be due to lower athlete numbers in each event;
  • AV Catering and water supplies for Officials are the best.

Generally events were run the same as here in Victoria although there was a strong emphasis on the right way to officiate, but in summary we all follow the same rule book and we are all there to assist the athletes by creating the best environment for them to perform to their best

Overall, this is a great initiative and will provide participating Officials with an opportunity to experience a different venue, witness and share a different approach, test yourself in unfamiliar surroundings and working with fellow officials, form friendships and to gain respect for the role that Officials play in our sport.

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