As the Selangor novice swimming championships in Shah Alam fast approaches (starts tomorrow October 15th, actually); there will be a build-up of excitement varying in degree from being nervous as a swimmer competing for the first time, or second time…maybe it is his (her) 5th or 6th competition. The other end of the degree of excitement is the swimmer that cannot wait to race even though it is his first time doing so.
While the athletes, their parents and coaches often take center stage in any sport and competition, a major component of any competition are the technical officials. These are the people that run the competition. In recent times, you would probably have heard of technical officials involved and mired in controversy with how they carry out their duties. That sport is Formula 1. Not in swimming or if a situation ever does arise; it is very rare.
I can give my views more on swimming due to my personal experiences. The technical officials involved on deck (at the swimming pool area) are the referees, race starters, judges and officials on both end of each of the 10 lanes of the swimming pool. Then, there are the marshals who register the swimmers before each race and get them ready in their respective lane positions before moving them to their lanes to ready for the race.
An integral part of the officials team are the officials in charge of hospitality. These are some ladies who ensure that food and drinks are ready lunch, morning and afternoon breaks. Experience from the Selangor run competitions is that they usually don’t stop for lunch breaks, more so when there are many heats in each event. The organizers know the athletes, their parents and coachers are usually at the pool as early as 6.30am and try to end the competition each day, as early as possible. The day can end at 7.00pm or 8.00pm if there are many heats in each event and if there are several major rest breaks.
There are also the announcers and IT people (ensuring the results are up on the notice board almost as soon as the race is over).
Being a technical official most definitely has its perks, the best of which is first hand experience and involvement in the championship itself. No duty is too small that it lacks merit. Every technical official has to play his or her role in order for the meet competition to be a success. Parents are encouraged to volunteer themselves for duty as technical officials. You can take up a Grade III Technical Officials’ course (as I did), if you intend to serve as an official, long term.
The swimmers – ultimately they are the stars of the “show”. Some start as early as 5 years old and work their way up. In their innocence, they are entertainers out of the water, as well. Some years ago; I had a young English girl who was probably around 7 or 8 years old, come up to me and started chatting. I was a marshal at that championship. She talked about her elder brother and pointed out where her mum was in the spectators’ stand. It was her way of overcoming her nervousness as it was her first race in her first championship that she was taking part in.
I had young children come up to me (and they still do), asking me to help show them which event, heat and lane there are racing in, or if they had missed it. Many come up to me after their race asking how they did. To me, they are all winners.
The highlight for these young athletes is before and after their races, in the secondary pool; where they get to play with their friends. Their laughter and smiles on their faces – epic!