Officials run the swimming venue in a manner that is fair to all competitors. Officials are not the competition, but are observers of the competition. The official’s crew at a given meet is a separate team that has the common goal of providing safe and equitable competition knowing at the conclusion that they have provided a wholesome environment for young adults to learn valuable lessons on hard work and dedication. The good official is always in the correct observation position so that they have an uncompromised view of the competition. At the conclusion of the competition, 99% of the spectators don’t even know who the officials were as they drew no attention to themselves.
An official’s behavior is expected to be impeccable. Within CA facilities, the official is no different than any other guest and is expected to act in a professional and personable manner. They should communicate effectively and non-threateningly. They must never strike or threaten to strike a competitor, coach, fellow official, spectator, or pool operations staff member. Those who do should be asked to step away from their position on deck and possibly asked to leave the premises if their behavior worsens. The expected behavior of the athlete and coaching staff is no different once they enter the venue.
To perform effectively, officials need to be in position to observe competitors when they are within their jurisdiction. The official should stand approx two steps back from the pool’s edge for starts and move to the edge immediately following the starting tone in concurrence with the swimmers’ entrance to the pool. They should remain near the edge while they have swimmers in their jurisdiction and have the ability to take a step or two away when the swimmers are not. At the conclusion of the race, the official should step back away from the edge to allow for the exchange of the departing swimmer with the next heat.
All officials have a responsibility to assist the referee keep an orderly and efficient deck. This can be done easily by conversing with all persons on deck calmly and conversationally. Officials should never intentionally touch swimmers or coaches. They should initially use their voice to encourage cooperation with rules or procedures and only use touch as a last resort to gently cajole enforcement of what has been asked verbally.
A competent official is a student of the rules. They do not invoke historical or obsolete rules, nor do they introduce personal feelings into the content of the rulebook. Officials follow the rules and invoke published interpretations into their work. The swimmer always gets the benefit of the doubt. The confident official can easily distinguish when the swimmer deserves the benefit as opposed to blatantly allowing swimmers to participate outside the published rules. A good official recognizes the coach’s role in playing advocate for the athlete and should expect that every call may require defending or further scrutiny by the referee should the need arise.
While the CNSL does not have an apprenticeship program, officials training and occasional work or discussions with more experienced officials is encouraged. When interpretations are needed, the request should be forwarded to the league with the goal of receiving sufficient information for future guidance. Unfortunately, the league does not have sufficient resources to have fully trained and experienced meet referees at each and every meet. Common sense and fair play must prevail at all competition. Decisions must be based on sound judgment and every decision can be questioned for clarification. Be cautious not to make decisions quickly that set precedence which is clearly outside of or directly against the permissible rules.
No one is perfect. Officials are human and occasionally make mistakes. The competent official quickly recognizes a mistake has been made and seeks out an equitable remediation that is both in accordance with the rules and mutually agreeable with the athlete and meet referee. No official should ever take offense when challenged by a referee to provide additional information in a given situation. It only shows that everyone is performing their job and doing what is right for the athlete.
Officials that question their role or their competency should take a step back and ask themselves if they volunteered for the right reasons. With only a five to six week summer competition season, an official must assimilate quickly or seek additional assistance to gain the confidence needed to become truly comfortable on the pool deck.