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HOT SPOT – Volunteers need training


Sherrylyn A. Toppin

HOT SPOT – Volunteers need training

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Many of the officials who only come out for the so-called “big meets” on the athletics calendar need to take a long, hard look at themselves.
They have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
At a time when volunteerism is on its deathbed, it is tough for me to vilify people who give up their Saturdays and Sundays to toil in the hot sun for little or no reward. But it would be remiss of me not to point out some of the glaring errors which have become more apparent as the 2011 athletics season has progressed.
For certain high-profile meets, scores of officials not only report for duty, but are there on time. You don’t see them on Saturdays at the Open League when the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) is struggling to find people to man certain areas on the track and in the field.
And apart from those who you could count on one hand, they certainly weren’t present at the Multi-Event Trails on April 9 and 10 when meet director Wendy Barrow-Smith had to rely on athletes from her club and a few CARIFTA team members who were at the National Stadium.
Those meets are “too small”, and the athletes deserve more than that.
Ironically, it is at the major meets such as the Powerade Barbados Secondary Schools’ Athletic Championships, the Barbados Relay Fair and even the Joseph Payne Memorial Classic when the volunteers are out in their numbers decked out in officials’ shirts, where their shortcomings are exposed because the bigger the stage, the closer the scrutiny.
Among some of the glaring errors seen over the season have been athletes trailing (the trail leg goes around the hurdle instead of over), relay teams being disqualified for being outside of the takeover zone even though the baton was inside the zone, and athletes running off the track and coming back on without penalties.
In all of these instances, officials have been standing close by and have promptly raised their white flags – signalling that all is well.
Some eagle-eyed spectators like to say officials are pulling their weight for certain athletes, schools or clubs.
I would hope not, but I see it as a need for training. Do they know what they should be looking for before they raise the flags?
 What is a foul in the throws??And did the athlete exit the long jump pit or the shot put sector in the correct place? Did the javelin make a mark? If so, why wasn’t it measured?
The AAA is constantly holding courses for officials and coaches, but the ones who need it most don’t attend. Even some who have undergone training eons ago refuse to go back. 
But the rules are constantly being changed or revised, as is the interpretation of those rules. That is where many officials are caught out. They may know the rules, but they don’t know how to apply them, or their interpretation is faulty. 
An officials’ representative is elected to serve on the AAA council and this person needs to ensure that officials are trained to the highest standard. 
One way of ensuring a cadre of trained officials is to tie a specific number of practical hours at AAA meets into the associate degree programme in physical education at the Barbados Community College and the Caribbean Examinations Council’s PE course for students.
Similarly, the AAA should hold at least three training sessions in the off-season or just before the start of a new season and only those who have attended at least two of those sessions should be eligible to officiate.
With the number of officials declining, that may be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. But if the whole registration, training and communication process is done in a structured manner, more than enough officials would be available for each meet.
The difference between making a call or not making it – whether the athlete benefits or not – could be a school or athlete winning or losing. At a higher level, it could mean a Barbadian athlete winning a medal, losing one or being disqualified, because a bad technique was never flagged so it could be corrected.
 
Sherrylyn Toppin is a NATION reporter. 

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