The day after my own race at the London Triathlon at the weekend, I returned to complete my fourth and final shadowing of a qualified official, and became a triathlon technical official in my own right. I am now a “Local Technical Official“, the most junior of officials, and permitted “to be the chief official at pool based triathlon and aquathlon events along with duathlons, including children’s and paratriathlon events … also qualified to be an assistant official at open water events.” Woohoo!
The course consisted of a day in the classroom, learning the responsibilities of officials, the rules, officiating styles, conflict resolution and some paperwork. This is followed by a take-home, open-book knowledge test which is marked by Triathlon England. After this, you are sent out into the wide world as an “Assistant Technical Official”, where you shadow a qualified official at 4 events and learn on the job. I was lucky to shadow 2 senior officials with experience of officiating at World Series and Olympic level events.
My motivation for becoming a triathlon technical official was originally selfish; I thought that I’d get a better understanding of the rules and learn lessons I could apply to my own racing. That is definitely true: you only need to stand at bike check-in or on the dismount line to see some crazy things. I’ve seen enough dismount line crashes, where the competitor hasn’t practiced pedalling with their feet on top of their shoes to last me a lifetime. It just goes to reinforce one of the biggest rules: Don’t try something new on raceday! It’s not worth the chance of it going wrong. I think that by watching others make these mistakes, I’m much less likely to do something stupid myself, and much less likely to incur a penalty.
However, now that I’ve completed my 4 shadows, I’ve realised that officiating can be great fun itself. It can be stressful, but there is also a lot of smiling, chatting with competitors, marshals and other officials and welcoming newcomers to our sport. There are of course some tough decisions to be made if penalising a competitor is required, but so far I’ve not had any problems and it’s been great fun to see event from the other side.
I fully recommend signing up to train as an official – I think there are always more needed. In England, visit the officials section of the Triathlon England site; other places should contact their national federation.
Now I can’t wait to be posted to my first event as “chief official”…