The focus for most people at an athletics meeting is on the athletes, but there is a large group of volunteers who are just as passionate about be a part of the sport. We chat to five enthusiastic Kiwi officials with varying levels of experience to gauge their story.
Heather O’Hagan – Age 58 – Chair of the National Officials Committee (Waikato)
How, why and when did you first decide to get involved as an official?
Heather O’Hagan: When my children started competing with the Paeroa club I took them to their first ribbon day. Sitting still watching isn’t my thing, so I decided to help out with the discus. As my children later dropped out of the sport I continued because I enjoyed seeing the competitors week after week. When asked why I still do it, the reply is usually “anything is better than house work”.
Can you explain your current status as an official and what your role entails?
Heather: As well as being WBOP’s official’s co-ordinator and trainer, I am one of ANZ’s five ATO (Area) officials appointed by Oceania Athletics. At the ANZ Track and Field National Champs this means I am often watching various events, reporting back to the technical delegate on any problems and being available to the referees for advice. I have also acted as Technical Delegate at ANZ Combined Events Championships- ensuring that the events run according to the IAAF requirements. I seem to be doing more meet management roles now. I have recently been appointed as the Chair of ANZ’s National Official’s Committee and one of the main functions of this committee is to ensure we are training good quality officials which will ensure that we can run good competitions.
What are your favourite three things about being an official?
Heather: Watching the development of athletes as the season progresses. The camaraderie of working with other officials and recording the measurements at a throwing event because I enjoying both watching the event and the having close contact with competitors.
What is the most challenging aspect to your role?
Heather: Getting people to work together for the common goal, which enables the athletes to achieve the results they want. This might be to try to get a throws team to work efficiently, for the meeting management to flow or to encouraging the vaguely interested to get involved.
Do you feel there is a clear pathway for officials’ development?
Heather: Yes, for those interested. The biggest frustration is the difficulty securing “places” for our NZ officials to attend the highest level of courses and assessments. One barrier to the pathway is the personal cost in both time and money.
Why would you encourage the younger generation to become involved as an athletics official?
Heather: Being an official is the “best seat in the house”. Not everyone with an interest in the sport can achieve at a high level, but encouraging less able athletes into officiating side keeps them in contact with the sport.
What is your most treasured memory as an official?
Heather: Being on the spike at the Athletics NZ Champs senior women’s shot put the first time Val (Adams) passed the 20m mark in competition – I knew it before anyone else did!
Photo: Alan McDonald, MacSpeed