We always love to hear stories from our athletics family, to shout about and share your successes and triumphs, to inspire others to get into and enjoy our sport. Here Jane shares her story, how she got into Officiating after stumbling upon a local radio interview and taking part in one of our ‘Officials Taster Days’. Read on to find out more of her story, hopefully this will inspire you too…
‘Sitting in the M1 evening traffic in June after a hard day at work, I started flicking randomly through radio stations, hoping to stumble across something interesting to break the boredom. I heard the word ‘athletics’ which immediately caught my attention, and that’s where my Officiating journey began…
‘I’d tuned into my local radio station’s weekly sports programme and found myself totally engrossed in an interview with Alan Bell; the country’s well-known Chief Race Starter. He was discussing Officiating, the Official’s journey and how England Athletics were on the lookout for new Track and Field Judges. I only caught the last few minutes of the interview sadly, but that was enough.
‘Right time, right radio station; now was my time to do something I’d been considering off and on for a while. Up until the interview I hadn’t been aware that there was a structured Official’s training programme and pathway set-up; so that anyone, like me, could get involved. Come on traffic I thought to myself… I wanted to get home as fast as I could to get my laptop fired up and look up Officiating, and all that Alan had discussed.
‘I couldn’t wait to get involved and signed up for a Level One Field course, after much consideration and deliberation between Track and Field… I wasn’t sure which way to ‘jump’, but in the end Field won! I signed up for a course at Bedford Stadium that was taking place just a few weeks later.
‘As my excitement grew, I came across the England Athletics’ ‘Official’s Taster Days’ initiative, which I thought was a brilliant idea, and would give me great hands-on experience for all that was to come on my course, as well as confirm whether I'd made the right decision to go with ‘Field’.
‘I applied for a place at the next event and after some swift emailing to and from Nikki English, England Athletics’ Officials Development Officer, I found myself at Bedford International Athletic Stadium. Shadowing and working alongside some very experienced Track and Field Officials, with many years of judging behind them – this all happening just a few short weeks after hearing that interview with Alan Bell!
‘I had a brilliant day and completely immersed myself in the opportunities that had been set-up by Nikki and the team, to enable me and several other potential Officials get a feel for some of the duties that are required by Officials. I was made to feel very welcome from the start, and got so much from the day, all of the Officials I met were so kind and encouraging, all keen to share their experience and advice.
‘Having experienced a taster day, I would strongly recommend it to anyone considering entering the realms of athletics Officiating, and really feel that this is such a positive and helpful initiative by England Athletics to help source and support future Officials.
‘I prepared myself for the Level One Field course, which by coincidence also took place at Bedford, where I’d done my taster day, by completing the required online health and safety training and submitting my DBS paperwork. Then I was contacted by Nikki again, this time to ask if I’d be interested in having a mentor to help support and guide me. Another great idea I thought, and appreciatively accepted. My mentor, Mike Oakley, is a very experienced Field Judge and who along with Noel Moss, was to be my Level One Field Trainer a short time later.
‘Level One training day arrived and I had a great time learning so much about the different aspects of being a Field Judge. The group attending that day were a mixed bunch; athletes, coaches, parents and a couple like me, keen athletics enthusiasts. A broad range of ages, but all likeminded with a love of athletics.
‘My mentor gave me a starter pack which included some very useful information to get me going and to use in future; this made me feel that I was on my way to becoming a Field Judge.
My first meet
‘I was nervous before my first meet, which was at a track in Hertfordshire, but upon arriving at the track introductions were made and I felt quickly at ease. The organisers were well prepared, and I worked alongside a friendly and experienced bunch of Officials, who were all so welcoming and only too happy to help and share their knowledge.
‘Fast forward a busy few weeks before the end of the outdoor season, and I've experienced Officiating at several different tracks and been made to feel very welcome at every event, and feel I have developed and learnt so much in what is a relatively short space of time – I’m now a licenced Level One Field Official!’
Future aspirations and advice for others…
‘My next goal is to gain more experience to develop and further my knowledge and skills, to reach Level 2 Field Official standard. Supporting and working at some indoor events (another new and exciting opportunity) and getting to grips with ‘The Rule Book’ over winter.
‘My advice to anyone considering dipping their toe into the world of athletics and Officiating, is to go for it! Take the opportunity of taking part in a taster day and get that hands-on experience to see if this is for you - I'm sure you'll enjoy it and be glad you did! I’m glad I changed the radio station and decided to go for something I’d considered for a while, and am very much looking forward to all that is to come.’