India Hollingworth's journey to world class officiating

The Olympic and Paralympic Games may be a target for many athletes around the world, but it is also a goal for volunteer officials too. Young official, India Hollingworth, has been on the start line for some of the biggest moments in athletics, including Mo Farah’s last track race before he made the switch to marathon, and Usain Bolt’s last 100m final!

Having taken up athletics at school, India started her journey in the sport as a 1500m runner and high/triple jumper before discovering officiating.

“It’s so rewarding and its addictive. You just want to keep being involved.”

India Hollingworth officiating at London Worlds 2017

This insight led her to question the path of her future in athletics. The question: “could I get to an Olympics or World Championships as a competitor?” was answered with, “probably not, but could I get there as an official…?” Since this epiphany she hasn’t looked back.

As a Starter’s Assistant Hollingworth is the ‘voice’ of the Starters on the track making sure the athletes are in the correct place before the gun fires. She’s also the one to hold up the red and black card if someone is disqualified. She has worked at all levels, from schools to senior champs and masters level athletes.

“Sometimes with 11 year-olds the challenge is to get them to take their fingers out of their ears if they’ve never experienced a starter pistol before by reassuring them that it’s not that loud, dealing with elite athletes is obviously very different.”

Fast forward to the 2017 World Championships in London and India was assisting with the start line for Mo Farah’s last 5000m race. It didn't however go without a hitch as one of the athletes had their foot over the start line!

"The starter wouldn’t start the race. I remember the whole crowd shouting as I had to go out and speak to the athlete and I was thinking 'don’t mess up, not at Worlds, not on the BBC with everyone watching.' It’s a performance for the athletes, but it is for the official too. You don’t want to be the official who drops their cards or trips; if you get it wrong everyone will see you."

India gained her level four officiating qualification at the end of last year. Her ambition? “To get to a place where people know me, they know I’m good at what I do, where my reputation precedes me as an official.” Her ultimate dream is to be invited to officiate at the Olympics one day. 

There aren’t huge numbers of young officials and getting the balance can be tough when working full-time. Hollingworth does an average of 18 days officiating across the indoor and outdoor season, including officiating at English Schools’ Championships. Sometimes it’s a one-day stint, sometimes it’s both days across the weekend. “Young officials coming in need to remember that its ok to need a balance, you’ve got to be able to officiate and still go back to work on Monday. It is addictive though, and so rewarding.”

Want to learn more about officiating?

If you have been inspired by India's officiating journey and would like to get involved, look no further! We have a range of courses coming up whether you are interested in being a Starter's Assistant like India, or would prefer to have a role on the field, there really is something for everyone.

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