Jean Jackson: An Inspiring Official helping others to follow in her footsteps  

Over the last month at our Regional Awards we have been celebrating the wonderful volunteers that help make athletics and running so special. One of the awards celebrated was the Inspiring Official award which provided an opportunity to thank the licensed officials who are championing excellence across the regions. 

At the Yorkshire and Humberside awards we chatted to Jean Jackson, recipient of the Inspiring Official award, about how she got into officiating and the impact she has had on many officials in the region. 

How did you get into officiating? 

Jean’s officiating journey started whilst watching her daughter competing, but has continued beyond her daughter’s athletics career: 

“I was going to watch my daughter throw the discus, 40 years ago, and the club asked would I come and help because they realised I was there every time and I was enjoying it."

"So, I went to help and I thought, if I'm helping, I might as well get some qualifications. So, I started working my way up that way. And even though my daughter stopped competing, I carried on officiating.” 

What do you enjoy most about officiating? 

Jean has many happy memories of officiating over the years, but here are a few things that stood out to her: 

“I suppose selfishly seeing my daughter on the top of the podium, you know, and to think I had a little bit to do with it that was good." 

“Seeing young people achieve in particular, I mean, it's good to celebrate adults as well, but young people who come and do better than they did last time. It's not always about winning, it's just improving and enjoying it. Socially as well, you meet people from all over the place. I've travelled all over England and parts of Scotland doing this, so you meet people, which is always good." 

“But from the officiating side, it's seeing young people now coming in. We are getting some more interest from younger people and that's reassuring because about five years ago there was a great gap, nobody under 40 seemed to be coming in to officiate. But there are some younger people who aren't necessarily athletes, especially with things like photofinish because that's technical, so the young people are thinking, I can do that, I don't need to run, but I can help with that.  

“There's a wider variety, I think, of people coming into officiating, but we are desperately, desperately short.” 

How have you supported others to follow in your officiating footsteps in the region? 

Jean’s nomination for the Inspiring Official award recognised the work she has done across the Yorkshire and Humberside region to mentor other officials looking to progress through officiating qualifications: 

“I’ve mentored quite a few people. Initially, people would come watch and say, ‘how do I do it?’, so I’d help them with the process to start off with and then guide them all the way through."

"We had somebody recently who joined in and started doing some events with us, so I'd meet up now and again and just have a chat or they could ring me. It's being available really when people want you and it's always important. I think when I was started officiating, I didn't quite know where to go at one stage to get some help and you do need some support.” 

If you could say one thing to someone who’s thinking about officiating, but they’ve not taken that step yet, what would you say? 

“Come and have a try! You don't need to commit yourself to do what I do; you can just come. Like I said, if you get a level one, it's so helpful to the clubs and you can say no, if you're asked to do more than you want to, just say no, but come and enjoy it. It is good fun!” 

Inspired to get involved in officiating?