- Written by Barry Huff
Why do I officiate at track meets?
Let me be clear, while I enjoy the competitions on the track, it's the field events that tug at my heart. Events on the track are often high pressure cattles-calls in which mistakes can't be easily corrected. The setting itself can also be punishing on athletes, coaches, officials and spectators -- being roasted by the heat radiated up from the same synthetic surfaces, which are also designed to maximize the performance of runners and jumpers.
When I get the privilege to officiate the long throws (javelin, hammer, and discus), in between competition flights, I often stand barefoot in the event's natural grass. When I do this, I feel like I'm 9 years old again, sneaking onto my neighbor's (Mr. Walton) manicured lawn to cool the blackened, burning soles of my bare feet, after running on the blistering summertime sidewalk.
Also, field events almost feel like a backyard barbecue. Heck, like a barbecue, many of the spectators bring their own folding chairs and canopies to ensure comfort during the event. Canopies in the stands during running events often block the view of other spectators trying to see their favorite athlete. On the field, there is ample room to spread out.
Instead of the super-charged, caffeinated voice of the public address announcer blasting from stadium speakers trying to hype the overheated crowd sitting uncomfortably in the stands, most communication from the field officials are limited simply to:
- The flight coordinator announcing, "(First thrower) throwing; (second thrower) on deck; (third thrower) on hold!"
- Raising a white flag to indicate a legal throw, or a raising red flag for foul.
- The crew of officials silently and quickly measuring the distance of the throw, before the light coordinator announces the distance thrown.
- Methodically, repeating steps 1 to 3, until the event is over.
It's the methodical nature of the long throws (and all field events) that make them both peaceful and soothing, if officiated correctly.
And to top it off, unlike running events (which are often limited to only one chance of doing your best), field event competitors are given at least THREE chances to give their best effort. They throw, then go back with the other athletes to relax, recompose themselves for their next attempts. What's more heart-warming than a second chance!
It's in the calm of officiating field events, I get to silently thank Dillard (D.D.) Yates of my son's former summer track club (San Antonio Heat). I thought I was doing my son a favor, and helping him turn his speed into potential sports glory and memories. In the end, after D.D. said that parents needed to volunteer to become certified USA Track and Field in 2016, it was me who continues to build memories at youth, collegiate, and masters' level meets.
Certified USATF Official