Liz Scott won the Official of the Year award at the SWIS Gala Dinner. In this week’s blog she tells us a little about what her role as an athletics volunteer is and why she enjoys it so much.
I have been officiating for about 25 years as a field judge in athletics. This involves running any of the field events from long jump and pole vault to hammer throw and discus. Like a lot of people who end up in officiating roles in sport I got into it after taking my daughter to training sessions, leagues and competitions and being asked to be a parent helper. I found that I actually really enjoyed it and decided to complete the training to become a graded official. Since then I have continued to work my way up to a level 3 Official, which is the highest before management. In a nutshell, my role is to help make sure the Athletics meeting runs as smoothly as possible and that the rules are followed ensuring competition is fair for all of the athletes. But, equally as important, I also try to make the athletes feel relaxed so they can do their best and enjoy themselves.
I attend all types of Athletics meetings ranging from Scottish grassroots leagues to international and televised events. This means that sometimes I find myself officiating at events where the athletes are under 11 years old, who’s motivation is led by enjoyment for the sport and taking part and sometimes it is the complete other extreme, were the event is full of professional athletes who are really serious and there to win!
A typical day of officiating usually means leaving my house around 6.30am, travelling to Dumfries to join other officials and then on to either Glasgow, Grangemouth, Aberdeen or wherever the competition might be. Upon arrival at the venue, all the officials check in and collect a duty sheet, attend a briefing and then head out onto the track to start competitions. You can be on anything from 3 to 5 events in the day and sometimes we don't get time to stop for lunch as we are moving from one field event to another throughout the competition. Events usually finish between 4.00 and 5.30pm and I then travel home, arriving about 8.00pm.
If you are the referee (manager of the event officials that day) you also have some paperwork to do before the event. This includes making up duty sheets for all the other officials and leading the briefing at the meeting.
Officiating can be a long day and sometimes competitions last over both days in the weekend. However, usually when this happens I stay overnight near the venue with the other officials! All in all, it is pretty busy officiating at events, but I love it; the atmosphere has such a buzz around it and it is incredibly rewarding!
I love knowing that as a result of me volunteering my time to support events, I am helping to keep kids fit and healthy and encourage them to be active into adulthood. It gives you such a sense of pride when you watch participants doing something they enjoy and keeping fit. I much prefer this than thinking of kids sitting on a games console or the like. In addition, because I have been doing this for 25 years I have built up a wide social network of friends in the officiating community and not just in Scotland, but all over the UK. This is a really interesting and fun part of the role.
Recently I won ‘Official of the Year’ at the SWIS awards. I found out I had won the award when I was checking my emails: I opened one from Maureen at SWiS thinking “what can this be?” and got quite a shock to read that I had won the SWiS Official of the Year! I read it 3 times to make sure I had read it correctly and then, thinking there must be a mistake, shouted to my husband Nigel to come and read it. I next phoned my daughter Jane to tell her and see if she knew any more, which of course she did as she was the one who nominated me!
I was delighted to have won and attended the awards evening with my husband, daughter and her partner. It was exciting and nerve-wracking, but we were soon put at ease and made to feel we were among friends. I felt very honoured receiving the award, but I was nervous about being interviewed as I usually like to stay in the background and not in the spotlight. The whole evening was very enjoyable and it was great to hear what others have done and see so many people coming together to celebrate women in sport.
Since receiving the award, 2 of my local papers have written a feature on me. This has been great as I now feel that I am supporting the work of SWIS and raising the profile of women in sport and of course, not just women as athletes! I have had so much positive feedback from my friends on Facebook and this week I even received a letter of congratulations from MSP Dr Aileen McLeod! In addition to all of this I was invited along to a local women’s group to talk to them about officiating at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. They have all been very keen to see my award and hear all about experiences at Hampden that evening.
Since 2012 my officiating schedule has been incredibly busy with the London Olympics and Paralympics and this year the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I am so lucky to have had these experiences and winning the SWIS award has been a fantastic end to this spell. I feel very motivated and excited to be doing more officiating n 2015, but it will be back to normality a bit were I will officiate at a range of athletics events.
I would love to encourage more women into sport, whether that is as athletes, coaches, officials or club volunteers. I really do believe it is possible to work full time and give some time as a volunteer in sport. I find it so rewarding and I really hope my positive experiences provide inspiration to others to get involved.