My oldest kid is a serious about swimming and my usual week is full of the frantic juggling to get her to her swimming training sessions at a variety of locations across Edmonton – usually lasting between 2 to 3 hrs long and luckily, all after school. To add some complexity, my other 2 kids also swim but in different places, on different days, and at different times. Whoever said life was simple!
Back in the UK, I started training as a swimming judge – mainly so I could understand the rules and be able to articulate them to the kids. It also provides an opportunity for me to do something meaningful during the numerous swimming competitions we attend, rather than watch from the spectator stands. My oldest kid loves the fact that I’m there and on poolside, so it works well.
When we relocated to Canada, I was keen to try and transfer the skill set across – albeit, my broken wrist at Christmas didn’t help (click here to get up to speed) and somewhat delayed the process. The volunteering system is huge over here and requests to transfer in as a swimming judge, welcomed with open arms. Everything is slick, well-managed and catered for. So, I have just spent the last weekend carrying out 5 shifts as a swimming judge (‘Stroke and Turn’ if you must ask), and am now officially registered as a judge with Swim Canada. For those that know me and my uncanny ability to avoid any significant forms of exercise, the irony is not lost on me I admit. However, this appeals to me completely – I can justifiably encourage and enforce the Canadian Swimming rules, without having to venture demonstrating them myself. I know exactly what a good butterfly and breaststroke look like, how turns need to be executed, and relay change-overs applied – and can readily articulate this. Just don’t ask me to demonstrate otherwise you’ll be bitterly disappointed – or alternatively, will keel over laughing at my inane attempts! It’s not a dry past-time either. Prepare to be doused in water and lots of it. I got that wet at times over the weekend, I was beginning to wonder whether I would’ve been better as a competitor in the water rather than a judge on poolside!
Compared to my experiences of judging in the UK, the attendance and sheer number of volunteers around the poolside in Canada is extraordinary. Everyone is assigned a specific role for the duration of a session and with a formal briefing prior to the start which is conducted bang on time, every time, by the referee; it gets everyone well versed on what needs to happen, how the referee wants to run the ‘meet’, and what to do should an ‘infraction’ be observed. The interesting and most significant difference I notice from judging in both countries, is the Canadian emphasis on doing it purely for the kids and providing them with the environment during a ‘meet’ which best demonstrates their abilities as a result of the enormous efforts they put into training every day of the week. It’s a subtle difference and I’m not inferring that this isn’t the case in the UK, but it’s articulated that many times that you find the behaviours align to the ethos. It’s a positive experience for everyone concerned, and I’m sure it delivers better results in the longer term.
It was an ‘International’ meet with teams travelling all across Canada to compete. A different use of the word ‘international’ than what I’m used to in the UK, but given the size and scale of Canada alone, well justified. The organisers are rightly proud of its longevity as a stalwart in the ‘Meet Calendar’, citing that the ‘Meet’ started back in 1978 and was also where changes to the rules for false starts were made and then applied across Canada – and are now applied across the World. Good heritage indeed.
One of the by-products is that you get to meet such a variety of other volunteers, and we all have a laugh and a joke alongside the seriousness of the ‘meet’ and ensuring adherence to the rules and regulations. Perfect for us a ‘new arrivals’ to the country. My oldest delivered some PB’s (personal best) times in her swims and left smiling each day. That’s what it’s all about. I thoroughly enjoyed it, felt as though I’d assisted and made a difference, plus got to use a completely different skill set than the one I do on a daily basis.
So here’s to the next one. Take your marks ….