“What is Sunday School” I once asked my parents when I was little. “It’s where people go on a Sunday to learn about God” came the reply. “We learn about God at school, why do they also do it on Sunday?” I wondered.
Fast forward 40 plus years and I had a similar feeling when my inbox pinged with the arrival of…. (cue drum roll)…. an invitation to the Swimming NSW Technical Official’s Forum on Sunday 26th July 2015.
I visualised an event being held in a cold and drafty church hall miles away, featuring such insomnia curing subjects as “Recent Revisions to the Rules of Swimming” and “Working with Children Check Update”. The invitation was instantly forgotten and ignored.
How completely and uttery wrong I was
A chance conversation with Graeme Field, SNSW Technical Committee Chairman, alerted me that this was not infact a constitutionally required meeting that would struggle to achieve quorum, but instead a fun and vibrant day of socialisation, discussion and education. Never judge a book by its cover I guess.
The “cold and draft church hall miles away” turned out to be top notch conference and events centre only half an hour away. “Recent Revisions to the Rules of Swimming” was expertly crafted by John Hart and Jose Jalvo into a fascinating and engaging discussion about the latest pronouncements from FINA. And Mark Heathcote managed to transform the after lunch graveyard slot into a swift, punchy and informative briefing about NSW Working with Children legislation.
Compliance or Choreography?
As a relative newbie in a convention of experts I was both awestruck and confused. Listening to the great and good of NSW Swimming Technical-official-dom debate the nuances of our craft was at times like listening to literature professors analyse Shakespeare.
Just when it seemed as if the swimming rules might rise up and swallow me, Ken Jones came to the rescue with “Pool Deck Protocols”. Like the caller at a barn dance, “spin your partner by the left” became “stand 1m behind the swimmer and move forward on the starting signal”. Not as eloquent, but equally effective in creating a tidy and professional spectacle for the crowd, and visual cue to the referee.
And there lies the tension. Are we there to monitor compliance, or choreograph a performance of athletes?
Of course the answer is both, but I wonder whether we could accelerate the recruitment of new people by reversing the order. As the new coordinator of Technical Officials in our area, I’ve made a mental note to use Purpose – Process – Policy when educating new entrants.
No Ivory Tower
Experts can sometimes appear superior. Not here. Newbies are welcomed, embraced and supported. Chris Hayes spoke about a new “Area Development Program” designed to institutionalise and automate the sharing of knowledge and expertise. Beyond the podium across the floor of the room I felt welcome, supported and energised.
But wait, there’s more!
An analysis of rule infractions during the last season prompted a healthy debate about whether the driver of this was swimmer behaviour or officials’ knowledge and visibility. Timekeeper allocations for the next season were explained. Peter Shell appeared to be auditioning for a part in a daytime TV shopping channel as he demonstrated the application and removal of backstroke ledges.
At lunchtime, nobody “started before the starting signal”, although I did note several “arm movements not simultaneous” whilst eating. Thankfully Faye Lewis’ new improved rule infraction card was ready and waiting.
The Technical Committee superbly supported by Cherry Smith deserve a massive shout for their work both during the season and on the day.
Do spread the word – same time, same place, next year.