Your role as an Official
Your role as an Official at your local Little Athletics Centre is much more than officiating the rules on the event. Primarily your role as an Official is to:
- Facilitate the opportunity for children to participate, compete and enjoy athletics
- Ensure that all children are safe
- Help all the children improve
- Create a fun environment to which children will want to return
Officiating junior sport is not the same as officiating senior sport. It is extremely important that everybody associated with Little Athletics understands this very important point. Children are no little adults. The differences are:
- The child comes first, not the rules.
- Officials at junior sport need to apply the rules to match the skill levels of the child and the activity.
- The simpler the skill level, the more simple and relaxed are the rules and their interpretations.
- Be consistent, fair and objective when making decisions, giving the benefit of the doubt to the child.
- Be courteous when making decisions, use it as a learning experience for the child. If they have done something the wrong way, show them the right way and give them another attempt.
- Compliment and encourage all participants - officials are role models and a source of confidence building for a child.
- Ensure that the activity is conducted within "the spirit of the game" and that sportsmanship underpins all actions.
- Always remember that officials in junior sport have a big responsibility. As a child's first foray in to organised sport, a positive experience will help set in place a lifetime of involvement. Likewise a negative experience can severely impact on a child's involvement in any future physical activity.
Managing and Communicating
Through completing the Officials document, volunteers should have the knowledge and competence to conduct an event at Little Athletics. However, this only covers the technical side of running an activity; the more important side is being good at managing and communicating with groups of children and other volunteers.
Managing and communicating with children
- Children don't respond to instructions in the same way adults do. Instructions have to be clear, simple and have practical meanings. Don't leave the interpretations of the instructions up to the child.
- Think about the words you use. In understanding a message, adults can use a range of skills that aren't available to children. Adults can interpret words in the context of the message/situation, watch your body language and gestures and draw from past experiences. Children more often than not, take the verbal word literally. The words you use should reflect literally what your message is.
- Always be encouraging, children are very good at remembering experiences. If they break a rule, be encouraging, supportive and directional in the language you use. Officiating should be a form of instruction on how to do it right.
- Sarcasm or being critical in a joking way isn't something that children have learnt to interpret well; it should not be used.
- Children want to be active, asking them to stand quietly in line for periods of time to await their turn isn't often successful. Try and keep them active when it's not their turn. As an example, you can provide them with the basic practice drills or warm up activities for the event.
- Don't try to do it all by yourself, encourage other parents to become involved. Every child is to be supervised the whole time. Don't allow children to wander off.
Managing and communicating with other volunteer helpers
- Before the start of the event explain that the level of officiating will match the skill level and age of the children.
- Set the tone for how the activity will be conducted and how relaxed rule interpretations are.
- Be clear with any points that may be subjective; for example, the shot put action, so that all officiating is consistent.
- Explain the roles of the helpers and the exact tasks you'd like them to do. Don't assume they already know. People are sometimes reluctant to ask for help if they feel it is embarrassing or naive.
- Be friendly; everybody is there to enjoy themselves.
- Always thank people for their assistance and point out the fact it's through their effort the children will have/had an enjoyable experience. People like to feel appreciated.
- Don't lump responsibility on to people who don't have the knowledge or experience in a certain field. It can cause all kinds of problems and will usually result in potential volunteers being lost.
- Take the time to get to know new volunteers.
- Allow and encourage new helpers to make suggestions. Don't enforce things just because that's the way it's always been done.
Competition Rules & Guidelines
Refer to the Rules & Guidelines page.