It’s Long Course Season!
Did You Know?
Olympic Swimming Trivia
The meet in question was the PVS Age Group Long Course Championship from 2001. For that season this meet was sandwiched between the Preliminary and Finals sessions of the Senior Long Course Championships at the University of Maryland.
This was my first time at the Maryland’s Aquatic Center. When I walked into the main competition area from the rear entrance, I had a flashback to a scene from the movie “Hoosiers”. The scene was when the basketball team from the small school walked into the arena for the State championship game. The team members had this look of awe on their faces. I had the same expression on my face.
Maybe if I measured the pool like Gene Hackman’s character measured the basketball court in the movie, I would have felt more comfortable. I would know the Maryland pool is the same length as Lee District RECenter’s pool, only with better lighting. ?
I’m scheduled to be the Deck Referee for the Age Group meet’s Sunday session. At this point of my officiating career I had about a year as Referee under my belt. Since my session precedes the Senior meet’s Finals session, I have to finish the session on schedule so Finals warm-ups for Finals aren’t delayed. I am the only “Referee” at this session, no Meet Referee, no Admin Referee, just me.
About five minutes before the session starts, a couple of coaches approach me and say they want to get a lead off split for their swimmers in the first event, the 200 meter Freestyle Relay. They were looking to get a LC Zone qualifying time for their swimmers. I respond, “Sure. Get three timers with watches and we’ll take the middle watch for the split time. Make sure they bring the watches to me so I can inspect them.”
Other questions come up and I’m late in getting the first event started. As a newbie Ref, I’m anxious to get the session going so “The Powers That Be” in the Senior meet don’t complain about affecting their time line.
About 4 or 5 heats into the session one of the coaches that requested a lead off split comes to me with the three watches and says, “Jim, you said we should take the middle watch time, right? The watch time is just under the Zone time and the pad time is just over the Zone time.”
I turn from observing the heat in the water and quickly confirm the three watches are consistent and answer, “Yes.”
“Even if the pad time is over….?”
Since I’m focused on running the heats and keeping on timeline, I miss what the coach is saying. I’m thinking, “What is he talking about?” and repeat, “Like I said take the middle watch time.” and turn my attention back to the heat in the water. The coach, looking a little confused, walks off.
A little while later, with the 50 meter Butterfly events underway, the Meet Director approaches me and asks, “Jim, did you really tell the coach to take the middle watch time for that lead off split?”
“Hang on just a sec until I start this next heat.” After the heat dives into the water, I turn to the Meet Director, “What was the question?”
“Did you tell the coach to take the middle watch for the lead off split?”
“Sure, why not?”
“But the far-end pad had a different time, about 0.03 seconds slower. Was there something wrong with the pad?”
To start the 50 meter events, I’m at the turn end of the pool. I think, “Pad…what pad?” I look in the water and notice 8 timing pads hanging on the wall. At that point the light bulb finally goes off and I realize there are timing pads at both ends of the pool. Where did these other pads come from? The pads are only at the finish end at Lee District!
I finally understand what the first coach was telling me! The watch and pad times were straddling the Zone cut time.
Darn...what do I do? In the New Referee clinic the instructors talked about being decisive and making decisions and keeping the session moving. I made a decision, so I need to stick by it, right? I need to be stubborn…umm…decisive, right? (“Stubborn” would be my wife’s description.) I don’t want to be known as an indecisive Referee who flip-flops!
I look at the Meet Director and shrug my shoulders, “I made a decision when I said to take the middle watch. I think I need to stand by that decision. We take the middle watch time.”
The Meet Director gives me a strange look, stares at me for a few more seconds, shakes his head and turns to walk back to the table.
What lessons did I take away from this situation? First, listen to the coaches when they come to talk to you. The two coaches involved—the swimmer’s coach and Meet Director—offered several opportunities for me to make the right decision. Unfortunately, I was not experienced enough to recognize those opportunities. They really want the Referee to make the right decision, even though at times there may be a different view of what is the right decision. Don’t let the timeline interfere with listening to coaches. The timeline is only a guide, not a mandate.
Second, I learned that just making sure buttons and pads are working is not enough. A Referee needs to understand what timing equipment is in place and that the timing system is properly configured.
The third lesson I took away was that a decision at a meet can have consequences beyond the meet. When the VVSPVSO called my home two days after the meet to discuss my decision, he pointed out that the timing decision from the meet allowed a swimmer to qualify for the LC Zone team. If this happened during the short course yard season, then the above decision would have denied another swimmer a berth on the Zone team since only two swimmers are selected for an event. In the long course season, the two swimmers per event limit does not apply. Luckily for the swimmers, the decision allowed adding a swimmer to the Zone team but did not displace another swimmer from the team.
For the fourth lesson, the VVSPVSO pointed out that if there was a pad malfunction and if a valid backup time existed for a lead-off split the Referee needs to instruct the Hy-tek operator to update split times stored in the Hy-tek Meet Manager database because those times are loaded to the USA Swimming database and can be used to justify a qualification for a future meet.
Fifth lesson, there is no rule that says a Referee cannot consult other officials when deliberating a particular situation. Even though the person who was working as Starter was not a certified as a Referee, I could have solicited his input for the situation at hand. Maybe hearing another voice say, “Jim are you sure you want to take a watch time over a valid pad time?” would have changed my frame of mind.
Finally, the most important lesson: it is better to eat a little crow and change a decision when factors come to light that shows it to be a poor decision than to let the decision stand.
I’ll end this story with the following thought. In one of those innumerable training courses required by my corporate day job, I remember the instructor saying something like, “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.”
Resolution to ‘You Make
For all that you do for Potomac Valley Swimming: