Giving Back To The Sport As A Rules Official, Part II: Interview with the Commissioner
Updated: Jan 14
In this follow up to Part I of “Giving Back to the Sport”we hear from the USAT Commissioner of Officials, Deb Wilson. (photo from USAT website).
Mark: First off, let me thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview.
Deb: Thank you for the opportunity! It is always a pleasure to be able to speak on behalf of the USAT Officials Program. Officials are critical to our sport, but the role does not receive much spotlight, which is something I would like to change.
Mark: Agreeing to take on the role of Commissioner of Officials was taking on a big job. What drove your decision and what contributions do you want to make to our sport through the Officials Program?
Deb: You aren’t kidding! Never mind a big role, but some big shoes to fill as well. Charlie Crawford is a hard act to follow, but I am honored to follow in his footsteps. I came to the sport of Triathlon as the reigning mayor of lazy town and knew I needed to make a change in my life. Triathlon helped me lose 80 pounds and led me to a healthy and fun lifestyle. After a bike crash, injury led me to the official’s program and I found where the best of both worlds meets! I honestly had no idea what I didn’t know about rules of the sport until I became an official. Actually, I think I was drawn to officiating for the same reason I was drawn triathlon. Triathlon whether racing or officiating offers an opportunity for everyone. I think the same motivations and rewards exist whether you are competing or officiating. Triathletes and officials are self-driven, disciplined and looking for the next challenge. Officials play an important yet underappreciated role in our sport. As an athlete, during the race, my goals were my own and I focused on my own race, but as an official I am able assist all athletes in reaching their goals. My primary focus is to promote the significant contribution our officials provide to the sport of triathlon and bring recognition to the amazing men and women who bring fairness to the sport.
Mark: Great thanks for that! As you look ahead at the year coming up what will be the biggest changes to the program and what is their purpose?
Deb: I think the biggest change to the program this year is the addition of Virtual Clinics. In the past, the official’s clinic and race practicum had to occur at the same event. The virtual clinic option will provide the ability for potential candidates to complete the certification curriculum prior to attending a race practicum. We hope this will remove some of the barriers and allow more opportunity for interested candidates to complete the official’s certification.
Mark: You are responsible for a very large network of officials. How do manage all the duties associated with that responsibility?
Deb: It is all about teamwork! We have two paths in the USAT National Officials Program, the Competitive Rules Official Program (CRO) who work USAT sanctioned non-draft legal events, and the National Officials Program (NTO) who work USAT sanctioned draft-legal events. Fortunately, I have a great team of coordinators who assist me in managing both of our programs. We have 13 Regional Officials Coordinators throughout the country who assist me with the CRO Program and 1 Technical Officials Coordinator who leads the NTO Program. These coordinators are the unsung heroes of our program and sport. They truly love the sport of triathlon and our program. The support they provide me and the officials in the Program is immeasurable.
Mark: What would you most like your officials to know about you?
Deb: That I am continuously working to enhance our program. We have some exciting prospects for the future and this is just the beginning. Additionally, this program is about each and every official who serves our sport. I want to motivate others and create a culture that provides opportunities for our officials to step up into new roles and make a difference for both our officials and the triathlon community as a whole.
Mark: What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a part of the Officials Program?
Deb: Our officials have the same passion for officiating as athletes do participating. We know officiating is not for everyone but I would encourage anyone who has ever thought about officiating give it a try. It provides an entirely different perspective of the sport and If you decide officiating is not for you, you will still learn something new, meet some great people and have a greater understanding of our sport.
Mark: Thanks for your time. Do have any final remarks you would like to add?
Deb: As our program evolves one thing which will not change is how valuable our officials are to the sport. Officials play an important role in our sport, yet the work they do is often criticized, overlooked and undervalued. Our officials are hardworking and dedicated. They take time away from their full-time jobs, families, and training goals to volunteer their time to ensure a fair race and positively impact the sport they love. Officials deserve respect, admiration and support for the contribution they make to our sport. The next time you see an official at a race, let them know you appreciate them!
Mark: Thank you, Deb.