Officiating: Why it Could Be The Best Thing You’ll Ever Do


Officiating: Why it Could Be The Best Thing You’ll Ever Do

Some say that unruly parents started it, but most people agree the pandemic made it worse.

That is, the declining number of volunteers for youth athletics across all sports, and the country.

Officially Human, an organization dedicated to promoting the respectful treatment of referees, conducted a survey of 19,000 sports officials from 15 states. When asked what their reason for quitting was, 55% of respondents cited verbal abuse from fans, parents, and coaches as their number one reason.

On top of this, many aging volunteers decided to leave their days as an official behind after the height of the pandemic.

But when compared to many other youth sports, such as baseball or football, swimming officials and referees make fewer calls and have less contact with parents, coaches, and athletes. So, while bad behavior can certainly be a contributing factor, it is not the only reason people are failing to volunteer.

When it comes to swimming, unfortunately many LSCs or Local Swim Committees have seen this decline reflected in fewer people volunteering to work as officials and referees at swim meets.

Regardless, swimming officials and referees represent the backbone of the sport. After all, without them there would be no swim meets.

Today, they remain as important as ever.

And we are going to need more of them.

So here are three reasons why you should consider volunteering and how it could be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.

A Great Way To Give Back To the Sport You Love

Officiating is a great way to give back to your local swim clubs and USA Swimming as a whole. Age-group meets rely on volunteers, and chances are, you’re probably a former swimmer yourself, or at least someone who loves the sport. Why not help those age-group swimmers find what you did– an undying passion for swimming.

Whether on deck or in the hospitality room between breaks, officiating gives you the opportunity to get to know other people who share this passion. Not only are you helping the next generation of swimmers, but you’re also building a network of people who want to help your child succeed.

The Best Seat In the House

This is usually the part when you’ll hear a collective groan from all of the parents, especially when the meet was supposed to start 10 minutes ago. Announcers use this line to try and recruit three more volunteer timers.

But I can honestly say that it’s true.

After all, when you are on deck as an official or a referee, you’re in the action. Like your-shoes-are-guaranteed-to-get-wet in the action.

So, when your child is about to step up on that block for their big race at finals, you’re right there to watch it all.

But if that’s not enough for you, volunteering allows you to stay productive (and cool) during a swim meet.

Otherwise, you’ll be stuck sitting for hours in the crammed bleachers with the rest of the parents, sweating in the humid air.

There Are Endless Opportunities

All levels of competition need referees and officials.

After completing an online test, a background check, athlete protection training, a USA Swimming workshop at your closest LSC and apprenticeship opportunities, you can volunteer to officiate or referee for any level of competition.

Remember, it does not matter if it is a small local swim meet, or the Olympic Trials. The rules are the same.

On top of this, there are many open-water opportunities where you can support another aquatic sport.


In the end, volunteers are as important as ever.

And unfortunately, they are disappearing at a rapid rate.

So, I urge you to visit the USA Swimming website to see how you can get involved and help support youth athletics all across the country.

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Debbie Donohoue
Debbie Donohoue
1 year ago

Besides all the above, there are the friends you will make and what better way to show your kid or grandkid that you care about what they are doing and teach them the importance of volunteering when they are grown!

David Johnson
David Johnson
1 year ago

As a USA Swimming volunteer official myself, I agree with all of the above. We need to recruit more and younger people. Great photo too! I have worked with over half of those in the photo in my travels to officiate around the country.

Allen Wone
Allen Wone
1 year ago

Well it’s a little more complicated that that. You can definitely officiate after doing the prerequisites but you can’t be a referee out of blocks.

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