On June 30th – I wrote an article about my experiences at the 2016 USA Weightlifting (USAW) Youth National Championships, where over 700 athletes competed on three platforms. My opinion is that this is a great start, yet going into the future there will be more national events with greater numbers of athletes. This causes significant challenge to the organization through an infrastructure problem of qualified officials working at these competitions.
Whether they read my article or already had some changes in mind, the powers that be — USAW’s leadership — held a strategy weekend at the OTC in Colorado Springs, and the topic was up for discussion. On Monday morning, CEO Phil Andrews sent out an email to officials such as myself that stated the USAW Technical Committee and Board of Directors approved a new payment system for officials at National Championships, replacing the previous hotel discount system.
To summarize, every session an official works will translate into a dollar value; there are no more volunteers. For higher level officials, the scale pays them more per session because they are more valuable.
This scale applies to Jury Members (A session only), Referees, Speaker, and the Marshall. Positions that are generally considered nice to have but not a requirement are paid at 50% of the going rate; these will include the timekeeper, Assistant Marshall, Scorekeeper, and B Session Jury Members.
In my opinion, this is not enough long term when you consider that the money that is generated from national events has increased significantly. However, it is a fantastic first step away from old fashioned ways and is a kudos to the commitment of USAW leadership towards forward thinking. In past regimes, the thinking was that athletes and coaches do not get paid for attending national events, why should officials? Finally, it has been determined that without officials, you do not have a national event.
As a practical example, at the Youth National Championships – there were 18 sessions of active lifting from Thursday night’s trial sessions through the end of the day on Sunday. As a qualified national referee I agreed to work 9 sessions, which would equal $90 in a future competition. $90 does not pay for my hotel or airfare, but it was more than the hotel discount I received for volunteering. What’s more, the escalating scale gives me more incentive to take my IWF 2 exam in the near future because monetarily it is in my best interest, the same for the IWF 1 exam in the future.
A new payment system also will help to ensure there will be higher level officials in the future. Currently there is a “graying of officials” in USAW, because let’s face it: It is not as sexy to be an official as it is to be a coach. Looking at the current roster of USAW referees; there are 23 IWF 1’s and 20 IWF 2’s, only 1 of whom happens to be under the age of 40. While age is only a number, none of us are immortal, and you will need new blood at some point in these critical positions. Kudos to USAW on a great first step.
I expect this scale to increase in the future to better reflect the travel and accommodation costs that officials are burdened with, but for today it shows that USAW is a membership organization that is thinking about the members. As for what else occurred in the leadership weekend, I look forward to reading the meeting minutes.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.