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Ron Van Pool
Swimming Officials: Ambassadors for the Sport

As swimming officials, we also serve as ambassadors for our sport. Whenever we accept an international or high-profile domestic assignment, we should strive for the following qualities of a good ambassador:

* Earn respect.

* Be a good communicator.

* Be open-minded.

* Embody the qualities of the institution.

* Conduct ourselves with integrity.

* Be persuasive.

* Accept criticism.

* Be decisive.

When officials are chosen to attend and work at a competition, they become representatives of their sport. Not only do they interface with the athletes and coaches, but they also may be required to relate positively to other officials, meet organizers, the media and representatives of local businesses and athletic communities.

Swimming officials are recognized as fair and impartial judges of swimming competition. They are expected to protect all the athletes and to ensure fair and equitable competition.

These qualities and principles start at the highest level-the international competitions where officials are assigned by the FINA Technical Swimming Committee. Whether they are assigned to the Olympics or World Championships, continental or national championships, officials are expected to apply themselves faithfully to their duties.

The swimming community expects a lot from its officials, and the officials respond above and beyond these expectations. When they put on their uniforms and march onto the field of play-the pool deck-they become true ambassadors for their sport.

As we look around the world of sport in 2004, we read of scandals involving judges being pressured to render decisions favoring one athlete over another. We also read of doping violations, and hear of world record holders pleading for a second chance.

Fortunately, within the swimming family, officials are held in the highest esteem. While there may be issues in other sports-and sometimes even in swimming-the officials are regarded as being impartial and well-versed in their duties.

More than 70 officials attended the recent FINA Officials Clinic in Cancun, Mexico, where the major themes presented by the speakerswho were selected by the FINA Technical Swimming Committeewere fairness, concern for the athlete and knowledge of the rules.

My experience while officiating at the various international eventsOlympics, World Championships, World Cup and Grand Prix meetshas been that the officials are more than just officials for the competition.

We are expected to conduct ourselves with integrity; to earn the respect of those that we meet; to communicate clearly and positively; to be open-minded, yet persuasive and decisive; to be able to accept criticism; and, most of all, to embody the best qualities of our sport.

In short-we need to be ambassadors for swimming!

Ron Van Pool

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