Friday, September 2, 2016

Road to Rio - Volunteers

It is a well-known fact that volunteers are the life blood of our sport and without them our clubs would not exist and we would be unable to put on events at local, national or international level. This also includes major events such as the Rio Paralympic Games, which is officially opened tomorrow.

Susan Liddle and Scott Milne and two such volunteers who work tirelessly to make our sport what it is today. They are also on their way to Rio to officiate at the swimming competition of the Paralympic Games. Before they went they answered a few of our questions about their involvement in the sport and what they were looking forward to the most about their time in Rio.

Why did you decide to officiate at the Rio Paralympic Games? Were you approached to officiate or did you have to apply?

Susan: I didn't actually think I had any chance of getting to officiate at the Paralympics to be honest. Once you are a fully qualified PARA ITO (International Technical Official) you get an invitation to apply for the events.

Scott: I am not 100% certain on the selection policies or criteria of IPC Swimming when appointing their international technical officials if I am honest! However, once they have made their preliminary selections they will approach each ITO to ask if they are available to attend or not. Once they have their full contingent they will publish the list of appointed officials publicly online. Most of this is carried out behind the scenes,

How long did the process take?

Susan: The process of applying and finding out if you have been successful takes around 6 months.

Scott: The process for going didn't actually take that long on my part. Most of the preparations are done by IPC Swimming and the local organising committee such as my travel and accreditation and other similar things. It has been just about a year in the making however, with me first being contact regarding it in the late summer/early autumn of last year.

When do you fly to Rio and is there a full schedule of events or training for you when you arrive?  

Susan: I fly out at 6am on Monday 5th September, travelling from Edinburgh to Schipol in Amsterdam where I join up with Scott Milne. We then fly together at 11:35am from Schipol direct to Rio.  The flight is 11½ hours. 

On arrival we are collected and taken to the Olympic Village where will have team meetings etc.  A lot of information will be coming to us on a daily basis in the days leading up to our departure.

Scott: I am due to fly out on the 5th of September and arrive back on the 19th. I do believe we will have the opportunity to meet the rest of the ITO team prior to the competition starting and will go over the plans for the event to ensure we are all on the same page and doing the same thing after taking the pool and facilities themselves into consideration.

Any reservations about your forthcoming trip?

Susan: To be honest I haven't really thought about it.  Everyone keeps saying I must be excited but as yet not quite there and the suitcase is still in the attic!  If anything, it will be the miles from home I’ll think of most.  It is a big stage but think I am up to it.

Scott: I am feeling quite confident that there will be very little to worry about while there. My younger brother Stephen was there competing for GB at the Olympics and said it was fantastic. After speaking to him about a lot of it I now feel that, while there will be the same worries you have when travelling anywhere in the world, there shouldn't be anything specifically about the games that will cause me any concern.

What are you most looking forward to about going to Rio?

Susan: Well you can’t go to Rio and not see the 'main man'.  The atmosphere will be infectious and the competitors are fabulous as are their support staff and coaches which was very evident when I was at the World Championships in Glasgow last year.

Scott: The part I am most looking forward to regarding the Games most definitely has to be the food. Joking! For me personally the part that I am most excited about is being there knowing that my brother was there not just a month ago and that to me will add a familial connection to the entire experience. The village he stayed in, the places he visited, the pool him and the other 4x200free men won the silver medal in. My family is extremely important to me and having this bleed into my Paralympics experience I think will add a touch of home to everything I see and do.

How long have you been officiating at para-swimming events?

Susan: I attained the qualification in 2014 but have had an huge interest in MC for a considerable time and have officiated for probably 6 years at local levels.

Scott: I started on the path into Paralympic swimming when I was offered the chance to undergo my ITO training in Glasgow at the British Para Swimming International meet in 2014. After passing the course I attended the European IPC Swimming Champs in the same year and the IPC Worlds the year after.

What would you say to encourage more people to officiate?

Susan: I would thoroughly recommend they pop down to their local level galas and see the pure joy on the children's faces when they race their heats.  They are no different to any able bodied swimmers and have a desire to win and compete.

Scott: One thing I have noticed is that officials are generally relatives of swimmers and get involved to help keep things working at more local level meets. This is a good entry point along with regular volunteering at competitions to get a foot in the door and start getting involved to develop an understanding of the sport as a whole and learn about the various pathways both you as a volunteer or your relatives as swimmers can take to progress. It shouldn't be limited though to those already tied to the sport in some way though. Swimming has long been the sport that has been able to offer something for everyone and so we all need to actively try our best to bring new people in and show them what our sport is about, whether they themselves are swimmers or coaches or volunteers or officials.

Having said all that, if it was me who was then sat in a room full of people considering taking up their officiating training and was told to sell it to them, the main thing I would have to say is that it can contribute in many ways to your personal and professional developments. You can meet new people; develop new skills; build up your own confidence; count it towards the service part of your Duke of Edinburgh's award for younger people; and ultimately come out the other end with more than you went in with.

What great insight from Susan and Scott. We wish them well in Rio and look forward to catching up with them on their return. Until such a time, Susan has kindly offered to send us updates in the form of a blog. We look forward to reading them.