By Eric Todd
There was a time, many moons ago when it was permissible for unqualified, uncertified, inexperienced individuals to officiate USAWA meets. At the time of my first USAWA meet, I had done one bench press meet and 2-3 strongman meets. I was unqualified, uncertified and inexperienced. Technically, I could have walked into Clark’s Gym and served in the capacity of an official for the 2003 Deanna Springs Memorial. I was not called upon to do so, as we had two competent officials in Hall of Fame members Bill Clark and Joe Garcia. However, as there was no official’s certification process at the time, it was fully permissible for any derelict off the street munching on a handful of licorice whips to step in and sit in the official’s chair
Fast forward a few years, and an initial rules test was drafted by Bill Clark. With the exception of those who were grandfathered in as a USAWA official for their vast experience in officiating these meets, anyone wishing to become a certified official would have to take and pass this examination. This was certainly a step forward in cementing the credibility of the USAWA organization. I believe I was one of the first to take, and pass this original test.
Since that time the rules test has been revamped by Al Myers and his confederates. It is a good test that requires you to have a decent foundation of knowledge of the rules, or at least the capacity to look them up in the rule book, as it is an open book exam. Once you have taken the test, you send your answers into Joe Garcia, who is our USAWA Officials Director. Then wait to find out if you have passed. If you do not pass the first time, you can take it until you pass.
The next step I am taking directly from the website. You can find all of this information here: http://usawa.com/officials-2/ :
After passing the Open Book Rules Test, the next step is to complete three practical training sessions. This process requires an applicant to officiate unofficially alongside a Level 2 official in the One Official System, or judge officially in the Three Official System in three competitions within a year. A combination of using either of these two systems is allowed in order to fulfill the three practical training sessions. If judging as part of the Three Official System is used, the other two officials must be certified officials, of which one must be a Level 2 official. A practical training session form will be available for the applicant to document this process. A Level 2 official must provide authorization that the applicant was competent as an official by signing the form after each event. The same Level 2 official may provide authorization on all practical training sessions for an applicant. It is the applicant’s responsibility to submit this form to the Officials Director Joe Garcia once completed in order to apply for official certification.
At this point, you are considered a level 1 official. As a level one official, you must retake the rules test every three years to maintain your status as an official in good standing in the USAWA. Once you have documented officiating in at least 25 all-round events, you are considered a level 2 official, and you are an official for life in the USAWA.
So, that is the process by which you would proceed in becoming and staying a USAWA official. Maybe it sounds like a lengthy, complicated process? I can assure you, it is not. I, for one, always reference the rule book when preparing for a meet that I am competing in or officiating in to be sure I have full understanding of the lifts we are contesting. You see, as we have so many lifts in our organization, it is difficult for any one person to memorize the minute details of all the lifts within it. So, I reference the rule book to know what I am lifting or what I am judging. That being said, it is valuable for any member to peruse the rule book from time to time. And that is pretty much all you do while taking the test.
As far as the practical training sessions, it is a minimal expectation. Our organization is such that lifters are often called to the officials chair during a meet. It is part of pulling your weight at these meets. So, just ask to be a part of that at meets you are competing to get those training sessions in. All the promoters I know would be glad to have the help, and all the officials I know would love to help you out.
We, the USAWA, are a small organization with an important purpose – to keep the non oly and non powerlifting lifts alive. With our small numbers, we each must do our best to be a contributing member. So, while not all of us have what it takes to be president, secretary or on the executive board, we can all lift, load, and sit in the officials’ chair. So, take that first step. Print off the test. Open up the rules book and answer some questions. You certainly do not have to do it at one setting. I, for one, did not. Answer some more in a few days. When you come to one you cannot find or do not understand, holler at one of us. I find discussion of the rules is just as valuable learning took as reading through the rule book. At the end of it all, you will be proud to know you are helping out to make the USAWA the best organization it can be.