Take the Time to Become an USAWA Official

by Al Myers

One of the exciting things about the membership voting to pass the new rulebook at last years National Meeting was the development of an USAWA Certified Officials Program which was included in the new rulebook. The USAWA has never really had an system for certifying officials before this. Several things have been tried through the years to develop an Officials Program but nothing ever took hold. Mainly it consisted of anyone who wanted to judge a meet was considered an official. Sure, at the 2006 National Meeting, the membership voted to develop a test that must be passed in order to be an official. But this turned out to be an optional requirement because meets were still being contested and records being set with Officials who didn’t take or pass the test. Only a handful of people took the test. Nothing really changed. A few years before this, a system was developed where there would be regional official’s chairpersons, who had the “duties’ of certifying officials in their area. But again, no guidelines were given to the Chairpersons in how to go about implementing this so it died about as quick as it was started.

Why didn’t any of these previous Official’s Programs work?

My opinion is this. They were either too extensive and time demanding that it wasn’t worth it for someone to go “through the program”, or the program didn’t have any backbone. What I mean by this is that having a program is all fine and dandy, but if there are not repercussions for NOT going through the program, why do it? Afterall, if you can still be an official and not go through the program, what good is the program?

I don’t think anyone would argue with me about the importance of having a system in place of certifying officials versus not having one. Everyone wants their lifts to mean something in competition, and having a certified official in competition passing your lifts lends to credibility. Now what people will argue about is what is required in an Official’s Program, or how it is implemented. Luckily this has all been sorted out by the membership agreeing on our current Officials Program, by voting in favor of it, at the last National Meeting. The new Official’s Program is far from perfect, but at least it is something to start with. I think it is best to start small and grow, rather than start big and fail. There are obvious things that need to be added to it as it develops through time, but those hurdles can be jumped as we come to them.

I know one of the arguments against this new Official’s Program is “passing a test does not make you a good official”. I absolutely agree. It is only part of being a good official. I think THREE things make up a good official: 1. Knowledge of the rules, 2. Experience, and 3. Judgement Skills. (and their importance is probably in that order). Passing a rules test only tests your knowledge of the rules. Experience only comes with hours of sitting in a judges chair and learning from your mistakes. This can be somewhat measured by the number of meets one has officiated. Judgement skills is the hardest to evaluate, but is a very important characteristic of a good judge. It can truly only be evaluated by a practical exam in which a master official “judges” a judge. Many other larger lifting organizations require this in their Official’s Programs. We are far from that! We all know each other and it is hard enough to be impartial judging each other lifting, let alone finding someone to judge our judges in a practical exam. That person would have to be someone with a very thick skin who didn’t care in having any friends after wards. Practical exams would never work at this time – it is hard enough just talking individuals into taking the short 100 question rules test!

I want to highlight some of the requirements of the Officials Program.

All of these come from the Rule Book.

VII.8. There will be two levels of certified USAWA Officials

Level 1 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test OR has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

Level 2 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test AND has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

VII. 10. The USAWA Rules Test will consist of 100 open book questions regarding rules within this rulebook. To pass the test, an applicant must score over 90 percent.

VII. 11. All sanctioned USAWA events must use certified officials, and the officials must be willing to sign a meet document proving their involvement in the competition or event as an official.

V. 4. Records may be established in any USAWA sanctioned competition or event provided that one certified USAWA official is present to officiate and approve the lift. If three USAWA officials are used to judge the lift, the lifter must receive approval of two.

The authority of a Level 1 Official is the same as that of a Level 2 Official. Nothing in the rules say otherwise. It is only a designation that shows that Level 2 Officials have achieved both of the criteria required. The experience criteria is the USAWA way of having a “Grandfather Clause” to allow those older, seasoned officials not to be asked to take the test. But to maintain integrity in our program the 25 meet experience requirement must be adhered to. I would hope that even those meeting the experience criteria would still take the Rules Test, and by doing so, would show support to this new Official’s Program and set a good example for others to take the test. Rule V.4. will be adhered to from now on – so if you want a record in the future you must have a certified Official judge you. You may notice that there are not any time limits imposed on Officials to re-certify. This is one thing that will need to be looked at by the membership in the future.

The Rules Test has been rewritten this past year and is much shorter in length. If you have ANY understanding of the rules you should be able to complete it in 2-3 hours. All of the essay questions have been removed. The test is open book and ALL answers can be found in the Rule Book. All the test really achieves is guaranteeing that a Official has LOOKED at the Rule Book, and hopefully will know where to go to find the answers to any judging question. This system couldn’t be any easier – so to say it is too hard to become an USAWA Official is just not true. If someone doesn’t have three hours to give to take this test only tells me that they are not really that interested in becoming an official. You don’t even have to be an experienced lifter to take and pass the exam! Maybe someday our organization will grow to a point where we can have Level 3 Officials, whereas a Practical Exam would be required, but for today I would just hope that everyone would support the program that is in place – so we can TRUTHFULLY say that we have a Certified Official’s Program in the USAWA.