Happy National Officials Day to all our Skate Canada volunteer officials!
Today we celebrate and honour the contributions of our dedicated and passionate officials all across the country. From the grassroots to Olympic level, officials provide the backbone for our sport in all disciplines. As judges, referees, data specialists, evaluators, technical specialists and controllers, our officials support the participation of all skaters through test days, competitions, monitoring sessions, workshops and much more!
Why does one become an official? What does it take to be a successful official? How do I get involved? These are some of the questions that may come to the mind of anyone with an interest in the sport (skater, coach, parent, etc.) so we have reached out to some of our current officials from across the country to collect a brief snapshot of their journey as officials to share with you all.
Richard Vallee – NO Section, Judge/Evaluator (Officiating for nearly 40 years)
Deciding to conclude my coaching activities, yet wanting to stay involved in the sport, it was suggested that I consider joining the judging ranks. My mother, a low test judge, encouraged me to continue to pursue this avenue which would eventually assist our local skating club by defraying future costs of importing judges for test sessions. I began the educational aspect by reviewing judging materials and attending test sessions to learn as much as possible. As I advanced through the test levels, Norm Carscallen, an International judge from Sudbury, Ontario who had judged several of my skating tests served as my mentor, encouraging me to progress through the ranks.
Advancing through the competitive levels resulted in involvement in related activities such as sectional and national committee work, facilitating clinics and seminars, and monitoring skaters.
As a competitive judge, I was fortunate to reach Canadian and international status with the guidance of several highly esteemed officials: Jane Garden, Joyce Hisey, and in particular Jean Mathews and Elizabeth Clark. As I reflect on my nearly 40 years as a Skate Canada official, I believe that it is extremely important for judges to share their knowledge, expertise, and experience in order to assist others in attaining their goals. My life has been enriched through the wonderful judging experiences, lifelong friendships, and the immense satisfaction I have received from working with parents, coaches, volunteers, and in particular, the skaters.
Lyse Prendergast – BC/YK Section, Data Specialist (Officiating since 2013)
After many years of involvement in figure skating, beginning as a skater myself and later as a parent, club volunteer, board member and then club administrator, I decided to continue my participation in the sport by beginning training to become a data specialist about two years ago. It has been a great experience so far. It’s given me a way to stay involved in skating while really challenging myself and developing new skills and knowledge. As well as learning the particulars of the data specialist role, I have enjoyed learning more about the sport itself, and continuing my connection with the skaters, coaches and officials I’ve come to know over my years as a club volunteer and staff member. We have a great team of data specialists in BC and the mentoring I’ve received from people like Sharon Dahl, Lorraine Mapoles and Wayne Sutherland has been incredible. For data specialists, the competition hours are often long and demanding, and sometimes punctuated with challenging technical crises, but I really enjoy being part of a team where everyone is dedicated to the sport, works hard and looks out for each other, and pulls together when needed.
Chelsey Schaffel – AB/NT/NU, Synchronized Skating Technical Specialist/Technical Controller/Judge (Officiating since 2006)
I was always quite analytical about synchro programs that I skated, and that I watched, so I was very interested in the technical specialist role when the new judging system was introduced. I was invited to attend the technical specialist training seminar right around the time I could start to see my career as a skater winding down due to cost, injuries, and other life commitments. I passed the exam, and though I competed for two more seasons, I was also given opportunities to officiate and discovered that I enjoyed it immensely. Being able to continue skating and test the waters of officiating at the same time made the transition away from competing much easier, and I found the technical specialist role was a great fit because I still got to work in a team environment, which was what had drawn me to synchro (“precision” when I started!) in the first place.
I love educating coaches and skaters, and giving teams feedback. Judging criteria and processes seemed very mysterious when I first started competing, and I feel the CPC judging system really fosters dialogue between officials and competitors. It’s very rewarding to see your words have a positive impact on a team’s development.
Being an official is a bigger time commitment and involves more hard work than most people probably realize, but it’s also much more rewarding than I ever anticipated. Having the best seat in the house at competitions is an obvious perk, but I also get to learn and teach, travel, meet people from all over the world who love to talk about synchro as much as I do, and stay involved in an amazing sport. The experiences I had as a synchro skater have had a positive impact on so many areas of my life, and I know that by volunteering my time, I am giving other skaters the chance to have those experiences too.
Benoît Lavoie – QC Section, Judge/ Technical Controller (Officiating since 1982)
As a beginner I was dreaming about Olympics. I was a huge fan of the Olympic movement since I was a young boy. I was quite realistic as an athlete even when I competed at the senior national level. I wanted to stay involved after my skating career and when an accelerated program was created to train new officials I became involved that way in 1982. Being an official has allowed me to stay active and accurate with the technical rules, and also stay involved somehow with athletes and the skating family who have given me so much for so many years.
I would recommend becoming an official because it’s the best seat in the house at events, best second family to contribute as a volunteer and best sport organization in the world.
Many people have contributed to my desire to become a better official; Sally Rehorick inspired me at first at a skating conference. Eva Finlay was my mentor through all my levels up to senior. Debbie Islam was a role model for me to become an international official.
I have several favourite officiating moments but I guess one of the best would be having the privilege to judge at the Olympic Winter Games in 2002 when Salé and Pelletier won Gold through adversity. I felt I contributed in a special way and for the credibility of our sport and the respect of the Olympic values, I had so much pride.
Nancy Bray – NS Section, STAR 1-4 Judge (Officiating since 2014)
I decided to become an official for a number of reasons, one of them was to give back to a sport that gave me so much. Figure skating taught me the value of never giving up and instilled in me a solid fitness foundation, which I carry with me today. I also became an official to stay actively involved in the sport. As a new mother, I don’t have the time that coaching would demand. Being an official offers me more flexibility, allows me to enjoy watching the skaters develop and at the same time builds my own knowledge about the sport. It’s a win-win situation; I can give back to the sport I love and do something positive for myself that fits easily into my busy schedule.
Do you have a love for the sport of figure skating? Do you want to learn more about the sport and join a team of passionate and dedicated individuals?
Whether you have experience as a skater yourself, or have put in extensive time at the rink as a skating fan or parent, there is an officiating opportunity available for you! To learn more about developmental officiating opportunities, please contact your section office: http://www.skatecanada.ca/skating-programs/section-offices-skate/