The championship portion of the collegiate rowing season has begun. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of officiating at the Big East and Patriot League Championships. These two leagues combine their championship on a single day on Lake Quinsigamond. It is always a challenge just to keep in mind which league is the next race. Is it going to be filled with Big East crews or Patriot League crews? The heatsheet has the answer. Combining the two league championships makes great use of the venue and the infrastructure. Yes! I do view officials as part of the infrastructure. In the best of circumstances, we are invisible.
I spent my morning slowly warming at the finish tower as the sun came across the race course. The finish tower at Lake Q has been revamped and is hardly recognizable. The winter ice demolished the old one. The steps are now in human proportions -- they used to be sized for a giant, not a mere mortal like myself. And, thoughtfully when the rebuilt the finish stand, they have used composite boards for the steps. If you have never sat on a finish line, you have no idea how cool it is not to have to worry about splinters.
In the afternoon, I worked the control commission. This is a part of the officials' role in ensuring the safety of the equipment. At Lake Q it is part safety and part dockmaster. It was overall a very nice day. The weather was a cool but gloriously pretty day.
Sometimes when I am really tired, I question why I still officiate. It is not as if I haven't paid my dues or paid off my debt of gratitude to all those adults who worked the sports I played in my youth. You'd think 15 years as a rowing official, almost an equal number spent chasing basketball and volleyball would be enough. The stats on officiating say that most officials last less than ten years so it can't be that I haven't done my turn in the barrel.
This weekend I had an experience that reminded me why I keep coming back for more. I got a chance to see a friend, a young coach -- Marnie Stahl. I've known her since she was a high school freshman at Saint Ursula's Academy in Toledo, Ohio, home town of some remarkable individuals. I worked with her dad who was a tech whiz. Her mom is a math teacher and one of the smartest women I know. When she first came into crew, I officiated at her first regattas, watched her as she became of proficient sculler (taught by my husband how to row a single), then on to college where her coach was someone I knew from officiating and from doing events at the college. Now she is an assistant coach at a powerhouse program -- that walked away with a lot of hardware. Just seeing her confidently doing what coaches do and knowing that she is now working with the next generation of athletes, reminded my of why we officiate -- it is about the athletes and the sport -- helping another generation gain the same joy from sport that it has brought to us.