This past week I took 4 days out of my busy life to travel to Ottawa for the 2013 Espoir Championships. These are the Canadian Junior Synchronized Swimming Championships for young women 11-15 years old. All of the judges in synchronized swimming are volunteers. I am questioned as to why I give up weekends to do this. This is a very easy answer for me. Not only do I love synchronized swimming. I also feel that I need to be a judge to give back to the sport. Judges are needed in our sport and without them, there would be no competitions.
So what is “giving back” really? To me, I was given so much as a result from being involved in the sport of synchronized swimming. It has given me so many life skills that not only have benefited me as a person, but also in the work world as well. In addition, I was able to travel across Canada as well as represent Canada in international competitions. These experiences were a gift that the sport had given to me. I feel that for these gifts and skills, I should show my appreciation in the form of volunteering.
When I swam, I took for granted that the judges were an integral part of the entire competition system. I was too busy training, preparing for competition, getting nervous and performing. Once I stopped swimming I realized that there was a particular need for judges. I was skeptical at first to becoming a judge because when I swam, the judges were to be feared. If you didn’t get a high mark, they were mean. They didn’t smile while judging and were incredibly intimidating. Now that I am a judge, I realize that if I give a high or low mark, it is because it was deserved. We don’t smile at anyone to ensure that we remain unbiased and fair to all competitors.
Once I became a judge, I tried to encourage other former swimmers to judge as well. Some have. Some argue that they feared the judges as a swimmer and didn’t want to be feared by swimmers themselves. Regardless if swimmers fear the judges, they are needed.
This is the case if many sports. Far too many athletes finish competing and leave the sport forever. I think that it is important for these athletes to “give back” to ensure that the sport that provided so many opportunities to them is able to grow and prosper. All sports need volunteers. You don’t need to know anything specific about the sport. You simply need a willingness to give of yourself and your time. I hope that all people think about what sport they love or did as a youth and take the time to show their appreciation in this form.