19th March 2019

International Women's Day: Officials - Carole Clark

21 March 2019

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March every year and is a focal point in the movement of women’s rights.  This year’s campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. 

Athletics prides itself on being a gender balanced sport and our officials play a major part in achieving this, where currently there are 59% male and 41% female officials in the UK.  In support of International Women’s Day 2019, throughout March, we will feature Officials across the UK to celebrate them and their commitment to athletics.  

Carole Clark 

What is your role as an official?
I am 70 years old and still compete. I am a Track and Field official and have recently attended a Starter/Marksman’s Course. I have specialised in the Track for my Club but will go wherever I am needed. I am hoping to do more as a Marksman this season.

How long have you been officiating?
I attended a course and passed my Track and Field examinations – written in those days – in March 1993, so 25 years.

What inspired you to become an official?
I was competing for Worcester Athletic Club in the Midland Veterans League – now Masters – and there were sometimes insufficient officials to run all the events, so my husband and I used to help, to retrieve implements, to rake the long jump pit, to help at relay changeovers, etc. Then the Club ran a course which John Bullock delivered and several of the Club’s athletes attended. Four of us are still officiating at Club matches and road races. The matches include Open Meetings at Worcester, Veterans, Senior Men’s and Ladies’, Youth Development League and Heart of England. The road races include the Bulmers Bash, Pitchcroft 10k and the Malvern Beacon Race. Though in the season this can be hard work, I still enjoy the feeling at the end of the day when an event has gone well.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into officiating?
Volunteering is very rewarding. Without volunteers, some athletes would never have a chance to compete and enjoy their sport. It gives you a chance to support athletes and gives you knowledge and experiences you may never have achieved in any other way. It keeps you mentally and actively fit. Offer your help at a local meeting to see what is involved. Different skills and qualities are needed for different specialisms. On the track, you need to have the eyes of a hawk, neat, fast writing and be unflappable – unless there is photofinish. In the field, you need to be physically strong – have you ever carried a hammer from one of the longer throws – a good technical knowledge and practical skills to manage a wide range of challenges, for example when the high jump uprights are wonky. Starters, marksmen and timekeepers all have specific skills. Try them all – there will be one you are better at or prefer.

What has been the highlight of your officiating career?
My highlight was being an Athlete’s Steward at the 29th European Athletics Masters Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March 2007. It was the first time I had undertaken this role and it was amazing to see all the effort that took place outside the Arena.

What can we do as a sport to achieve a #BetterBalance in officiating?
I am a volunteer for our local Tri Club as well as our Athletic Club. The Tri Club ask competing members to volunteer to help out at three meetings a year or provide a substitute. This means the athletes appreciate what it takes to run an event and also brings different people into the sport. Obviously with Health and Safety being so important it may not always be easy to bring youngsters on board, but there are areas we could introduce them too, especially in they are injured but want to come along to support. There is a need to bring more youngsters into officiating. In the older officials there seems to be a good balance of men and women but how this is going to carry through now that many more people will be retiring later and not having the time to commit to regular volunteering is difficult to anticipate. However, encouraging parents to help out at local meetings and explaining how the different events work would inspire some of them to carry on after their children have moved on.

Find out more about International Women’s Day here

If you want to get involved in officiating, find out more information here