By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
“It’s really rewarding to be able to contribute and support the whole community,” said Arlene Woodcock, a Manitoba cycling official, or commissaire, since 2004.
“Because that’s really what we do. You can’t run a race without having an official.”
Arlene is also a national commissaire with experience doing events like the Tour of Alberta.
A Vision to Recruit
When Arlene first got involved in cycling, she discovered one of the ways to support the sport is to help build the commissaire community in Manitoba.
“One of my goals was to become somebody that could teach and be able to licence locally, because I saw the need for it,” she said. “If you don’t offer the ability to teach people and licence them, you end up with a dwindling population.”
And to recruit new commissaires, you need experienced ones to lead the way.
Welcoming New Commissaires
Arlene said recruiting new officials can be difficult, so it’s important to create a welcoming environment.
That means letting people know they’re not expected to be perfect.
“It’s absolutely okay to make a mistake,” said Arlene. “I think that’s what people are so worried about or why they’re apprehensive to become an official, because it appears to be very daunting from the outset.”
In reality, what’s most important for a new official is an eagerness to learn and the ability to stay open-minded.
“The only way that you can do that is through experience and through exposure, and that’s by doing it and by doing it more frequently and consistently. It’s okay to make mistakes, because when you make a mistake, that’s how you learn. And, you know, we’re human,” she said.
It might sound scary to jump into an officiating role for the first time. But a commissaire isn’t out there on their own.
“There’s always a committee of officials, or at least one other official that’s going to work with you. You got somebody there you can draw from, rely on, and speak to. You work as a team.”
Handling Conflict On The Spot
When it comes to conflict during a competition, Arlene said it happens, but it’s about how you deal with the situation that counts.
“It’s not a role where you come in and slam down your fist and say ‘I’m enforcing this as the official and this is the way it’s going to be.’”
“We’re all part of one community, so it’s really important to have those soft skills so you can enforce what has to be enforced, but apply it in a way that people understand why you did it. And that really means you have to listen to what they tell you about what they saw,” said Arlene.
Ultimately, it’s about working together with the organizers and athletes, being approachable, and always listening and observing what’s happening around you.
Supporting Recruitment Through Awareness
Arlene acknowledges it can be challenging at the individual sport level to continue to recruit officials, but if we can bring awareness to it at a higher level across all sports, this can be a good thing.
“Officials across all sports, regardless of the sport you’re in, are still doing the same thing. You’re understanding the rules, you’re applying those rules in the situation that you’re faced with, and you’re using those soft skills to be able to communicate appropriately and listen and understand what’s going on. I think that applies no matter what sport you’re in.”
She also believes the #NoRefNoGame campaign can benefit in letting people in on the role of an official.
“They’re critical to the sport. We’re there to help mentor and make the event safe and competitively fair and fun for everybody there.”