Jan and Gary Gammage love their roles as Officials (photo via UK Athletics)
Do you have an athletics background?
Jan: No we don’t. We both volunteered when Glasgow hosted the European Championships in 2018 which was actually a number of sports but not athletics (which took part in Berlin).
We had just retired and were keen TV spectators of all sports so thought this would be a great way of getting involved.
I was based at one of the city hotels looking after the swimmers. It was the beginning of our volunteering journey.
Gary: I was based at Strathclyde Park where the rowing and then the triathlon took place.
After that we also got selected for the European Indoors the following year in 2019 where I was an athlete steward, so I was in the warm-up area clearing up after the athletes. But it gave me a great insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
Jan: When we were interviewed for the volunteering, we happened to be interviewed by Liz Wilder from Scottish Athletics who coordinates the volunteers at Scottish Athletics.
She asked if we would be interested in starting to volunteer with Scottish Athletics. After the Glasgow Commonwealth Games she had started a group of volunteers, known as ‘Liz’s Vollies‘ and she asked us to join her!
At the European Indoors I was in the uniform team then in hospitality so I didn’t really get close to the action, but it gave me a taster of all the different roles and the excitement of a major event.
Gary and Jan Gammage had a taste of volunteering at Glasgow 2019 European Indoors (photo by Bobby Gavin)
What interested you about officiating?
Gary: When we were with ‘Liz’s Vollies’ we led the athletes out on to the track, seeing what was going on in the field and we started to see what went on behind the scenes, how it all pieced together and how interesting it all was.
As armchair supporters we had never really appreciated all the different roles necessary to put on an event.
So we spoke to Shona Malcolm, development officer, and said we were interested and we joined an assistant officials’ taster course that covered all the different roles.
Jan: We quickly decided we enjoyed the field side of things as there seemed to be more variety of roles and more interaction with the athletes.
Where are you in your officiating journey? (Level/discipline)
Jan: We did the level one course before the pandemic and luckily, we had got the necessary experience already. We have since completed level two at the start of this year.
This took a lot of planning last summer but Scottish Athletics managed to put on some events; smaller events but that was perfect for us without many officials but gave us a chance to try out some different roles and talk with senior officials.
Gary: We need now to get lots more experience this year at the various events across Scotland. We have also got very involved with supporting the technical teams because we are local to the Emirates Stadium and retired so we can drop in and help in the lead-up to an event.
We really enjoy seeing how the nuts and bolts work in the build-up to an event. Previously we just arrived, and all the lines were marked, calibration done but now we are helping with that, too.
Now we are able to share our new expertise with the level ones coming through who seem to find us approachable.
Favourite moment as an official
Jan: Working with the disability sports over at Grangemouth. I found it so inspirational and emotional; it melts my heart. I also enjoy supporting the juniors and masters events.
Gary: I especially loved the Super Teams events with the under 12s talking part. There can be more than 600 youngsters there, so it is fairly chaotic but organised chaos and the kids are so enthusiastic; some of them have never been into a stadium before. I find it really endearing that they want to have-a-go.
What do you love most about officiating?
Jan: Despite only doing it for three years we are beginning to get to know the athletes and follow their progress on their athletics journey.
It is especially great watching the athletes get a PB and execute an event as they had planned it and we can share their excitement.
I like seeing all the teams working together – not just the officials but the volunteers, coaches, Scottish Athletics staff – to ensure the success of the event.
Gary: I have become fascinated by the pole vault and how much hard work is involved in getting that ready and during the event.
The technical aspects of each event are mind-blowing: the validity of the javelin; the complexities of the triple-jump; the weight of the shot put – it has been so interesting finding out about all these intricate elements of the events.
Each event we can be working with different colleagues, so it is lovely to find out about their different backgrounds especially finding out some have competed at a very high level. The camaraderie is lovely.
What are your ambitions in officiating?
Gary: We don’t put any pressure on ourselves; we are just enjoying the journey and learning. I don’t think I’m ready to be a referee . . . yet!
Jan: We enjoy sharing information with others especially the newer Officials – when we started, we didn’t know anything so we try to help out as we may have a wee bit more time than some of the senior officials and we remember what it was like when we didn’t understand the terminology.
What would you tell others who are thinking of becoming an Official?
Jan: Don’t be put off even if you have no athletics experience. You may be coming with a different perspective which can actually be a good thing as you feel able to challenge it.
Gary: I’d tell armchair supporters to get out and try it as it’ll help you understand it so much more. We all make mistakes so don’t worry.
Describe what officiating means to you in 3 words
Jan: Fun. Inspirational. Emotional.
Gary: Amusing. Rewarding. Exciting.