Jenny Ferris – Age 45 – Regional Officials Co-ordinator (Northland)
How, why and when did you first decide to get involved as an official?
Jenny: The late Colleen Brunker, who was involved with Northland Masters, would ask all of us young athletes (Jenny was one of Northland’s top middle-distance runners) each year to help with the Masters pentathlon. She would say “us oldies help you all year and it would be really great if you could come along and helped us for a change”. She was so lovely there was no way we could say no. We would all turn up and help and it was a really enjoyable day. This is how I got started in officiating.
Can you explain your current status as an official and what your role entails?
Jenny: I have a B grading – which means I can officiate as a chief at track and field events for track, jumps and throws and a C grading for Walks. I am also the officials’ coordinator for Northland, where it is my role to encourage people to officiate and become graded Athletics New Zealand officials.
What are your favourite three things about being an official?
Jenny: When you officiate at major events you get fed! The second thing is meeting lots of amazing people with like-minded interests. Thirdly, I love the fact as officials we are close up to the action.
What is the most challenging aspect to your role?
Jenny: Probably one of the most challenging things for me as an official is that one day I would like to become an A grade official. However, to achieve that I need to officiate at a number of large meetings – which can often mean an expensive five-hour round trip to Auckland from my Northland home There is funding available for coaching but only very limited funding available to help train officials. The other challenging aspect to my role as officials’ coordinator for Northland is a real shortage of officials. If there are any officials reading this who would like a change of scenery Northland is a great place to live!
Do you feel there is a clear pathway for officials’ development?
Jenny: There is a very clear pathway for official’s development in New Zealand, but it’s a case of making sure that people know about the pathway. Now that I’m the Officials Co-ordinator for Northland it’s up to me to ensure that people know about this pathway.
Why would you encourage the younger generation to become involved as an athletics official?
Jenny: I am passionate about encouraging secondary school athletes to give something back to the sport by having a go at officiating. It also is beneficial for them as it gives them a greater understanding of the rules. I’m always amazed at how the young athletes in our club LJ Hooker Athletics Whangarei are prepared to give up their time to help out. Last year I was asked if I could help find officials to help out at a Special Olympic event in Whangarei. I had so many young athletes from our club wanting to help I had to turn some of them away.
What is your most treasured memory as an official?
Jenny: I was starter for the 100m at the Northland champs. It was one of our first races on our new all-weather track, but I started them in the wrong place and they all ended up running the 110m instead. Two of Northlands top coaches were at the start line of the 100m as well as numerous athletes who regularly competed outside Northland on all-weather tracks and none of them had realised the race was being started in the wrong place! The athletes only realised at the finish when they were all complaining about their slow times. I was absolutely mortified by my mistake but I couldn’t help but see the funny side as well. All officials make mistakes at some stage, but as long as you take the opportunity to learn from your experiences it can only make you a better official.