AusCycling | Aspiring commissaires put to the test at BMX Racing National Championships

Aspiring commissaires put to the test at BMX Racing National Championships


13 aspiring BMX racing officials have taken the next step on the commissaire pathway, undertaking three days of learning and assessment during the BMX Racing National Championships in Launceston.

The nationally accredited commissaire course represents the pinnacle of senior official accreditation at the national AusCycling level and involves two days of theory-based learning and exams, where aspiring commissaires are tested on their knowledge of current rules and regulations.

However, as Race Director of the BMX Racing National Championships Paul Connors explained, officials are also assessed on their ability to put the lessons learned in the classroom into action.

“I’d much rather build the training on scenario-based situations. When you’re at that level towards becoming a national commissaire, most people would much prefer scenario-based training as opposed to PowerPoint presentations and theory-based training,” Connors said.

2022 BMX Racing National Commissaires Course
Photo: Paul Connors/Luke Madill

Accordingly, the commissaires spend one day out on track after their classroom training, deploying their newly found knowledge in real-time, with Connors revealing what the evaluators are assessing in those on-track situations.

“We’re looking for competency. And with competency comes confidence and dealing with all types of situations, be it the highest of highs, or the lowest of lows. The highest of highs is shaking the national champion’s hand, saying, ‘well done, great job,’ and understanding that you’ve officiated in a well-run and well-delivered event,” Connors said.

“The lowest of lows is poor behaviour issues and stuff like that that you have to deal with. So, in this course, we’re really looking to see where the commissaires can enjoy the highest of highs, and also deal with the lowest of lows, in the diversity of challenges and different scenarios.”

Unsurprisingly then, communication is one of the most important skills for aspiring officials.

“The biggest challenge a commissaire has is being able to deliver the message in a way that is receptive to a number of different riders. You might have a rider who is a firecracker and will just explode when you say hello, or you might have a rider who is meek, mild, and possibly easily upset. Being able to read the personality, read the person, and then deliver that message, is the number one thing we consider,” Connors said.

Assessors also need to correct certain interpretations of rules throughout the course, ensuring the integrity and quality of officiating reaches standardisation throughout the sport.

“In the course, I talk a lot about currency; currency in terms of maintaining up-to-date knowledge of the rules and regulations, and they change every year. I guess when you get a level of national commissaire, one of our biggest challenges is the ability to learn, unlearn, and then re-learn, particularly with the way technology and rules are changing every year,” Connors said.

“Maintaining currency of the rules is important, so there is no interpretation. Ultimately, whether we go to Queensland, WA, ACT, NSW, or wherever, the application of the rule should be exactly the same.”

2022 BMX Racing National Commissaires Course
Participants and instructors of the 2022 national commissaire course, with BMX Sport Manager Luke Madill. (Photo: Paul Connors/Luke Madill)

Like many grassroots sports, Connors admits the volunteer nature of officiating, the demands of everyday life, and criticism from a small minority of riders and parents make it difficult to attract officials to the sport, but he nonetheless believes BMX officiating has huge opportunities ahead of it.

“One of the best things from AusCycling forming in the last couple of years is that it’s generated a commissaires community. And when we come together as a national technical group, you’ve got all disciplines represented there, and it provides the opportunity to have a cross-discipline discussion. And there are principles that apply throughout. Is it safe? Is it fair? Is it fun? Those three key principles in our officiating don’t change whatever the discipline is,” Connors said.

Connors also explained how video technology is possibly an underutilised resource, saying that while the rules don’t permit officials to use video in the operation of the sport, the opportunity to go back and look at incidents can play a key role in the development of commissaires, with the Queenslander saying, “we don’t do that enough as a group, and I think we should.”

2022 BMX Racing National Commissaires Course
Photo: Get Snapt

For those that become accredited as a national commissaire, the expectation is they will begin officiating in coordinator roles across state series, state titles, and the national series, with the aim of building a pool of commissaires to choose from for the national championships next year.

The next step for the ambitious is a UCI-accredited elite national commissaires course, with the ultimate accreditation being a UCI international commissaire, but regardless of the accreditation outcome for participants in Launceston, Connors said they will continue to support anyone who takes up the challenge of being an official.

“Like I said to them when I was debriefing them, ‘This is not the end of your learning; this is simply the start of your learning at a different level.’ And either way, whether they pass or fail – especially if they want to – we will continue to educate them.”

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