From skates to stationery: competition prep from an official’s point of view

I bumped into a former teammate, who’s still skating, at my local convenience store this afternoon. We were both there gathering competition supplies–she, make-up, and I, travel-size toiletries for my carry-on luggage–and it struck me that though I no longer compete as a skater, I can’t help but find familiar comfort in still having pre-competition rituals. Most other officials I know are the same. We each have our own individual ways of preparing (though the seemingly interconnected consciousness of our collective officials’ brains creates some eerie coincidental similarities), but most of us former skaters just can’t kick our old habits. The double, triple, and quadruple skate-check has been replaced by an infinituple paperwork and pens-check. An official, especially we technical officials, can NEVER have too many highlighters.

For my own usefulness as a packing list, and for your insight, these are the things I don’t leave home without (aside from clothing, etc.) when I’m getting ready to head to a competition:

  • Up to seven colour-coded duo-tangs containing every synchronized skating rule known to humankind. The Essential Four contain my quick-reference sheets (technical requirements, calls, GOE, and PCS), ISU Communications, Skate Canada’s domestic restrictions, and the ISU Summary of Calls, pre-organized according to element. Additional duo-tangs contain last year’s ISU Communications, Skate Canada’s CPC rulebook, and Skate Canada’s Tech Rep guidelines.
  • A coil-bound copy of the ISU Special Regulations & Technical Rules.
  • Blank TS/TC worksheets if I’m on the tech panel.
  • Blank judges’ worksheets if I’m judging.
  • Envelopes, post-its, and paperclips if I’m trial judging.
  • A notebook or pad for practices.
  • Gajillions of pens, pencils, and highlighters–more than any rational person should possess.
  • Travel and accommodation information, practice and competition schedules, and the competition X and O (the officials’ assignments), all in plastic sleeves.
  • Kleenex.
  • Thin gloves to wear while writing.
  • SNACKS. Host committees always provide food, but competition days can be loooong and officials don’t always have many opportunities to leave the stand, especially at smaller events where there are fewer officials. I always make sure I have at least a stash of something like nuts and dried fruit, or maybe granola bars, with me if I need to sneak a quick bite on the stand.
  • Lip balm and bottled water. The technical panel, especially the TS, can spend hours a day talking into the headset microphone. By the end of the day, we’re parched if we don’t hydrate. Some tech officials like to take candies onto the stand they can suck on, for this purpose.
  • Advil.
  • Extra Advil.
  • Eye drops.
  • If I’m going to a rink with known sub-arctic temperatures, I squeeze a blanket into my suitcase just-in-case.

That accounts for most of the things I need. The things I do also contribute to the preparation ritual:

  • My first competition of the year is usually in early January, so I spend a good chunk of my Christmas vacation reviewing the rules. The week prior to the event, I usually review them to the extent that I complicate even the simplest rule and thoroughly confuse myself. A quick time-out (and sometimes a glass of wine) lets the swirl of difficulty groups and calls in my head settle back into coherency. (But not always before I also bombard my colleagues with emails: “Have I lost my mind? Am I over-thinking this rule?” We’re all in this together.)
  • I test myself by watching or re-watching videos, and calling out loud, if I’ll be on the technical panel. I practice taking notes if I’ll be judging. This is more crucial prior to the first competition of the season, when my brain-to-mouth and brain-to-pen translation skills are rustier.
  • Skaters go over steps in their heads while waiting in line at the grocery store–I go over difficulty groups and calls for worst-case scenarios.
  • I print out everything I’ll need related to that specific competition (schedules, etc.) and put it into plastic sleeves.
  • I check my flight departure time.
  • I check it again.
  • I replenish my supply of travel-size toiletries, and congratulate myself when I manage to fit everything I need into my carry-on suitcase. (I come from a long line of over-packers. It’s a problem.)

This may all sound pretty organized, but the truth is, procrastination is my strong suit. As a skater, I loosely resembled a human hurricane while packing for a competition. That hasn’t really changed. But once the rules are read, the suitcase packed, and my behind is in my seat on the plane, the chaos briefly subsides, and excitement creeps in. Whether you’re on the ice or on the judges stand, there’s nothing like the first competition of the season.


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