Powerlifting Officials Should Be Paid...And Other Jabs at Promoters

TAGS: payment, official, umpire, EMT, Jeff Guller, money, powerlifting

When I go to my grandson's little league games, the umpires act and dress officially. They also get paid.

When I go to my granddaughter's soccer games, the officials really look good in black shorts and yellow shirts with black stripes. And they get paid.

When I was in college, over fifty years ago, I refereed intramural athletics. I did it because I enjoyed it. And I got paid. The job provided weekend beverages.

Today, state, national, and world records are being set in federations that do not pay their officials. I am certainly not familiar with all federations. However, the ones with which I am familiar, do not pay their officials. I am an official in a federation that requires a written exam and a practical test. While it provides their officials with a shirt, it also tells the officials what else they must wear down to their shoes. What it doesn't do is provide for their officials to be paid.

Recently, I was asked to officiate a meet in that federation. I replied that I would be happy to and that my fee was X dollars. I received an email that the promoter would provide expenses, lunch and an entry to his next meet, but no payment. While the total cost was similar, I declined. I would rather pay my own entry fee and be paid for what I do than be in the debt of a promoter.


I wrote the president of that federation about payment for its officials. I asked that he standardize the pay for all his officials across the country. He replied with a listing of all of the expenses of a promoter, i.e. venue, equipment, moving equipment, setting up the venue, insurance and other listed expenses. Before, however, writing to him, I had considered all of these expenses together with the revenue collected from the participants and/or sponsors. It was my considered opinion that there was money with which to pay officials. We both presented reasonable arguments and agreed to disagree.

At a meet at which I was an official, I noticed an item of clothing worn by a lifter which, in my judgement, violated the rules. I called it to the attention of the head official. He then checked with the promoter who said it was okay. What the fuck! When did the promoter make rulings on a rule violation? Who the hell is in charge? Is that one of the reasons officiating gets a bad name? I did something that surprised even me: I kept my damn mouth shut.

Wouldn't an independent cadre of paid officials tend to alleviate some of these problems? I don't have all the answers. Even if I did, one voice is not going to change how business is done. But I can voice that voice. The proliferation of federations and how they do their business should not be subject to regulation but to common sense. I keep seeing calls for more people to become officials. They are promised expenses, a sandwich and soda, and an entry into the next meet by the same promoter. If you want competent officials, pay them! I wonder if a promoter would put on a meet for expenses, lunch, and an entry into the next meet.

bball ump

While I am picking on promoters, I'll keep on picking. Let me tell you a story (oh crap, here goes the old man with one of his stories). At a meet I attended a friend of mine attempted and completed a 584 pound squat. However, before he could rack the weight, he lost consciousness. The spotters did a wonderful job in securing the weight and no one was hurt and no equipment was damaged. When I asked him how he was, he said the only thing he hurt was his ego.

"A powerlifter's blood pressure goes up into the zone of a mycardial infarction (heart attack) during a maximal attempt. All the muscles contracting maximally putting pressure on the arteries and veins and making it difficult for blood to flow through the body. This causes the heart to work harder and push the blood harder."

—Powerlifting, Austin, D and Mann, B, PhD., Human Kinetics, 2012.

In a football game, when a player sustains a severe blow to the head, he is tested for a concussion. If the results are positive, he must successfully pass a concussion protocol before he can play again. Of course, we are all tougher than football players. However in the preceding scenario, an EMT could have made a determination of blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration and advised my friend whether it was safe to proceed to another maximal attempt.

An ACL is torn during a squat, a vertebrae is ruptured or a bicep torn during a deadlift, a rotator cuff is torn during a bench press. None of these are life threatening, but they all hurt like hell. The presence of an EMT can bring the injured peace of mind with a diagnoses and initial treatment.

I noticed recently that the lovely Hannah Johnson-Hill was at a bodybuilding show as an EMT. I don't know what bodybuilders do that would require the presence of an EMT, but I am glad they have the foresight to have an EMT present. I do know, however, what powerlifters do, and it is my considered judgement that an EMT is an invaluable asset at a powerlifting meet.

I do not advocate the raising of fees for power lifting meets. If, however, that is what is necessary to pay officials and secure the presence of an EMT, I will gladly pay my share.

Header image courtesy of Kenneth Richardson


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