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PAQ List officials still learning while acting as mentors

News –

By Rita Mingo

Diane MacKenzie, a fixture in Nova Scotia officiating circles, started her volunteerism in rural Saskatchewan before moving east.

Now she’s one of a handful of Canadian swimming officials who have been chosen to represent their country at top international meets.

“I think I would have my father to thank for that,” MacKenzie said. “He was a huge community volunteer. He was always giving back.

MacKenzie is one of five Canadians who have been named to the Pan Am Aquatics (PAQ) officials’ list, a commitment that runs from Jan. 1, 2024 to Dec. 31, 2027. The others are Kerim Ozcan, Iris Jackson, Teresa Stauft and Su Kin Cheong. Ozcan, MacKenzie and Jackson are referees, while Stauft and Cheong are starters.

“When I was growing up, sports was something that was very helpful to me. I did team sports and I had a lot of excellent coaches. When I had my own kids, swimming requires volunteer officials. You do it long enough and you develop some sort of competency so it’s kind of like succession planning. How do I also then help other officials come up and continue the sport?” MacKenzie said.

Her resume includes all levels of swimming, including the Bedford Beavers, the Halifax Trojans and both Dalhousie and McGill varsity programs; age group development meets, the AUS championships, U Sports championships and several national trials.

“Clearly, it’s quite an honour to be on the list from Canada because we have a lot of great officials coast to coast,” MacKenzie said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of them on the list and also on past lists.”

“As you move through different positions, then you’re often asked to teach the clinics because it’s part of the officials pathway. I’ve been involved with some of the steering committee work on looking at revising clinics, making them accessible, to try and recruit more individuals. To try and make it so people can stay in it longer so they don’t feel there’s only one end point.”

Ozcan, meanwhile, reflects on how he has been both mentor and mentee.

“We have two responsibilities,” said Ozcan, an oral surgeon from Prince George, B.C. “The first is to take advice and mentorship from the ones that have gone before us but I think also it’s to be good mentors. Be a role model. Try to teach clinics, encourage people to go to national meets and keep the volunteerism of Swimming Canada foremost in our organization.

“Without swimming officials, we don’t have swimming.”

Ozcan, a swimming official for almost 20 years, called it an “absolute thrill” to represent Canada internationally.

“I thought it would be important to volunteer and this is my way of giving back to my community, my province and my nation,” he said.

Ozcan, who began his volunteering with the Prince George Barracudas Swim Club in northern B.C., lists Sheila Nelson, Larry Chrobot, Bill Hogan, Maggie Middleton and Daryle Martin as mentors at the provincial and international stages.

“I went into swimming officiating quite humbly, going from timer to stroke judge to starter, then referee then master official,” he said. “Once I had some confidence on the deck and I had great mentors at a national level that were blazing the path ahead of me, they suggested that I keep moving up the officials’ pathway. My thought has always been if you do good work, that work will be recognized.”

Cheong, who hails from the Pickering Swim Club, has the late Paul Corkum to thank as mentor and now, 20 years into her officiating journey, she can be found almost every weekend on a pool deck.

“When I received the email, I couldn’t believe that I was selected,” she said. “And then I couldn’t even sleep.

“Then I thought, what is next? I just want to continue what I love best: to be on deck, to see the swimmers perform well and progress. That’s why I’ve been volunteering with the swimming world for so long, to see the kids go after their goals.”

Happily, mentoring in the Toronto area takes up a lot of her time.

“If they need a clinic run, I’ll be there,” noted Cheong, a retired elementary school workshop presenter. “That’s also the main thing. I enjoy being with people and encourage them to progress. I always say don’t think about it as a chore, think about it as potential for when you retire. When you retire, you have plenty of time on your hands and this is a good hobby to have. The main thing is don’t think about going up the ladder. You’re here to help and when you’re assigned a position, do it well.

“The friendship created among officials is precious to me.”