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Technical Officials: Who are they are what do they do?
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Technical Officials: Who are they are what do they do?


Technical officials (TOs) are volunteers who support event organisers to ensure athletes are safe throughout the event. They also help make sure those competing follow the rules and regulations of the sport.  

TOs play a vital role at all levels of the sport, from people taking part in their very first triathlon, through to offering advice and support to those competing in Age-Group qualifiers, national championships and elite races, ensuring fair competition throughout.  

Here we spoke to two technical officials, Paul Twose and Lynne Lauder, to learn more about their respective journeys in the sport.  

How did you get involved in triathlon? 

Paul Twose: “About 25 years ago, I was living in the US and doing absolutely no exercise. I got talked into doing a fun run by a friend in San Francisco and the bug bit. I thought, this is great, I want to do more and looked for a running club to join. I joined a club and there happened to be a triathlon club there.  Three months later I was signed up for my first triathlon. The bug bit, I then came back to the UK and just embraced the sport fully.” 

Lynee Lauder: “I became involved in triathlon through my work. I worked for a leisure trust and one of the challenges we faced was to try and raise the profile of our facilities and put on activities that would give our members something to aim for. And as we have swimming pools and pitches, the natural fit was to consider triathlons and offer them across the region. I got into it by working with Triathlon Scotland, finding out about the rules and how to put on events.” 

What made you want to be a Technical Official?  

Paul Twose: “I think it’s going back 12 years.  I was beginning to realise I couldn’t compete as much as I did and was taking more and more time to recover. I was probably doing seven or eight events in a year and couldn’t keep that up.  

“I wanted to stay involved with the sport. Coaching wasn’t the way to go. Technical Official was a possible way with my background.  I’m an accountant and being an auditor, I guess compliance is always something I’ve worked with. That was my way of beginning to give something back to the sport that I’d enjoyed over so many years.” 

Lynee Lauder “That’s an easy one.  We could put on events but didn’t know the rules and at that point, I knew you had to swim, and you biked, and you ran. But I couldn’t even tell you at that point what order you did it in. So, as we were getting more and more people involved in our events, we knew there was a necessity to go and actually find out what the rules were.   

“I contacted Triathlon Scotland, and we arranged a couple of meetings and, in the run up to London 2012, there was some funding for fast-tracking technical officials in preparation for Glasgow 2014. I joined at the right time and began on the Technical Official journey.” 

What has your experience been like as a TO? 

Paul Twose: “The opportunities it’s given me have been great.    

“I’ve particularly liked working with event organisers over several years and seeing events improve. I can think of one where I raced it and I didn’t think it was a great event.  Subsequently working with that event organiser to change the way they ran the event, turning it into one that’s a pleasant experience for athletes, I think that’s what I find the most rewarding – helping event organisers improve the events they’re putting on. 

Lynne Lauder: “Fun. I think the first thing to say. 

“I think the triathlon community is a really friendly community where it’s inclusive and there’s a great atmosphere and there’s this real working together philosophy about it.  

“It’s been very encouraging seeing people going to events. I’ve started to see them at their first event where they are clueless, and you try to give them a couple of pointers. And as the day goes on, they’ll come up to you and say ‘thank very much for that. That’s really helpful.’  

“And then you start seeing these competitors growing over time, starting out at smaller and shorter events going right up to Age-Group and higher. That’s kind of where you get a real reward, because you’ve been part of that pathway that’s enabled events to go ahead and allowed people to get qualifications and experience.” 

How important are volunteers to the sport? 

Paul Twose: “I think they’re key because I think even with the professional race or event organisers, without the volunteers they’re not going to run. You’re never going to run an event without volunteers.  

“Technical officials are probably committed far more in that we’ve done the education, etcetera. We’re there providing the sort of the health and safety aspect. I tend to say to an organiser that we’re there more as the conscience of British Triathlon to make sure the event delivered is a quality experience for the athlete. The rules and compliance are secondary from my point of view, it’s far more about making sure the athlete experience is right.” 

Lynne Lauder: “Without volunteers, you won’t have events. I think it’s as simple as that. The work behind the scenes is huge and time-consuming. Without those people who are willing to turn up in all weathers and stand there to try and make the race as safe and as fair as possible and take that educational role that helps people develop, they don’t happen. Volunteers are absolutely key.” 

What advice, as an official, would you give to athletes? 

Paul Twose: “Not to overthink it. We’re there first and foremost to help them as Technical Officials. We’re not there to try and catch them out. And I think too many think we’re almost there in a sort of police officer. You did it wrong, have a penalty.  

“I think we’re there to help them not make those mistakes, to educate them, hopefully preempt the mistakes they’re making or about to make. So, again, we’re not there to say you’ve done something wrong, and I’ve got to penalise you. That’s not what I’m there for. If I don’t have to do paperwork that suits me fine.” 

Lynne Lauder: “You’ve got a responsibility to know the rules as an athlete and to be prepared for an event. You need to know transition opens at this time or if it’s a rolling transition.  

“Event organisers, volunteers and performance teams have put a lot of time in pulling together all the information required to give you the best experience possible. The biggest issue is people don’t read it and there are changes every year. Don’t presume you were in the same race last year and everything will be the same because that’s not the case. 

“My biggest advice would be take responsibility for your own knowledge as an athlete and don’t expect just to be given everything on the day.” 

What is your advice to anyone thinking of becoming a TO  

Paul Twose “I would say definitely do it. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.   

“If you’re not sure, part of that first course involves shadowing. There’s nothing to stop you talking to existing Technical Officials and maybe coming along to an event even before you commit, come and see what a Technical Official does.  We (officials) would be happy to show people what we’re doing as a taster before they committed to it.” 

Lynne Lauder “First thing I would do is try and go along to local events and see what’s going on to see if that is definitely something you are interested in.  

“Then contact British Triathlon or one of the home nations and find out a little bit more about it because there’s an education programme for this. Everybody’s dying for volunteers and there’s something right on your doorstep. So, if you contact them and say you’re interested, you can be put in touch with someone who can talk through what the role actually is, how you can get more involved and talk explain the educational pathway.  

“If you’re at event and see a technical official there, go and have a chat with them yourself, ask some questions about the role, because they’d be more than willing to share what they’re doing there, why they’re there and point you in the direction of how to get involved.” 

If you’re interested in becoming a Technical Official or learning more about the role and other volunteer opportunities within triathlon click here