The swimming infrastructure here is one of the best of all the sporting organisations in the Cayman Islands and that was epitomised recently by one of the members paying her own way to attend a FINA course in Nassau, the Bahamas.
FINA, aka Federation Internationale De Natation, is swimming’s world body. Olive Balderamos went on the course in February because she felt it an imperative.
“I took the opportunity to do the training because it was a FINA organised event and the presenters were individuals who are on the technical swimming committee for FINA,” Balderamos said. “These are the people who make the rules and who change the rules to adapt to any changing situations in swimming.
“The lecturers were Carol Zaleski from the USA who is the chair of that committee and Soren Korbo who is the honorary secretary from Denmark. There is a series of five of these training courses scheduled this year, however this was the only one scheduled for our part of the world.
“The others will be in places like Hong Kong, Fiji, Turkey and Nigeria. The objective is to have one of these schools in each continent. The aim is to train and certify swimming officials throughout the swimming world in a consistent manner so that when these officials have an opportunity to work on deck at international swimming events such as world championships and the Olympics they will be able to interpret and apply the rules in a uniform manner.
“This was the prime opportunity to train as an official for swimming at the highest level.”
Balderarmos reckons swimming in Cayman will now have officials who are in a position to train others and pass on the information gained. “Cayman swimming will also benefit from the exposure to others in the swimming world,” she said. “We will be recognised as a federation that is interested enough in our sport to make sure that we do the best job of officiating at our meets.
“Our athletes will also benefit from this because if we as officials enforce the rules accurately at a local level then our swimmers will continue to build their confidence that what they are doing in the pool is within the rules and that they will not be disqualified at international meets because we did not do a good job at our local meets.
“Sometimes when a swimmer is disqualified, parents get frustrated. However, that disqualification becomes a learning tool for the swimmer, because you can be sure that they will pay attention to whatever the problem was and will not let it happen to them the next time.”
Airfare and hotel in Nassau for four days cost around $1,600. “I was able to trim that a bit by using my travel award points. The Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association is our local swimming governing body.
“They raise funds from community events such as sea swims, sponsored swim gala and raffles in order to support our swimmers and our swim programmes.
“This has not been an easy year for fundraising, so they have not been able to budget much funds for development of officials. Sometimes when you see an opportunity you have to run with it. This was one of those times. Most officials throughout the swim world do this for love of the sport and quite often have to pay their own way to training such as this.”
Balderamos has two adult children who used to be in the programme. “My son William went to CARIFTA in 1996 as a 13-year-old. He continued to represent Cayman at Carifta until he was 17.
“He then went on to Southern Methodist College and swam for all four years there. He also represented Cayman at Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador in 2002.
“My daughter Andrea began swimming at the Lions Pool when she was nine and like her brother swam at CARIFTA from 1998 until 2003.
That is a lot of years of supporting our programme and the kids in the sport.
“I did not start being involved in officiating until 2004 after my kids were no longer actively swimming. I was always too busy cheering them on and knew that I would not have done a very good job of officiating if they were competing.
“I was always involved in many other ways but not officiating. I did all the officials training courses even back then but was never actively on deck.
“I did however notice that we spent a lot of money and went to a lot of trouble to bring in referees from overseas to work at our meets and to train our own people, only to see them walk away and not be involved once their children were no longer swimming at the pool. “The lack of continuity really hurt our programme because we were not benefiting from the longevity that is required to train our officials to the highest levels.
“While at the FINA Schools in Nassau I met officials who have 25 years of experience officiating. This is the longevity that is important if you want to learn to do this job well.
I have made a commitment to give back to the sport of swimming because I feel that my children have benefited greatly from being involved in the sport.”