Updated Rules Test

by Al Myers

USAWA President Denny Habecker (left) and the late Wilf Chapman (right) of Australia officiating at the 2007 IAWA World Championships in New Zealand.

I just want to announce that the USAWA Rules Test has been updated. The USAWA Official’s Director Joe Garcia and myself have made a few changes to the Open Book Rules Test that must be passed in order to become an USAWA Certified Official. Joe had identified some “bad questions” on the old exam and these questions  have been changed or modified.  Now I’m not saying we made the test easier – because a few new “hard” questions were added as well.  From this point on, this new test must be the one taken.  Don’t fill out and send in the old test!  If you do, you will be asked to take this new one instead. So this is YOUR WARNING!!!!!  Also, due to some rule changes in the past couple of years, the answers to some questions have changed. This new test is much improved, with very few “open ended” questions. 

There are actually rules for the Rules Test.  Since there are no questions covering these rules of the Rules Test in the Rules Test (wow, say that three times quick!), I’m going to go over them.  This is taken from Section VII of the USAWA Rule Book as it applies to the Rules Test:

10.   There will be two levels of classification for Certified USAWA officials.

  • Level 1 Test Qualified – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test.
  • Level 1 Experience Qualified – The official has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.
  • Level 2 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test and has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.  

11.   The USAWA Secretary will maintain a list of certified officials, their level of classification, and their active/inactive status. This list will be available to the membership.

12.   The USAWA Rules Test will consist of 100 open book questions regarding rules within this rulebook.  The test must be completed and returned to the Officials Director to be judged.  There is no time limit in taking the test. To pass the test, an applicant must score over 90 percent.  The Officials Director will inform you only of a pass or fail.  You will not be told the questions you missed. If you fail, you may retake the test as many times as you like.  Once an applicant has passed the test, the Officials Director will inform the USAWA Secretary to include you on the list of Certified USAWA Officials.

13.  Once an official has passed the Rules Test, the Officials Director will issue an Officials card that will be valid for 3 years from the date the official passed the test.  Level 1 Test Qualified Officials will be required to retake the Rules Test after 3 years to maintain Certified Official Status. Level 1 Experience Qualified Officials will receive an Officials card that is valid for 3 years and will be automatically renewed unless the official has been inactive as an official during the previous three year period, in which a new Officials Card will not be issued unless the individual makes a written request to the Officials Director. Level 2 Officials are exempt from recertification, and are issued a lifetime officials card.

14.   An individual must make a written request to the Officials Director in order to apply for Level 1 Experience Qualified Certified Status and provide proof that the individual has the 25 competition experience requirement. This also applies to an official who wants to change their level of certification from Level 1 Test Qualified to Level 2.  

 In a couple of years  (2013) we will begin to have a few officials that will need to renew their certification.  Joe and I have discussed this, and we have decided that we will work up a new test in a year from now.  This way those re-certifying will have a new and different test to take.  I’m sure some questions will remain the same or just be changed slightly.  I KNOW  myself  (and Joe) will hear some complaining and bellyaching when this happens, but THAT IS JUST THE WAY IT IS in order to have a good officials program.  Our officials program already lets the “experienced” officials “off the hook” when it comes to taking the Rules Test.  That is why there is that “25 event” loophole in the rules now.   My opinion is that EVERYONE should be taking the test and this is why – we have over 200 official lifts in the USAWA, and the rules are being changed and amended every year now, plus new lifts are being added.  Even the experienced officials have to “stay on top of things” in order to be a good official.   The main reason of the Rules Test is to insure that the officials are familiar with the current USAWA Rulebook.   All the questions on the test can be “looked up” and answered, since it is an open book exam.  This process FORCES someone to at least know where to look for the answers to judging questions or where the individual lifts rules are located in the Rulebook.  Since I’m on a “soapbox” right now, let me tell you about another gripe I have with officiating (besides the USAWA and IAWA(UK)  rules differences).  First of all, wrong calls on lifts will always be made by officials.  I even see it watching NFL games with instant replay, and these guys are paid “big bucks” to be professional officials.  Making a bad call doesn’t bother me – and I believe the officiating is as good in the USAWA as it ever has been.  Judgement calls are judgement calls – and everyone sees things differently. What bothers me is when “experienced officials” really don’t even KNOW THE RULES.  That is inexcusable.  All you have to do is have a rulebook and READ THE RULE of the upcoming lift before sitting in the chair.  I watch outstanding seasoned officials like Denny Habecker and this never happens to him, and this is why.  He is always carrying his Rulebook with him when officiating  and reads over the rules for the upcoming lift (which he probably knows like the knurling on his favorite bar) just TO BE SURE he hasn’t forgot something.  That’s what it takes to be an outstanding official!!!

This new Rules Test is located on the website under “USAWA Information – Officials & Rules Test” .

Improvements to the USAWA Officials Program

by Al Myers

Level 2 USAWA Certified Official Frank Ciavattone officiating at the 2010 USAWA National Championships.

One of the big changes this past year in the USAWA was the development of an Officials Program.  This started at the 2009 Annual Meeting with the approval of the new improved Rulebook that outlined the new Officials Program, and by electing Joe Garcia as the Officials Director for the USAWA.  Improvements were made to the Officials Program at the 2010 Annual Meeting last month.  I am going to describe and explain the USAWA Officials Program so everyone will be more knowledgeable of it.  Everything I say here is outlined in the Rulebook or on the website.

The USAWA has two levels of Certified Officials – Level 1 and Level 2.  Level 1 has been split into two subdivisions – Level 1 Test Qualified and Level 1 Experience Qualified. The Rulebook (Section VII. 9) explains these two levels as follows:

There will be two levels of classification for Certified USAWA officials.

• Level 1 Test Qualified – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test.

• Level 1 Experience Qualified – The official has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

• Level 2 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test and has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

I want to emphasize that ALL OFFICIALS (Level 1 and Level 2) have the same authority as a Certified USAWA Official.  Nothing in the Rulebook says different.  It is simply a classification that details HOW one became certified.  These classifications are recorded for each official in the “Officials” section of the website and are kept up to date at all times.  To become a Certified Official (if you are not Experience Qualified) requires taking and passing an Open Book Exam of the USAWA Rulebook.  It must be sent to the Officials Director Joe Garcia for grading.  You must score over 90% correct answers to pass.  Once you pass, Joe informs me to list you on the website as a current official. All of this is detailed in the “Officials” section and the Rules Test is available in several different formats, so hopefully, one will work for you to  download.

One of the big changes to the Officials Programs is adding time limits to the Official Cards.  The membership agreed to a 3-year Officials Card before re-certification is required. The new Rulebook (available August 1st on the website) will have this information in it.  Section VII. 12 and Section VII.13 have been added to the Rulebook, as stated below:

12. Once an official has passed the Rules Test, the Officials Director will issue an Officials card that will be valid for 3 years from the date the official passed the test. Level 1 Test Qualified Officials will be required to retake the Rules Test after 3 years to maintain Certified Official Status. Level 1 Experience Qualified Officials will receive an Officials card that is valid for 3 years and will be automatically renewed unless the official has been inactive as an official during the previous three year period, in which a new Officials Card will not be issued unless the individual makes a written request to the Officials Director. Level 2 Officials are exempt from recertification, and are issued a lifetime officials card.

13. An individual must make a written request to the Officials Director in order to apply for Level 1 Experience Qualified Certified Status or to show proof of officiating experience in order to change their level of certification.

Level 1 Experience Qualified Officials were developed originally as a “Grandfather Clause” to allow those VERY experienced qualified officials not to have to take a Rules Test.   These officials have always been the backbone of officiating in the USAWA and have proven their worth as a good official.  However, now, if they have not been active as an official for 3 years (and officiating ONLY ONE meet in this time keeps them active) they will be dropped from the list and must make a written request to Officials Director to regain Certified Officials Status.  I think this is very reasonable.  Why keep someone on our Officials List if they haven’t been contributing to the USAWA as an official?? Also, if someone IS Experience Qualified and hasn’t been officiating for several years, requiring a written request from them to become active as an official again in the USAWA doesn’t seem out of line to me. It’s not much to ask of them to drop Joe or me a short letter or email about their intentions of wanting to officiate in the USAWA again.    Joe and I  have no way of knowing who is “Experience Qualified” without someone telling us and giving us proof.  Most old meet results in the Strength Journal didn’t list the Officials.  Truthfully, I really don’t understand why Level 1 Experience Qualified Officials don’t want to take the Rules Test and become Level 2 Officials.  Lots has changed in the Rulebook and I’m sure they would learn something new as well as giving support to our new Officials Program.

Another new addition to the Rulebook involving officials is adding the minimum age of 16 years. Section VII.2 states The minimum age for a Certified Official is 16 years of age. Much debate arose at the meeting when this was discussed.  Some felt like it should be a higher age requirement.  Myself, I think 16 is a good minimum age to be an official.  Afterall, I’m meeting kids on the road that age when I’m driving!   I still think that at big meets (like Nationals and Worlds) more seasoned officials should be used.

I am pleased how the USAWA Officials Program is going.  We started it last year with a simple system,  and as time goes we are adding more requirements to make it better.  I feel the reason the USAWA Official Programs have failed in the past is because they were too complicated and required too much to start with.  They failed before they had the time to succeed.  We still have a long ways to go before we have a great Officials Program – but at least we have SOMETHING.   So as of now to become a Certified USAWA Official – all you have to do is take and pass a test!

Take the Time to Become an USAWA Official

by Al Myers

One of the exciting things about the membership voting to pass the new rulebook at last years National Meeting was the development of an USAWA Certified Officials Program which was included in the new rulebook. The USAWA has never really had an system for certifying officials before this. Several things have been tried through the years to develop an Officials Program but nothing ever took hold. Mainly it consisted of anyone who wanted to judge a meet was considered an official. Sure, at the 2006 National Meeting, the membership voted to develop a test that must be passed in order to be an official. But this turned out to be an optional requirement because meets were still being contested and records being set with Officials who didn’t take or pass the test. Only a handful of people took the test. Nothing really changed. A few years before this, a system was developed where there would be regional official’s chairpersons, who had the “duties’ of certifying officials in their area. But again, no guidelines were given to the Chairpersons in how to go about implementing this so it died about as quick as it was started.

Why didn’t any of these previous Official’s Programs work?

My opinion is this. They were either too extensive and time demanding that it wasn’t worth it for someone to go “through the program”, or the program didn’t have any backbone. What I mean by this is that having a program is all fine and dandy, but if there are not repercussions for NOT going through the program, why do it? Afterall, if you can still be an official and not go through the program, what good is the program?

I don’t think anyone would argue with me about the importance of having a system in place of certifying officials versus not having one. Everyone wants their lifts to mean something in competition, and having a certified official in competition passing your lifts lends to credibility. Now what people will argue about is what is required in an Official’s Program, or how it is implemented. Luckily this has all been sorted out by the membership agreeing on our current Officials Program, by voting in favor of it, at the last National Meeting. The new Official’s Program is far from perfect, but at least it is something to start with. I think it is best to start small and grow, rather than start big and fail. There are obvious things that need to be added to it as it develops through time, but those hurdles can be jumped as we come to them.

I know one of the arguments against this new Official’s Program is “passing a test does not make you a good official”. I absolutely agree. It is only part of being a good official. I think THREE things make up a good official: 1. Knowledge of the rules, 2. Experience, and 3. Judgement Skills. (and their importance is probably in that order). Passing a rules test only tests your knowledge of the rules. Experience only comes with hours of sitting in a judges chair and learning from your mistakes. This can be somewhat measured by the number of meets one has officiated. Judgement skills is the hardest to evaluate, but is a very important characteristic of a good judge. It can truly only be evaluated by a practical exam in which a master official “judges” a judge. Many other larger lifting organizations require this in their Official’s Programs. We are far from that! We all know each other and it is hard enough to be impartial judging each other lifting, let alone finding someone to judge our judges in a practical exam. That person would have to be someone with a very thick skin who didn’t care in having any friends after wards. Practical exams would never work at this time – it is hard enough just talking individuals into taking the short 100 question rules test!

I want to highlight some of the requirements of the Officials Program.

All of these come from the Rule Book.

VII.8. There will be two levels of certified USAWA Officials

Level 1 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test OR has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

Level 2 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test AND has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

VII. 10. The USAWA Rules Test will consist of 100 open book questions regarding rules within this rulebook. To pass the test, an applicant must score over 90 percent.

VII. 11. All sanctioned USAWA events must use certified officials, and the officials must be willing to sign a meet document proving their involvement in the competition or event as an official.

V. 4. Records may be established in any USAWA sanctioned competition or event provided that one certified USAWA official is present to officiate and approve the lift. If three USAWA officials are used to judge the lift, the lifter must receive approval of two.

The authority of a Level 1 Official is the same as that of a Level 2 Official. Nothing in the rules say otherwise. It is only a designation that shows that Level 2 Officials have achieved both of the criteria required. The experience criteria is the USAWA way of having a “Grandfather Clause” to allow those older, seasoned officials not to be asked to take the test. But to maintain integrity in our program the 25 meet experience requirement must be adhered to. I would hope that even those meeting the experience criteria would still take the Rules Test, and by doing so, would show support to this new Official’s Program and set a good example for others to take the test. Rule V.4. will be adhered to from now on – so if you want a record in the future you must have a certified Official judge you. You may notice that there are not any time limits imposed on Officials to re-certify. This is one thing that will need to be looked at by the membership in the future.

The Rules Test has been rewritten this past year and is much shorter in length. If you have ANY understanding of the rules you should be able to complete it in 2-3 hours. All of the essay questions have been removed. The test is open book and ALL answers can be found in the Rule Book. All the test really achieves is guaranteeing that a Official has LOOKED at the Rule Book, and hopefully will know where to go to find the answers to any judging question. This system couldn’t be any easier – so to say it is too hard to become an USAWA Official is just not true. If someone doesn’t have three hours to give to take this test only tells me that they are not really that interested in becoming an official. You don’t even have to be an experienced lifter to take and pass the exam! Maybe someday our organization will grow to a point where we can have Level 3 Officials, whereas a Practical Exam would be required, but for today I would just hope that everyone would support the program that is in place – so we can TRUTHFULLY say that we have a Certified Official’s Program in the USAWA.