Friday, November 8, 2019

GNAC Officiating Q&A: Bruce Davis

Bruce Davis has been a regular on officiating crews at GNAC cross country and outdoor track championship meets.

We are using this blog during the 2019-20 academic year to bring you profiles on the unsung heroes of GNAC athletic competition -- the referees, rules officials and officiating supervisors without whom the games could not occur.

These Q&A's are intended to heighten awareness for this critical aspect of amateur sports while celebrating the efforts of those individuals who are giving back to the game through the avocation of officiating.

This initiative is part of a comprehensive strategy by the NCAA DII Conference Commissioners Association to 1) bring attention to the crisis-level shortage of officials affecting amateur sports and 2) promote the benefits and rewards of officiating by implementing a national recruitment effort within the division.

For more information on how to become an official, we encourage you to visit the following links or reach out to your local officiating organization:

Now, on to our Q&A with GNAC track/cross country official Bruce Davis, who will be serving as the head starter at this weekend's 2019 NCAA Division II West Cross Country Regionals in Monmouth, Ore.

Name: Bruce Davis
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Years as an official: 30
Levels worked: Junior Olympics, middle school, high school, college, and four national USATF Open and Masters Championships.

What have been some of the highlights of your officiating career?
NAIA National Cross Country Championships (four or five times at Ft. Vancouver Historic Site). Several years of WIAA and OSAA state high school championships. Collegiate regional championships. I always enjoy working the Junior Olympics state and regional championships. Vancouver has a 21-elementary school track meet annually that is a kick.

Describe your competitive background in the sport of track and field.
None. I was a tennis player in high school.

What was it that attracted you to the officiating world?
I was asked to help out as a "recall starter" by my youngest daughter's track coach 30 years ago.

What were the initial steps you took to pursue a career as an official?
Duane Moodhe worked with me at Columbia River High School when I first got started and then about 20 years ago I was fortunate to be mentored by and work with Kelly Rankin who had served as a starter at the Los Angeles and Atlanta Olympic Games. My first head starter role at the college level was at Western Oregon University 15 years ago. Mike Johnson, WOU's head track coach, was instrumental in my development at that time.

What do you remember about your first “real” assignment as an official?
It was at Western Oregon and I started the first race (400 meter relay) at the OSAA State Championships (1A, 2A, 3A). I was very nervous. There was lots to do (check on the exchange zones to get OK from the judges that they were ready and then to get the race off on time because it was the first running event of the meet). It went well and then I settled into a rhythm for the rest of the meet.

What was it that prompted you to move into the intercollegiate ranks?
I was asked to shadow some meets at the University of Oregon with Kelly Rankin. I did several college meets with Dr. Rankin and then Mike Johnson at Western Oregon University allowed me to start his meets at Monmouth.

What is your specialty event in track and field, and why did you focus on that particular aspect of track officiating?
Even though I have done every event but pole vault I am not nearly as good in the field events as I am as a starter. I am most comfortable with the javelin but it is the starter position that I am absolutely at the place where I am totally at ease.

As an official in any sport needs to become a rules "expert,” what approach did you take to learning the rule book inside and out?
Each year I get an updated rule book in all four areas (NFHS, NCAA, USATF, and IAAF) and read through the running events thoroughly, but, it is the case book studies that I have found to be most helpful.

Can you outline a typical officiating year in terms of the number (and classification) of events you typically have on your calendar and the travel involved?
I do around 40 track/cross country meets a year. Most are in the Vancouver/Portland or mid-Willamette Valley areas of Oregon. Because I mentor neophyte starters I can find myself as far north as Tacoma, Wash., and as far south as Ashland, Ore. I also go from the Oregon Coast to Bend, Ore.

What have you found to be the biggest challenges as an official
Finding and working with new starters. I love mentoring them. You have to be at their meets and work with them to develop their skills and explain the “whys” of the trade. I have worked with over two dozen starters over the last 10 years. All of them, I am glad to say, have improved their skills and confidence.

Describe an aspect of college officiating that the average person or fan doesn’t realize?
The NCAA rule book is very light on specifics. As a starter you have to have enough experience to understand what a "fair start" is and all the ways to allow that to happen. I have very few DQs because of the different ways one can abort a potential problem. The side of officiating that I love the most at the college level is cooperation that I receive from the competitors. They are great to work with and a joy to be around.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in officiating? 
Just try it out. Connect with an experienced official and do some meets with them at a lower level. Read the rule books. Ask lots of questions and observe a "pro" as to how and why they do their job the way they do.