Sue Kee officiates at International Beach Event

Sue Kee at International Beach EventBeach Volleyball scoring at the Swatch FIVB World Tour 2010 Conoco Phillips Grand Slam Stavanger

As the London Olympics in 2012 creeps closer, the National Technical Officials training is gathering pace to ensure that our Great British scorers and linejudges are ready for this world-class event. Unfortunately there are no European or World events in the UK this year, so the NTO’s have been looking further afield to get valuable experience.

On 27th June I headed from Glasgow to Stavanger in Norway to volunteer as a scorer at the rather cumbersomely titled Swatch FIVB World Tour 2010 Conoco Phillips Grand Slam Stavanger. I was accompanied from the UK by a group of other NTO’s, comprising seven scorers and two line judges. In return for our time we received transport to and from Stavanger airport, accommodation in a rather unique venue, (more on this later!), a uniform, and three meals a day – not to mention free access to watch some fantastic beach volleyball!

Our first task on arrival on Sunday was to pick up our accreditation, bus pass (!), and uniforms, including two tshirts, shorts, trousers, cap, hoody, Swatch watch and rainjacket – all rather nice actually! We were also split into one of six teams for the week. I was assigned to team A which consisted of 2 court managers, 4 scorers, 4 line judges and a swathe of youngsters to perform ball-retrieving, raking and scoreboard operating. I was terrified to find that I was the only non-Norwegian speaker in the whole team, but thankfully my court managers and fellow scorers were all fluent in English, thus saving me from a week of feeling rather left out!

After catching the second half of the England v. Germany match in the pub, (where we discovered first-hand that the beer in Norway really IS extortionate), we were left to find the correct bus to our new residence, Madlaleiren, and to settle in. This turned out to be an army barracks, where we had to check in at the guard hut EVERY time we entered or left the grounds, and where we were packed five or six to a room, with bunk beds and foot lockers. One more than one occasion we saw the Military Police inspecting the rooms, which had no locks, and we were given a strict dressing down when our room was not deemed to be tidy enough! Our residence was also lacking a restaurant or canteen, and we quickly tired of our daily breakfast delivered in crates – ham and cheese baguettes with a bottle of Nestea. Every day… For seven days… Madlaleiren’s two redeeming qualities were the fact that it had a bus stop at the main gates, and its beach volleyball court which played host to an England v. Scotland (and Sweden) scorers’ match one evening. I’m pleased to report that Scotland (and Sweden) won!

On Monday morning we attended the scorers’ clinic where Australian referee Catriona Tweedie and Norwegian referee Lars Rydland talked us through the key elements of the scoresheet, which was a good refresher for us GB NTO’s. Then we hit the sand, and my first task was scoring a women’s Country Quota match for Brazil – no pressure then…

From Tuesday until the weekend it was non-stop action from 10am to 8pm, and we had to grab lunch and dinner in the canteen beside Centre Court whenever we could. Sometimes it took as long to work out what you were about to put on your plate as it took to actually eat it, (tinned mackerel and sardines, and rather suspicious brown cheese were a few of the Norwegian delicacies on offer), but we certainly never went hungry.

Unfortunately we faced some rain in the first couple of days, but found that the organisers were prepared for adverse weather, and they built plastic shelters around the scorers’ tables – even while we were scoring live matches! We also had clear plastic boxes with one side cut out, so that we could place them over the scoresheets and continue writing without getting into a soggy state. (Every scorer’s nightmare is a wet scoresheet!)

After every game the referees marked each of the scorers and linejudges from 1 to 5 on their performance during the game. The scorers were judged on the number of mistakes made, the tidiness of the scoresheet, (are all the tally marks in the same direction and the same length?!), and the communication with the referees during the game. All our scores were logged and then averaged out over the week – the highest scoring then being invited to participate in the semifinals and finals.

For those of you not familiar with the beach volleyball scoresheet, it is similar in concept to its indoor equivalent, but a smaller, double-sided sheet of A4. The scorer’s responsibilities  before the match include ensuring that the captains complete their team boxes, and then recording the result of the coin toss. During the game the scorer tallies the points scored, records side-outs and the score at court changes, (every 7 points in the first 2 sets then every 5 points in the last set), and records any timeouts/sanctions/protocols etc. In Stavanger I had to deal with my very first medical protocol leading to a forfeit, which requires a very specific set of remarks on the scoresheet, and which then also led me to run around the courts desperately trying to find the referee delegate to get his signature!

In addition to the scorer, the assistant scorer has a valuable role to play. This person operates the scoreboard on the scorer’s table, holds up numbered paddles to indicate which server is next, and communicates to the 2nd referee when there is ‘one point to switch’, (or to Technical Time Out, which occurs after 21 points played,) or ‘one point to set’. The scorer and assistant scorer must form a solid team to help each other keep track of the game. I was lucky enough to be appointed as assistant scorer in the women’s final, which was Brazil v. Brazil, so the scorer and I had to work purely on uniform colours to keep us right, (e.g. “green number 1 to serve”).

My most challenging game, however, was a men’s 2nd round match in the main draw, between Norway and Germany. As the home nation, Norway were always assigned to Centre Court, where the spectators paid up to 350 Krone, (around £35), to watch. The TV cameras were everywhere and the stands were packed, so the atmosphere was unbelievable and the noise was intense! The overwhelming majority of spectators had Norwegian flags, red caps and noisy clappers, so there was a real party vibe. My hands were shaking for the first few points, and I really had to shout to be heard by the 2nd referee over the cacophony! Thankfully it all went very smoothly and I was pleased to have gained experience in a centre court environment which will be comparable to the Olympics in two years’ time.

My week in Norway was fantastic and I learnt a lot as well as gaining confidence as both a scorer and an assistant scorer. I met some excellent people and fingers crossed I will be returning in 2011! Tusen tak, Stavanger!

Sue Kee