Prior to reading this section it is recommended that you review the LTAD Overview section and understand the defined terms.
Referees play vital role in the long-term development of an athlete. Although they do not affect the day-to-day training of the athlete nor do they affect program planning, they do however provide support in competition. In sport, competition is extremely important for athletes. Meaningful competition can be used as a good servant of the effectiveness of training programs and it is also a means to keep athletes engaged in water polo from cradle to grave. Providing support in the world of Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is about understanding the role of competition in the development of the athlete and the particular stage of development. Showing up and blowing a whistle is not all that is expected of water polo referees!
It is important for referees to know the various stages within the water polo LTAD model. It is also important for referees to know the purpose of competition and how competition is being used at each stage to development. The role of the referee changes as athletes’ progress through the LTAD model. For example, a referee who is officiating a game at the 12 and under age group must be aware that competition is supposed to be fun and it is the first experience for these athletes in a structured competitive environment. The children are learning the rules, and therefore, the referee plays the role of teacher as well as a game official. Applying adult rules and the interpretation of the FINA rules for children will not promote fun and is contrary to the LTAD principles. Please see the WPC LTAD overview document “The pursuit of excellence and an active lifestyle” for more details.
Water polo in Canada is going through some exciting changes, which pertain to a new and improved competition structure. Within these changes there will be modified games rules that are age appropriate and meet the physical (athletic abilities and motor skills), emotional, cognitive and mental needs of the athletes for the benefit of their long-term development. The Competition Review will also be addressing the stream of athletes who are not in the high-performance pathway. Referees can have a profound effect on these athletes as once again applying the FINA rules may not be appropriate to keep athletes involved in the sport on a recreational (Active fore Life) or competitive (Competitive for Life) basis throughout their life.
As water polo in Canada is implementing these LTAD philosophies through coach education and revising the competition structure, WPC is also revising the referee education system. The new Officials Training and Certification Program (OTCP) will align each referee education program with the LTAD stages. Referees will be equipped with tools to understand the training, and more importantly, the competition needs of the athlete. Please visit the OTCP Overview section of the web site for more details.