Message from SLSNSW President - NSW Age Championships

To all junior competitors and families who attended the NSW Age Championships this weekend at Ocean Beach-Umina.

Firstly, I'd like to congratulate everyone who participated in this weekend’s event. Whether you won anything or not, you all deserve a medal.

We've canvassed some of our long serving officials, some whom have been involved in the movement for more than four decades, and no one can remember a state champs contested in more difficult, miserable conditions. In the past we've had bad surf conditions, or bad weather, but usually not both – and not relentlessly for three days straight.

You can plan for almost every foreseeable contingency, but with an event of this size it becomes quickly obvious that it’s important to remain adaptable, open-minded and able to react and change to suit whatever nature throws our way.

It would probably be simpler to act as a commercial event organiser might, cancelling the event on short notice and with no recourse. But Surf Life Saving is not a commercial operator, we're a community and we try to support each other and work together to get the best outcome for our members, some of whom had travelled long distances and outlayed money for accommodation and so on.

Some of the kids, their coaches and parents who came along this weekend have spent all year training, preparing and looking forward to these championships and it was heartbreaking to see the disappointment on their faces when it became obvious Friday morning that we were not going to be able to proceed as planned.

Due to the perfect storm of conditions that prevailed, we quickly exhausted most of our carefully laid contingency plans and were forced to look at the option of moving some events to Terrigal, which was not an option preferred by either us, or council, but it was necessary to ensure more events could be conducted.

For those who still wanted to compete, we did our best to make that happen. We were never going to get through the entire program, so if your event was one of those which was not completed, we are truly sorry.

We are also extremely sorry for those families who were caught out by constant amendments to the program, particularly on Sunday. We know that some competitors were not able to be in two places at once and some missed out on their event.

While our media team attempted to keep updating our website and social media feeds, constantly changing conditions in the split competition areas meant changes to the program were often received too late. Adding to our communications issues on the beach was the shortcomings of the PA system in coping with the gale-force winds and rain and the fact that we were relying on team managers to disseminate SMS updates to their club competitors at extremely short notice.

Lessons have been learned and we will endeavour to ensure program changes are communicated more clearly in future.

Our post-Championships review process includes a comprehensive survey of all clubs and we encourage you to participate fully in this opportunity to tell us how the event can be improved to provide everyone with the best possible competition experience.

We are all disappointed about aspects of the Championships this weekend. Thank you to the parents and siblings of competitors, and the kids themselves, for braving the horrendous conditions waiting for events to be run or re-located. Gosford City Council was also extremely accommodating with contingency operations and we are very grateful.

I would also like to acknowledge the severe weather conditions which the volunteer workforce had to endure when trying to set up competition areas. My thanks also go to the officials for braving the conditions and doing their best to ensure as many events were conducted as possible.

We hope the remainder of the Championships is more enjoyable for everyone involved when the Masters and Opens competition commences on Wednesday.

Thank you for your feedback and support.

Tony Haven
Surf Life Saving NSW

Mon 4 Mar 2013