By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Wednesday, November 27, 2019
As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a real estate development and management firm in Washington state, Don Hougardy knows a thing or two about numbers.
So, when he officiates swim meets – regardless of his role or position around the pool – he is right on when it comes to times, accuracy of strokes and other swimming figures.
It’s one of the things he loves most about officiating swim meets – and it’s something he’s looking forward to next summer when he returns for another Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha.
“I have been officiating at swim meets since 1996,” said Hougardy, whose two children swam, which ultimately lured him to become an officiant. “I volunteered at a local age group meet, and I’ve been doing it and loving it ever since.”
This time at the Big Swim Dance, Hougardy will serve as Lead Chief Judge – one of seven Chief Judges.
He said he’s served in pretty much every official role at National and Olympic Trials meets over the past 20-plus years, and he’s looking forward to being the Lead Chief in 2020.
“Our job (as Chief Judges) is to organize and instruct the Technical Judges, serve as a liaison between the Technical Judges and the Deck Referees, notify a swimmer if they have been disqualified and to provide operational paperwork during the meet,” he said.
“Typically, at national level meets, and certainly at selection meets (such as Olympic Trials), there is a Chief Judge stationed at each corner of the pool and one stationed near the Starter area.”
The following is a Q&A with Hougardy about how he’s expecting another fun, fast Trials next summer in Omaha to select the team heading to Tokyo.
U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming return to Omaha for a fourth time (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020) the week of June 21-28, 2020, at the CHI Health Center Omaha (formerly known as the Qwest Center and most recently the CenturyLink Center).
Q: Where do you live? What do you do for work, fun, hobbies? Family? Names?
A: I live in Pullman, Wash., which is in the Inland Empire LSC. Professionally, I am a CPA and for several years have been the CFO of a real estate development and management firm. I am married, have two adult children who live in the Denver area and enjoy snow skiing and weight lifting.
Q: What do you remember most from past Trials? Any particular memory or memories/experiences stand out?
A: The Olympic Trials is not just a high-level swim meet; it is a spectator event. The pageantry and techno-effects that are not seen by the TV audience have been amazing.
Q: What was your first Trials like? Most recent Trials?
A: What struck me most about my first Trials, which was in 2012, was how many aspects of the event there are. For example, there is the actual competition and all that goes with that production, but there is also the "off camera" techno-effects, interviews and entertainment to create energy and keep the audience engaged, the restricted athlete meal and lounge area, the large indoor vendor bazaar, which included games and athlete meet-and-greet opportunities and the many layers of security. What seemed more pronounced to me at my second Trials was the celebrity status the crowd bestowed to the athletes and to some minor extent the officials.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working swim meets (in the various roles you've played)?
A: Working with like-minded people, many of which have become my friends who want to provide a positive atmosphere for our youth and top athletes.
Q: How many meets (including Trials) would you say you've officiated?
A: Too many to count.
Q: How were you selected to be an official at next year's Trials?
A: I was selected by USA Swimming.
Q: Have you done multiple officiant roles at meets before?
A: At national level meets, an official's role is narrowly defined. However, over several national level meets, I will have served in all six roles (Technical Judge, Chief Judge, Starter, Deck Referee, Administrative Referee and Meet Referee).
Q: Have you been a Trials official before?
A: Yes. I have been a Trials official several times.
Q: Is this something you've been wanting to do for a while? I imagine this is quite an honor to be chosen for Trials (several times)?
A: Yes, this is quite an honor. USA Swimming has many GOOD national level officials and to be selected from that group is very special.
Q Are you a swimmer/former swimmer yourself?
A: No. But I had kids who swam, so that’s how I first got involved.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about Trials?
A: To come together with friends from all over the country (many of whom I haven't seen for several years) to officiate at what is arguably the most important swim meet consistently held on American soil.