SARAH Davis never takes for granted she has one of the best seats in the house for athletics meets.
The seasoned Ballarat athletics official represents a vital sporting team that does its best work when fans barely notice but stars can put on a top show.
And the pandemic has made this fleet endangered.
Davis is a volunteer who pays her own way to travel to every state and territory to officiate track and field and mentor others in her game. This included the Oceania Athletics Championships in Mackay last week.
Officiating is both a passion and privilege for Davis, who humbly seeks no attention and does what she does simply for the love of the game. Even when standing out on the track at the height of summer or frozen for cross country.
Davis was this week named official of the year in the Victorian Sport Awards. We need more like Davis.
Sports typically cry out for volunteers and luring them back from the bench after lockdowns and amid ongoing coronavirus concerns has been no easy feat. These are the people who enable sport to happen and set the stage for athletes to properly strive for their best.
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Davis started athletics when her children were in Little Athletics. She has spent almost 20 years in senior athletics, well beyond her children's tenure in Ballarat sport, because she enjoyed the challenge, the camaraderie and the 'family" feel of the athletics community.
This is a passion Davis shares mentoring athletics officials across the nation, saying she was conscious that an ageing officiating team needed new officials coming through and learning the game.
In lockdowns, Davis would organise regular online catch-ups working on theory for setting up events and making decisions for all sorts of event curve balls. Mostly, the sessions were a chance to keep in touch and make sure everyone was going okay.
"We need those people," Davis said. "You can love and enjoy the sport but you can't make people do it - that has to come from themselves - but you can try and make people feel welcome."
Davis is a pancreatic cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with the cancer in 2014 and said talking to athletes and coaches and doing what she loved continued to keep her going.
Decathletes and heptathletes are among Davis' favourite athletes. As an official she spends more time with them in giving their all to multiple events.
For Davis, being an official is about far more than "overseeing" sport, it is about helping athletes understand why decisions were made and ensuring everything was in place for events to run smoothly for athletes.
Pole vaulters, hurdlers, middle-distance runners - Davis said they all had their own incredible skill sets.
Davis truly admired elite athletes like Stewart McSweyn and Kathryn Mitchell, who both launched their careers from Ballarat. She saw up close the sweat and tears they put into reaching the highest levels without the high profile and pay of major sporting codes.
They still came and said hello to Davis at major events and that was a reward for her role Davis cherished.
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