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USAC officiating; for love or for money?

One of the online mailing lists that I subscribe to is for USAC officials; primarily it’s used for discussions of rule and how they should be interpreted in certain situations when acting as judge or referee at a USAC-sanctioned event.

Currently, however, there is a discussion on new requirements being laid out for USA Cycling Officials. In addition to the annual license fee, officials are now required to go through a criminal background check (at their own expense), as well as a variety of continuing education requirements, many of which seem more geared and applicable towards coaches working directly with minors than to officials whose contact with minors is generally indirect.

I don’t mind jumping through the hoops. The CE requirements make sense to me, and really don’t take that much time … I have to go through periodic CE requirements in my regular career life as well, as a FINRA registered rep working for an investment bank.

What I mind is having to bear the expense of licensing and CE/CBC requirements out-of-pocket, not to mention uniform expenses, for the privilege of working at barely above minimum wage. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone that works at an investment bank is rolling in dough … that is especially true for those of us working in non-exempt back office support roles.

At $60 for the license renewal (for a category C official), $21.25 for the background check, plus $27 for the barest minimum uniform (plus shipping), I’m out of pocket over $110.00 before I’ll work my first race of the year … and not even the pay from the first event ($70 for a third official) will be enough to cover what I’ve already shelled out. For a category B or A official, the up-front expenses are even higher.

For a 9 hour workday (since overtime doesn’t kick in until after 9 hours at a USAC event), the $70 fee works out to $7.78/hour … barely above the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, right at the Colorado minimum wage, and below the California minimum wage ($8.00/hour through June, $9.00/hour starting July 1) and 20 other states (and the District of Columbia). All this, and there’s really no guarantee that I’ll be chosen to work any events by the CRs doing the scheduling, even after shelling the fees.

I could make more money working at McDonalds for a day, and I wouldn’t have to pay them for the privilege of doing so.

I know I make significantly more than USAC fees when working certain non-sanctioned events; but that’s because I’m not getting reimbursed for travel expenses, and I stick around to help tear down the courses and clean up after the event has been completed. When it’s broken down into an hourly wage, even after subtracting travel expenses, I still feel like a valued member of the organization, and that’s what keeps me coming back week after week, year after year.

In my regular career life, my employer covers the cost of my licensing in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as the cost of any licensing or CE exams I am required to take.

Officials generally do this for the love of the sport, not for the insignificant (and possibly legally insufficient) wages, but I don’t think that USA Cycling is saddled with so many qualified officials that they can afford to nickel & dime a lot of us out of the sport.