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Most of us come into timing sports because of a preexisting relationship; ex athlete, family member, etc. That allows us to gain the confidence of the judge, scorers, and staff quickly and learn on the job some of the nuances of the sport. You certainly have to be aware of the rules and the various hierarchies but you don't need to be an official.

Some sports like US Cycling are now moving towards following the Triathlon and Running model where the timing company takes the lead with all scoring and the sanctioning body just reviews the results, rather than creating them.

The entire purpose of electronic timing and scoring is fairness. Giving each athlete, regardless of seed, a fair and accurate record of their accomplishment, within the guidelines of the sanctioning bodies rules.

Taking the introductory courses offered by most federations is a great idea if you are moving into a new area. It lets you meet the people you will be working with in the future and feel them out. Most courses are inexpensive and take a few hours. A good investment.
I did come into timing with a preexisting relationship as you say. When I graduated high school and went to college, the parents that timed our high school meets quit so I got pulled into timing when not in class.

I have been timing for 12 years in and around Virginia since high school and during a local meet, I made a decision on a race that was close. After calling the race for one athlete, the coach of the other, without seeing the picture said that their athlete was the winner. They continued to ask if I was an official, which at that time I was not, and then said that I could not make that call. Needless to say that an official did back me up on the race and since then I have been a certified official.

There have been times though that I have not gotten a contract for timing but because I am an official I still get asked to officiate.

I have seen timers that are also officials, officiate and time at the same time and that makes for a real fun day.
I have more than 20 years with timingo Enduro races, and now other sports. Take a certificacion must help, but too help to training the timers on "customer service", and always be pending on human errors, to resolve inmediatly or avoid them. We now use a "timing director" who see that all stays well with runners and other person as "timer", they can change their positions depends of kind the event.

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