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Active Forever Profile: Dorothy DeLaine

May 10, 2012 01:33 PM
Spotlight132Dorothy DeLaine of Santa Fe fills us in on the official duties of being an official in the Southwest in our latest Active Forever Member Profile. DeLaine was recently named the USTA Southwest Officials Chair.
DeLaine serves as sort of a liasion between the tournament directors, the Southwest Section, and the corps of officials that handle line-calling and referee duties at the various events throughout our area. DeLaine's charged with trying to represent what each of those entities wants of officials. It's a delicate balancing act and no small task indeed. She also handles scheduling for many events, including University of New Mexico matches.
DeLaine grew up in Calfornia but ended up in the Southwest in the mid-1990s, moving to Santa Fe. When she's not officiating tennis, she loves to play as well, She lives with her husband Eric, also an official, and two lovely "daughters" Sage (labrodor) and Guinness (rottweiler). 

USTASW: How and what got you started in tennis/how long have you been in the game?

DD: I moved to southern California at age 30 and was introduced to the game at that time (a very late start). My primary reason for taking up the sport then was the social aspect and opportunity to meet friends in a new town. So, I was primarily interested in doubles and mixed doubles play.

Little did I know then that the sport would become such an integral focus of my life, and the way I became acquainted with my husband, Eric. Yes, we play together and actually get along on the court!

DorothyDeLaineUSTASW: And how did the officiating part of it come into play? What made you want to go into officiating?

DD: After moving to New Mexico in 1994 I, once again  used tennis as a means of meeting people and played on several leagues and in tournaments. Then, about 7 years ago an email came my way with information on becoming an official. I think the catchphrase was something like "be paid to watch tennis".

Wow, what could be better than that? There was a provisional officials class being held in Albuquerque and I mentioned to my husband that I might be interested in attending just for "kicks". I should have known that he would want to go along since, in addition to tennis, we do just about everything together (some people think we are actually attached at the hip).

Off we went to the class in June of 2005. We learned a lot at this session and were inspired to continue. Fortunately the provisional exam is a NO FAIL test because one of the many enlightening aspects was "there is so much most tennis players do not know about the rules of the game"!

USTASW: Do you think it helps to have a playing background at all being an official?

DD: Absolutely! I don't think it is imperative that you have played at the professional level or even college but you better LOVE (no pun intended) the game and have personal knowledge of what might be going through the mind of players.

USTASW: Tell us a little about what it takes to be an official and what do you view the role of an official on court to be?

DD: Back to a previous statement: Yes, we do get paid... just not much. If you aspire to work as an official at the very highest level, and I'm talking about those few we see on television, in the "chair" at the Grand Slam Tournaments, you better start young (in your 20's) and command the attention of the USTA by way of recommendations from your peers, sectional chair included, chief umpires, national trainer/evaluators etc.

That lofty goal is not for the majority of officials. The absolutely fantastic aspect of this vocation is there is a place for every person in the officiating community! Tennis officiating is sort of like a spider web and you can go in many different directions as well as cross over from one place to another.

Some officials just want to officiate at local tournaments, junior and adult. Some might enjoy the "thrill" of being in the "chair" at college matches. Some like the "rush" of calling lines at pro events and I can tell you, for sure, it is just as stressful to call lines at a women's 25K Pro Circuit event as it is a WTA/ATP major tournament.

I personally enjoy working as the tournament referee for multi-site events because I like putting all the pieces of the puzzle together from start to finish. My husband on the other hand, likes officiating in the chair at ITF tournaments. There is something important to do in every aspect. The role of officials in all capacities is to facilitate every match according to the rules of tennis. We work for the tournament and, most importantly, the players.

USTASW: What's the strangest thing that's ever happened or that you've witnessed as an official?

DD: Too many to count. I do want to share the most personally touching experience I have experienced lately. I returned home from officiating at Mountain West Conference Championships in San Diego last month to find a thank you card from the men's coach at the University of New Mexico. This might not seem like a big deal to most, but for us, as officials, it is huge! The card was signed by every member of the team, as well as the coach and assistant coach, and included a personal message from each thanking all the officiating team for their professionalism. WOW, it made my day!

USTASW: How much do you travel per year as an official?

DD: I did a fair amount of traveling last year including 5 USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, the Mountain West Championship in Colorado, the Winter Nationals in Phoenix, and recertification classes in San Francisco. The real travel time is spent between Santa Fe, where I live, and Albuquerque (about an hour drive) where most of the officiating work takes place. I did approximately 40 college chairs for UNM last year. Fortunately my husband and I travel together for most assignments.

USTASW: Tell me a little about your role as the USTA Southwest Officials Chair. Tell our members what that job entails.

DD: First of all, it is not a job but a volunteer position. I feel very honored that Paul Burns, the SWS president, and who I have the upmost respect for, selected me as the chair of officials. Being the chair of officials is a lot like being an official. Sometimes you are not the most popular person in the room.

The "job" entails a balancing act between what is fair and appropriate for the officials, what the USTA expects, and what tournament directors would like. The cost of officials is probably the largest amount of the budget for most tournaments and I realize that tournament directors consider us a necessary "evil" forced upon them by the USTA.

Think about it… In a singles match at a Grand Slam Tournament, there will be one official in the chair and either 7 or 9 lines officials. Two players and possibly 10 officials seems disproportionate but even with electronic assistance, hawk eye, shot spot, etc. there has yet to be introduced a more effective system. The same equation applies for non-Grand Slam level tournaments.

Some players do not like seeing the blue and red shirt walk on the court but are the first to find us when there is a scoring dispute or controversy over a line call. Basically I spend a lot of time in front of the computer and sending messages regarding USTA and SWS rules. Still have time for tennis and am enjoying the entire experience.

USTASW: What is a harder match to call, a match between two inexperienced 10 and Under players or two intense men going at it in a heated, controversial college match?

DD: The 10's hands down. The college players and/or their coaches, know the rules and they are BLACK & WHITE! The 10's might be experienced players that started when they were 3 or just bought the racquet on the way to the tournament that day.

USTASW: What did you think of the Serena Williams-Kim Clijsters 2009 US Open situation? How do you think you would have reacted in that obviously tense situation?

DD: The episode was handled by the chair following the exact protocol for the situation. ITF has a little different progression of the "code" than applies to the rest of the world and, no big surprise, it is about the enormous amount of money involved. Warnings are no longer part of the disciplinary progression in USTA events. An official might issue a caution to a player as a reminder that their behavior is borderline and may result in a code violation if it escalates.

In ITF matches the first offense is a warning, which Serena received for the offense prior to the foot fault call, the second offense result in a point penalty that, fortunately for the tournament referee, ended the match.

I say fortunately for the referee, because, threatening an official, as was documented by media, would result in disqualification from the tournament. That would result in a DQ from the doubles with her sister Venus and a lot of people paid money to see the doubles final.

FYI, all code violations in ITF result in a financial fine, even at the 10K level. Probably didn't have too big an impact on Serena. Fortunately for the chair, as soon as the lines person reported the incident, the supervisor as well as referee, were called to court, and it was out of her hands. Personally, I think I may have thrown up. But that's the reason I'm not a gold badge chair.





* First-ever USTA Southwest female officials chair
* USTA member since 1990
* Has been officiating since 2005
* Officiates and/or tournament referee for local, Section, collegiate and professional events
* Met husband Eric through tennis



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