When NNSA Savannah River Field Office Deputy Manager Jeff Allison first arrived in South Carolina more than 25 years ago to work at SRS, the home he and his wife chose in Aiken had a pool. With a small child, and several more to come, the decision to immediately begin to teach them to swim was a no-brainer. Little did Allison know at the time, that one seemingly small decision would have a major impact on the Allison family, ultimately leading to a multi-time state swim champion and his own commitment as a certified USA Swimming official.
“I never was a competitive swimmer, but I played lots of sports and my wife is the same way,” said Allison. “Our kids loved it and as parents it is hugely important for me to support my family in things that are important to them. Family is a priority and I want to be part of that so getting into officiating seemed natural given we were going to be at events.”
His son, Jared, started summer league in Aiken at age 4. Year-round swimming began a few years later at age 6. Practice is every day, and Allison quickly learned the importance of balancing the needs of his career as a senior executive while also making sure to get his children to and from the pool.
Spending a portion of most days near the pool taking his children for practice, Allison quickly decided to get involved and began the process to become formally certified as a USA Swimming official. Now, instead of just watching, Allison found himself by the pool as an official. While some might think a parent might have a hard time treating their own child like anyone else, those thoughts were quickly dispelled during Jared’s first race.
“I disqualified him. My son’s first race that I officiated I disqualified him,” said Allison. “The first race of the first meet he had in 2012 I raised my hand because he had an infraction. The judge said ‘that’s going to be a tough ride home’ but when you’re an official you do the job with integrity just like we expect our people to do in all aspects of their lives.”
After years of practice since that day, that hard work and accountability is on clear display. In the years since, Allison and his son Jared have spent most weekends traveling the Southeast for various swim meets. Balancing work and family hasn’t always been easy, but it’s something that now comes as second nature after years of making it a priority. And the payoff is clear.
Several weeks ago, in October, Jared, now a tenth-grader who has been on Aiken High’s varsity swim team since the eight grade, won his first-ever state high school championship in the 100-yard butterfly. Beating out multiple Junior and Senior swimmers several years older. All while Allison was looking on as a proud father.
“It’s just a great thing to be able to see. There is always the pull of career, but you get things done that your prioritize, and I find ways to make both a priority, “said Allison. “I’ve never missed any of my kids’ meets. I drove once from Jacksonville after a DOE conference and made it to Augusta just in time to see a race. That’s important to me. Family is a priority and I want to set an example that we absolutely have an important DOE mission to complete although it should not mean that we neglect our families while focusing on climbing the career ladder.”
With two more years of high school, Allison says he is looking forward to the time he and his son are able to share together as much or more as he is to seeing the likelihood of his son’s continued success in the pool. With two older daughters grown and out of the house, Jared is his last child at home, and Allison plans to make the most of it.
“Early in my career I had a mentor who stressed the importance to me of not forgetting family while we focus on the important mission we have to complete at work,” said Allison. “I continue to be grateful for that advice and hope to be an example to others to never forget that we have an important (NNSA) mission to complete but also never forget that we can’t do it without the support from our families too and we need to be there for them. I’m glad that I have been.”