Umpiring Triumph

Umpiring Triumph

We sat down for a chat with Lower Sixth pupil Martha, who is currently training as a netball umpire, to learn more about why she chose to become an umpire and what she has found challenging so far.

What made you first want to start umpiring and how long have you been doing it?

My club, Banbury Blues, encourages young netballers to take up umpiring to build confidence and to help them understand the rules better. They want young people to get involved in the club community. I got my initial qualification when I was 15, and then last year I got my C award, and this year I’m working towards by B award. For the initial qualification, they assess you by watching you umpiring a game, and checking you have the game management in hand. For the C award, you have to also do an online test and then umpire an adult premier league game in Oxfordshire, which is usually quite feisty! They’re assessing how you do under that pressure. For the B award, which I’m now working towards, I have to do a written exam. This is the paper which umpires going for their B and A award take, and the mark you get determines whether you have to re-sit the paper if you want to go for a higher qualification. For the B award, you also have to be assessed umpiring regional university games. Once you’ve got your A award, you can work towards being an international umpire if you want to. I’ve been with the Banbury Blues since I was 11. I only started playing netball when I joined Bloxham, but it was something I really enjoyed right away. Lots of people around me were playing for Banbury Blues, so I got to see my friends and play netball, and it’s a really nice community over there.

What are the challenges associated with being an umpire?

Being confident. Confidence is something I really lacked when I first started out, but being an umpire has helped a lot. It’s also hard making tough decisions because you know that either way, one team is not going to be happy with you. It’s remembering that you can’t be perfect, you can’t be liked by everyone, you just have to get on with it and move on. It’s best to just relax into the game and not worry about anything because realistically, you and your co-umpire are the most important people on that court in the sense of controlling the game.

How do you keep your authority over the teams during a game?

The thing that I struggle with is the coaches. I’ve recently learned from my mentor that I can caution and send off coaches, which gives me an extra bit of power. You start with a quiet word, and let them know that next time this happens, it will be a caution. It’s a warning system which goes quiet word, caution, warning, suspension. Using a firm voice usually gets people back in line, but because I’m umpiring adults, they sometimes think they can get away with a lot of stuff because I’m still under 18! I’m known as the polite, smiley umpire at all the leagues I go to, which is nice!

Do you prefer umpiring or playing?

Tricky question! I love the excitement of playing, but I’ve umpired some amazing teams, and you definitely pick things up from them that you can use yourself. Some of the things they do are really impressive. I was umpiring recently at the Regional Schools’ Tournament, and some of the teams I saw there, the way they played was amazing. Their defensive structure worked so well.

How long did it take to learn every rule inside out?

I’m still getting there! I’ve got my rulebook on my phone, so I always have it with me wherever I go. The rules update every few years, so there are little things that get taken out or put in which makes it hard to know them all. I don’t think you fully know the rules until you’ve been in every situation because it does matter about your opinion. You just have to do what feels right and make a quick decision. Players always think they know best which can be difficult.

We wish Martha the very best of luck in progressing with her B award and beyond!

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