Striving for Excellence

On Saturday 17 September, I was asked to deliver a brief presentation to the umpires from the Caribbean desirous of elevating themselves to the highest level available to them under the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA). The session was at Arnos Vale and addressed the issue of excellence in this particular aspect of netball.
The following is the text:
Today I have been asked to address you on the topic: Striving for Excellence.
In preparing for this presentation I enquired about the status of our umpiring relative to the requirements of the IFNA. Sadly, I was informed that in the entire world there are only 10 netball playing nations in possession of umpires who have satisfied the IFNA International Umpires Association (IUA) criteria.
I find these statistics mind-boggling, especially in light of the fact that IFNA holds quadrennial World Championships and your sport, netball, is now a fixture on the Commonwealth Games sports programme.
This is the same IFNA that has been appealing for some time to be allowed on to the programme of the Olympic Games.
Trust me when I say that every sport on the Olympic Programme must provide technical officials of the highest order at the Olympic Games. Excellence is the only option. There is simply too much at risk.
In light of this therefore, each sporting discipline insists that its very top officials are in the selection pool for from which the technical expertise would be drawn for the Olympic Games.
But if these statistics were not bad enough, I was also informed that of the 19 Caribbean netball-playing nations, which engage in annual Tournaments, only four IUAs exist. This fact means that each time Caribbean teams go out to participate at the international level they have to bear the financial burden of the umpires they take along.
My initial reaction was – you must be joking.
The reasoning from my vantage point is very simple. Something must be very wrong with the development process within IFNA, AFNA and the CNA such that this is the best we can do.
I say this, not merely because to do otherwise would mean carrying a heavy financial burden each time we travel to international competitions, but rather because we cannot accept being considered mediocre simply because there is a level of certification for umpires that too few among you have been able to attain. That reality, in and of itself ought to be like a sore eating away at the very core of your organisation. It is reflective of a failure of many to strive after excellence.