Umpiring for many is a thankless job but it has its rewards and its place within the overall scheme of the genuine development of your chosen sport.
Without umpires there can be no game, just as we can say the same in respect of the absence of athletes and coaches.
In sport we demand that our athletes prepare themselves so that they can achieve.
What is the goal in this exercise? To achieve excellence.
We do not have our teams train so that they can get a trip to another country. There is very little opportunity to holiday while one is a member of a team engaged in a Tournament abroad.
The reason for training is ultimately to achieve excellence. To be the very best that there can be given training and the skill capability of the players, first as individuals and secondly as a collective – members of the national representative team.
We know only too well that a netball team is as strong as the weakest member to take the court.
The ultimate goal of the association, its coaches, trainers and other technical personnel is to attain excellence.
I would want to assume therefore that those of you, who have taken on the onerous task of umpiring in netball, have done so out of a genuine commitment to the sport and a burning desire to maintain the lofty standards of play on the court during competition.
Yours is the challenge to withstand the acrimony that so often comes from the very players over whose game you are presiding.
Yours is the pain and suffering when partisan spectators decry your every call and eagerly and bitterly harass your every move.
Yours is the discomfort of leaving the playing arena after a hectic game to the taunts of patrons who seem to believe that your calls were not in their team’s best interests.
So often you go home to your family and ask yourself: Do I have to do this?
Why do I continue to go out there and umpire?
The answer keeps coming back to you loud and clear:
- You love the sport.
- It gives you an opportunity to help young people advance in the field of sport.
- It allows you to give something back to the society.
- It helps build the sport of netball in your country and ultimately, contribute to the more global development of the sport.
If the aforementioned reasons ring true with you, then you do have a challenge.
The challenge is to strive for excellence in what you are doing – umpiring.
It is the pursuit of excellence in umpiring that would allow you to walk off the court following a game and not fell burdened. Your conscience is always clear before during and after each game.
For you, donning your umpire’s uniform is itself a mark of respect.
Today, you are called upon to say to yourself: I would do my very best and run the game as is required according to the Laws of the Game produced and endorsed by all of IFNA.
It is all so easy to be taken in by the squawking in the stands.
Clearly you would be embarrassed and upset at challenges to your decisions from players involved in the game. The matter of the discipline of the players during a game and of their strict adherence to the rules is entirely in your hands to supervise for the duration of each game you umpire.
You do have the mandate to make decisions and to ensure that they are effectively carried out. This is in your Laws.
There is therefore no reason for you to be afraid of applying the full force of the rules at your disposal during every game.