How to create great umpires #teamwhite

Apologies for the delay in my second posting, the plaster cast on my hand has meant typing has been fairly impossible – too many typos and general frustration!

Now I have a healthy respect for our umpiring community in the UK but having been involved in both club and school netball for a number of years now, I know that teams are always scrabbling around to find good umpires and many clubs have players that end up umpiring simply because they don’t have another option. How do we create more umpires and get youngsters inspired to be umpires as much as players?  Having spent some more time at Netball North Harbour, it seems they have some solutions and have created a buzz around being an umpire in their teenage players.

Picture this, half term at the netball centre. I walk past a classroom setting and see a group of 10/11 year olds marking out their distance, appearing to be in great discussion on the correct distance.  I think that this is a holiday coaching course with the girls looking at defending, however this group are on a 2 day holiday umpiring course. Can you imagine your kids/juniors going on a holiday umpiring programme?

The centre produce their own pathway to elite umpiring in the ANZ (previously anyway) and International matches, starting with Year 6s and going through the teenage years to senior netball.

Now how do they do it? Well it comes down to the culture around netball here. Teenage club players are expected to both coach and umpire matches from lower age groups within the club.  The players are given coaching courses to allow them to coach the basics properly.  In the same vain the players are given the opportunity to take a local, centre based umpiring qualification where they attend a number of theory sessions before being mentored at club matches; for example, a 13 year old would be umpiring 9-10 year old matches. They would then receive feedback from their mentor across a series of weekly matches. All this takes place at the centre with staff they know. As the umpires get older, they already have confidence in their knowledge of the rules and the ability to control a game.  This has led to 16-17 year old umpires having sometimes 5 years plus umpiring experience and are then handling school/club regional finals.  These teenage umpires are looked up to by younger players and umpires and are considered somewhat celebrities at the centre; they are someone to aspire to be for the younger kids. The umpires have their own umpiring office and lounge area which the younger umpires take great pride that they are allowed to enter, it is a status symbol of sorts.

Following the centre based junior award, the umpires are then supported and mentored through their higher Netball NZ awards.  Being an elite umpire is an alternative to being an elite player here. The pathway to elite umpiring is as planned and respected as that of players reaching that elite level. I think this is a big difference from my knowledge of the UK (please do correct me if I’ve missed something) and something that can be fairly easily  put in place alongside current adult courses/mentoring.

Bearing in mind that the whole netball community for each area plays all their netball (school/club/holiday camps) in the same centre, it makes it much easier for the junior players to be more involved in the other aspects of netball rather than just playing.  This is a significant factor in the success of both the umpiring and coaching courses BUT that’s not to say its not possible to implement in larger junior/senior clubs or at county level.

If you are interested in more information on what Netball North Harbour do on the umpiring courses and with the qualifications they offer, then Sharon Fraser (sharon@netballnorthharbour.co.nz) is the woman to talk to. She has designed many of these courses and has information she is willing to share. Alternatively, check out the link below with how the courses are set up for junior umpires.

Netball North Harbour Umpiring

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