Umpiring is a tricky job; but there’s definitely an upside

Australian umpire Simon Taufel in action (India Today)
Australian umpire Simon Taufel in action (India Today)

I don’t envy the job sport referees, umpires and judges have.  They must make split second decisions under pressure, and they make them numerous times in a game.

Being able to make these decisions is a burden unto itself.  Faced with two teams on the field, the umpire must be the principle instigator of ensuring said teams play the game in a fair and sportsmenlike manner.  At times you are faced with player arguments, heated battles and a lot of noise directed towards you.

As a (rookie) cricket umpire myself, for the Box Hill Reporter District Cricket Association*, I have experienced all of these situations under a range of “game circumstances”.

All the players on the field will be looking to you to both take charge of any tense situation, and also ensure the correct decision is made.  There is also the belief of the players that if you as the umpire are not being impartial, or “favouring” the other team, then your credibility as an umpire can go down the drain.

Being impartial as an umpire is one of your vital assets, two others being patience and tolerance.  Being able to see the game from a neutral perspective is key, given the hectic and sometimes fiery nature of sport.  Sure, there is no problem in engaging with a bit of banter with the players, when the time is right.  Otherwise, you need to keep a level head and respond to any queries with a cool and calm tone.

Central to maintaining a collected mentality is imparting your knowledge both fairly and correctly.  While I may only be starting out at grade level, knowing and understanding the rules of the game is vital.  It makes you look confident as an umpire, and players will remember you as both honest and smart.

But this is not the end of our jobs.  Whether it be cricket, AFL, tennis, or even basketball, all umpires are subject to controversy, and at times even physical violence.  One of my personal experiences, in early March, was umpiring an A-Grade one-day semi-final.  After there was confusion over who had obstructed who at the strikers end, after the batsmen had completed a run, myself and my other umpire at square leg (from the batting team; I was the sole association umpire) came together for a discussion.  As I was focusing my attention on the batsman running to the bowlers end, I did not see what happened at the other end.

After discerning what had happened, both the fielding captain and the bowler came over to the discussion.  As gently as possible, I asked the bowler (who was quite riled up) to calm down so I could have a talk to both himself and his captain.  Unfortunately, in a spark of anger, he pushed both myself and the other umpire with fully outstretched arms.  We both fell back a few steps.

Now, while the rest of the game was played in good spirits, I felt obligated to send in a report to the Umpires Association.  This situation not only made me stronger, but it made me want to continue umpiring with a far more determined fire.  Umpires don’t want to let fans, players or officials get “on top of them” and bring down their game.  They want to assert their control in such a way that the game can continue without any significant interruption.  The upside is, if you as an umpire can rise above any flak that is thrown at you, then your respect can rise.  However, the fact must be stressed that tolerance and a level head stay in your “bank” the whole time.  Have fun while you’re out there; but at the same time, make sure you’re prepared for anything.

*(The opinions presented here are those of the author, and not of the association.  Re what levels I have umpired at; in my first season (2012-2013) I was given the opportunity to umpire two A-Grade games, including a senior semi-final, and a junior grand final.  I have also not named anyone in this piece for privacy purposes).

This was first seen here on The Armchair Selector

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