Umpires are People too
Umpires are hard to find, in the AFL Outer East the retention rate is 50% and our junior league is where the umpires develop, just like our players.
Being an umpire or referee in any sport is a tough, and often thankless job. They are constantly assessed and criticised by the vast majority of people that are watching. We need to remember that the majority of our junior umpires are young people too.
This story could apply to any number of our umpires on any weekend - juniors or seniors.
This student spends all week studying, going to classes and sitting exams to get the best possible future, and then on the weekend they umpire junior and senior games to get some extra cash for their living expenses.
But, one weekend while studying hard all week for final exams the umpire decides to take a break from studying. While umpiring they make a call, which is correct under the Laws of the game however, the coach and the crowd believe it isn’t correct.
So, what happens next?
The coach abuses the umpire for the next three to five minutes, mocking every decision, questioning every decision, yelling for the whole ground to hear, calling the umpire a cheat, swearing and waving his finger at the umpire. Causing the umpire to doubt himself and every decision he makes for the rest of the game.
So, after the game the umpire assesses himself so harshly that he just can’t switch off and stop thinking about the game. Now, this game happened on a Sunday. After a sleepless night, the umpire then attends his final university exam, which he is now not ready for.
The umpire sits his exam and fails his exam. Not because he was not prepared but because of what happened on the weekend. He can’t re-sit this final exam for another 6 months and because he didn’t pass, the job he had lined up after uni now is no longer available to him. This job would help set the course of this young person’s future career. But, now because of this incident on the weekend he has had his life changed in one moment.
Is it fair? I would say no. What about you? Is it something that you want your son and/or daughter to experience?
We have seen some players step away from the game, partly because of crowd behavior and social media abuse and there has been public outcry. That’s fantastic. We should be doing this.
But, what about the men, women, girls and boys who go out to work on a weekly basis onto our sporting fields and umpire. Do they deserve to cop the abuse from players, coaches and spectators? Why aren’t we jumping through hoops to stop this? Why?
So next time you think about yelling at the umpire for making a mistake, remember they are just like you and me, people and people are not perfect.