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Right call!

AFNA umpires' recruitment drive gets thumbs up

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, October 10, 2020

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FORMER international netball umpire Sylvester “Chris” Campbell says he welcomes the regional body's move to boost the number of qualified match officials from the Americas, even as the novel coronavirus pandemic has limited the scope for training.

On Monday, Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA), in partnership with Netball Europe, is to begin Level C training webinars for prospective international umpires.

The sessions are to focus on the theoretical facets of officiating, and mostly target people 25 years old and younger.

“Given the new norm it [hosting virtual sessions] is the way to go. In this pandemic people can do the theory from home to become qualified,” Campbell, one of the tutors assigned to the webinars, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“Hopefully, when we get back to the norm and a way of contact they will become certified because ultimately, they have to do a practical test before being awarded,” he said.

Campbell, though retired at the International Umpire Award (IUA) level, is on the International Testing Panel (ITP). While noting that the cadre of regional umpires has been dwindling, he said attracting fresh, younger prospects is paramount.

“I now train people to become umpires at the international level. In this region we are running out of numbers with respect to umpires.

“We are in a bad situation because umpires are retiring and some are getting a little older, so we need to refresh and get in some younger people. We need to get into the cycle of getting new umpires certified,” the Jamaican said.

Molly Rhone, the Jamaican former head of the International Netball Federation (INF), highlighted the Americas and other regions around the world.

“I remember once checking and I think Australia had something like 40,000 registered umpires. We're playing a mighty catch up, so anything we can do to get umpires qualified at all stages I support wholeheartedly. And in this time of COVID-19 when you can't travel freely, it's a golden opportunity to be able to get do the course via a webinar,” Rhone said during an interview with the Observer yesterday.

The Americas currently has seven active IUAs and one International Talent Identified Umpire (ITID).

AFNA President Marva Bernard has championed development of netball in the Americas, with her stated focus on umpiring and coaching.

She said the AFNA board is confident the webinars will serve as a catalyst to widening the pool of umpires and will also help to improve the standard of match officiating.

“Umpiring is obviously a need that the AFNA executive has to address. How we train umpires in this region is crucial and critical to the pathway for succession planning to replace not only IUAs but to replace ITPs.

“There are quite a few countries in this region that do not have resident International Testing Panel members or IUAs who are on spot to train people who would like to become umpires. And though we are going to try a new way to train umpires we are not saying to any member country, which has something working perfectly, to do away with it,” Bernard, a former president of Netball Jamaica, explained.

“Our partnership with Netball Europe is in line with how umpires are being trained around the world. This is a process that is going to be very long, and we have to begin right here. What we are doing is to start at the bottom — it's the beginners' level. We are starting at Level C, and we know the road to become a Level A umpire can be so long.

“We advertised five sessions and the uptake has been more that we expected. We've received 126 registrations from nine member countries, with an additional 25 to come from Argentina. We are not turning away anybody. A total of 48 of those registered are between the ages of 14 and 25,” she told the Observer recently, noting the support received from INF, Netball Europe and Netball England.

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