I’ve been doing work experience here at the AFL Umpire’s Association for the week between July 3 – July 7. I was asked to attend a training session on Tuesday July 4, and to write an article describing important aspects of the session, including the facilities being used, the drills conducted and how these differed to my expectations prior to this week. 

The facilities are shared with the Carlton women’s team during the AFLW season, and Carlton’s Princes Park training ground was being used for a fan day. The park’s facilities were clearly of a high standard, including a gym, expansive club rooms, a coaching room, space for physiotherapy and recovery rooms.

I attended the afternoon session at Ikon Park from about 3:00pm, on a cold and wet day. Drills included 400m and 300m runs, as well as some sprints and a skills drill. The skills drill involved umpires making calls based on simulated in-game experiences – I believe the focus was protecting the man on the mark and ensuring nobody entered within the protected area around it. 

We then entered the club rooms at Princes Park, where stretches were conducted both prior to and following training sessions. It was a pleasure to meet both the staff, and some umpires that I’d watched on TV for so many years. I was able to see five minutes of recovery work following the session. 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for me to see all of the different aspects of the training sessions, for example coaching sessions on interpretations of rules, and the review of decisions made on the weekend, but I was able to see some of the key aspects of training. I was particularly surprised when I saw the different skills that were tested during training, especially the drill mentioned above involving decision making. I didn’t expect to see this, because I thought it would be too difficult to accurately simulate in-game events. 

Learning about the umpires was also an interesting experience. I learnt that many of them ran their own companies, and a few were school teachers – some even teaching at my school. The fact that officiators of some of the mostly highly attended sports matches in the world were teachers and ran IT companies gave me a real sense of what it’s like to be an umpire.

The afternoon was fascinating and the knowledge I have gained so far from this week will stick with me for a long time. I have begun to recognise umpires as athletes, who must train both physically and mentally to keep up with the demands of officiating AFL matches, while also often doing secondary jobs.

Eamon Stocker, Haileybury College   

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