A short report from the 2020 Competition Officials Course, by Mr Swain.
On Sunday 1st March I went up to Yate for the P.U.M.A. Officials course for a referees refresher - I think it's important to take opportunities to re-hone skills and check that I fully understand the current rules & procedures expected of me, and other officials. It was quite nice to also be travelling up with two of my students who were on the umpires course for the first time.
I'd like to start by saying a massive thank you to Mr McLaren and Ms Elise for their time running the course, but also the continued time and effort they spend behind the scenes updating and refining our rules & procedures, as well as monitoring the umpiring committee on competition days. In total there were 25 people taking part in the course: 19 new umpires, 2 new referees and 4 refresher referees. As a referee it's great to see so many people wanting to improve their skills/awareness and the support they can provide to our organisation at competitions.
The day started with a brief introduction with Mr McLaren covering the competition day roles and responsibilities for umpires & referees, as well as the next steps for the qualification process. Then we moved on to pattern competition with volunteers performing patterns, giving those on the course opportunities to judge. At times those performing were asked to put in specific errors to keep the officials on their toes and their eyes sharp.
After patterns we covered sparring - both point-stop and continuous varieties. This gave trainee umpires the opportunity to practice scoring matches without competition pressure; and the referees had the practice of controlling matches. I had loads of fun for a few rounds of sparring, trying to be all the difficult types of competitor referees have to face and giving away all kinds of warnings/fouls - all intentionally of course!! As I said to the trainee referees on the day - if they could cope with me then, they shouldn't have any issues at a competition where people are trying to win, not trying to be difficult for the referee.
All throughout the day Mr McLaren and Ms Elise were providing guidance and feedback to all the trainees, helping them to develop their skills, confidence, and also keep standardisation of process. There was also chance to discuss some of the rules and processes to ensure we all understood the intent as well as just the wording. We also found out about a few changes we need to make from an admin point of view at competitions to ensure we stay compliant with Sport England Safeguarding practices.
I want to wish all those trainees the best of luck in their future journeys as competition officials - it can be a tough job, but it is incredibly important, and can be good fun too!