Photo By Michael Coghlan
When it comes to the footy field, many young kids and adolescents are growing up eager to play and kick goals for their team. But what about giving umpiring a crack?
The Edmund Rice Centre of Western Australia (ERCWA) is recruiting multicultural young people aged from 12 to 21 into their umpiring academy, after launching for the 2019 season in March this year.
Brenda Amito is a Ugandan immigrant who launched the academy in 2017 when she was just 14 years of age. She had the aim to introduce Australian Football League (AFL) umpiring to culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) youth.
She told the North Coast Times: “My passion for umpiring began when I attended a coaching camp through the ERCWA and had a one-hour umpiring session which got me hooked.
“From there, I knew I had a future in AFL and umpiring in particular.
“I was subsequently offered an internship, which has become a paid school-based traineeship, at ERCWA to work on developing an academy to introduce AFL umpiring to other passionate young people like myself,” she explained.
A man who is very driven towards the program is the academy coordinator, Daniel Sherifi. He happily explained how much attention the academy has attracted this year.
“The program launched in the middle of March and 36 young multicultural people have already obtained their Introductory Level Officiating accreditation,” he said.
These young future umpires have generated pocket money by umpiring after school and on weekends and according to Sherifi: “Our umpires have been paid from $20 to $100 dollars for every game they have umpired.”
It isn’t just junior matches at local grounds they umpire at too; Sherifi gladly mentioned they have also “umpired a number of half time matches at Optus Stadium and Fremantle Oval.”
They are progressing at such a successful rate that Sherifi also added that ERCWA is currently in the process of “transitioning umpires to the WAFL Development Squad, which is the next phase of development and challenge for the umpires.”
The kids come from a range of multicultural backgrounds including: Argentinian, Burundian, Ethiopian, Guinean, South Sudanese, Sudanese, Tanzanian and Ugandan.
The academy is the first multicultural AFL umpiring academy in WA’s history. Besides being a great basis for a future career for these diverse individuals, umpiring helps them understand the great Australian game better from a different point of view.
Sherifi personally believes “the umpires see umpiring as an opportunity to remain active, achieve their fitness goals and be part of a high performing team.”
The academy has also partnered with the Stephen Michael Foundation (SMF), which has clear goals according to their Facebook page.
“The Foundation’s objective is to open up opportunities for the youth in our community, to assist those regardless of colour, ethnic background or social circumstances.”
It also aims to support these people on their sporting journeys and give them opportunity and desire to grow, not just as athletes, but as people too.
Darryl Sinclair is the foundation’s coach and he is thrilled to be able to work with CaLD youth. He is hopeful about the opportunities that the ERCWA academy can bring to these future umpires. He told the North Coast Times: “We have conducted two intensive coaching days with the academy, which has now resulted in the academy umpires progressing to the West Perth Junior Umpiring Group.”
Sherifi told NewsVineWA the benefits of having culturally and linguistically diverse youth umpires in a mainstream competition included:
That it’s an independent revenue stream for the young person; an employment opportunity.
It gives valuable leadership qualities and life skills including resilience, patience, teamwork, punctuality, professionalism and behaviour management.
It builds greater cultural awareness among mainstream sporting clubs, in some cases prompting the implementation of procedures to minimize negative attitudes, such as racism.
And it embraces cultural diversity in all aspects of Australia’s game.
The program is available for all young multicultural males and females who are aged from 12-21 years of age.
This also coincides with the annual 2019 Community Umpiring Week which just concluded on May 5, 2019.
The objective of the week was to increase the awareness of umpiring as a sporting choice, where umpires were lead out on the ground by four first-year community umpires. This gave them a taste of the elite match day experience and it demonstrated the opportunities that are available through umpiring.
There are currently over 1.4 million people playing Australian Rules Football, ranging from grassroots level, to a professional level. The need for more umpires has never been more important.
According to an article from the AFL website, AFL National Umpiring Development Manager Adam Davis stated that “like coaches, trainers and administration staff, every game needs umpires.
“Community Umpiring Week supports all umpires throughout the community level who play an important role every weekend.”
Community Umpiring Week is a bid to to attract more individuals to try out umpiring, and it has seen some success so far.
Davis said: “Pleasingly we have seen a 7% increase of umpire numbers and a 2% increase in retention rates over the past 12 months.
“Similar to the numbers of female participants, female umpire numbers are also rising with an increase of 18%.”
With the ERCWA programs aimed at giving CaLD individuals an opportunity at umpiring, and the AFL’s designated Community Umpiring Week, there is a bright future for more Aussie Rules Football umpires in the future.
Anyone interested in joining the program can call Daniel Sherifi on 0401 231 515, email [email protected] or visit www.ercwa.org.au.