High Performance Umpires, Caleb Stephens and Jackson Whittle have spent their Wednesday nights and Sundays giving back to junior umpiring.
Caleb and Jackson spoke of how umpiring has influenced their lives on and off the footy field. This has fuelled their desire to volunteer their time coaching Brisbane Junior umpires at Moorooka this year. The duo has created a positive environment for the next batch of junior umpires, following in their footsteps.
Recruitment and retention of umpires continues to be difficult due to a variety of factors including work and study commitments, health/injury/age related, inadequate support/pay, lack of enjoyment. (ABC, 2022)
“(We try and create) a relaxed environment, keep it fun, get the footballs involved, do some match simulation. We try and create activities that make people want to come to training.” Jackson said.
Both young men spoke of the positive environment their first umpire coaches created, influencing their passion and commitment to umpiring. Lachlan Chambers (Chook), James Price (Pricey) and Steve Davis coached the Brisbane junior umpiring group for several years in the 2010’s.
“I think for me, it was where (Brisbane juniors) I first started and found my love for the game.” Jackson said.
“We had Chook and Pricey as coaches, they had a large impact on me and my direction, I wanted to pass that down and give junior umpires coming through the ranks the same experience.”
Jackson and Caleb made their QAFL Senior debuts in 2022. The journey of coaching has no doubt assisted their personal developments on and off the field.
Jackson received some sage advice from former State League Umpire James Waldorff fuelling his desire to get involved in coaching.
“Something Duff said to me last year. If you can’t explain it to someone else succinctly, you probably don’t know it well enough.
“Having that extra session where I would be explaining to the group, law interpretation or positioning, it would help my game.
“Coaching has accelerated my progression a lot.” Jackson explained.
Caleb says umpiring has improved his skills off the footy field including being able to deal with stressful situations.
“On the footy field, you will see punch ups, you might get abused, it is about staying calm.
“I think going into different, pressure situations in life, if you are having a conversation or argument with someone, you know how to stay calm, and it is a skill you have practiced at footy.” Caleb said.
There is always a need for more umpires across all levels of football. The benefits are vast, from getting paid for being involved in a sport you love, making new friends, getting fitter, learning more about the game and developing your communication skills.
“Umpiring gives you a greater depth and understanding of the game, that you play and watch on the weekend.
“It is a real community; we have made some great friends in the umpiring community.
“It is really rewarding; I think it is something that everyone should have a crack at.” Jackson said.
AFL Queensland Umpiring Development Lead, Sam Bridges, acknowledged the importance of having people like Caleb and Jackson involved in the coaching space.
“Caleb and Jackson have been through that pathway themselves, so they can relate to the umpires coming through the junior system.
“It is such a great opportunity to have relatable, young, developing umpires, who have the energy and passion to develop other people.
“The feedback we have got about Caleb and Jackson in particular, has been outstanding regarding their engagement with the umpires in the group.
Sam’s philosophy is to have coaching tools available and positive environments to allow umpires to develop and enjoy umpiring.
“I think the more people that we can get involved, especially out of our high performance and community programs in junior umpiring, is going to elevate the progression of umpires through our ranks.” Bridges emphasised.
- Article by Justin Lillecrapp -