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Umpires Workshops & the development of umpiring in Europe

A little less conversation, a little more action please!

Elvis may well say actions speak louder than words, but here at AFL Europe, we think that it’s the talking that helps our indigenous umpires take their first tentative steps onto the field of dreams.

Australian Football in Europe has seen the number of players and their skills developing fast over the past few years. Considering the steeper learning curve involved in both learning the game and becoming an umpire at the same time, it’s not surprising that our umpiring stocks have been a little slower to develop. Through our “entry level” Level 0 course, we’ve tried to provide learning umpires and their coaches with the fundamentals and a safe learning environment.

Shane Hill, Umpires Development Manager for AFL Europe said, “I was asked a few years back to run a course for umpires at a Euro Cup. Along with a couple of others, we tried to keep it simple, focussed on the most important decisions and gave advice about the game day environment.”

Since then, AFL Europe has run a dozen of these foundational courses across Europe. The content may have been refined, but the message remains the same says Hill, “We need umpires who understand the spirit of the game and have empathy with players. By developing umpires who keep the game safe, fair and flowing, the game will benefit.”

The Level 0 focusses solely on the spirits of the laws, “risky business” and basic positional concepts.

Importantly, umpires, players and coaches all take part in this respectful and safe learning environment, for the benefit of our great game. It is in essence just a conversation about footy. The ability to share a range of perspectives – and experience – helps the group to develop confidence for umpiring, and be able to learn from mistakes in a supportive environment. It’s an environment that can also act as a springboard to further build on club/umpire activities throughout the season.

Over 100 umpires have undertaken our gateway course to Australian Football. The Level 0 is one of the pre-requisites to undertaking the Level 1 and umpiring at key AFL Europe events.

In helping our leagues to develop umpiring, we needed to address the unique European conditions. “Taking the Australian model and telling leagues ‘this is how you develop your umpires’ missed the point – it particularly assumed some inherent learning during an umpire’s formative years. So we went back to basics, including things like 9-a-side, knowing that we needed to talk about what Australian Football actually was in a theoretical sense,” states Hill. “The way our guys and girls here play the game is so different in so many little ways. It’s a thrill to see the game in a whole new light.”

Better umpires really do mean better games.

With better umpires, players are more confident to commit themselves to the ball, pick it up and as a result, dispose more effectively. We all want to see the big marks, strong tackles and long passes to a leading forward, which all benefit when players know the risk of avoidable injury is reduced by having properly trained umpires. Encouragement not only from other umpires but also senior players and coaches who have attended these courses and know how to recognise good umpiring, enables our “third team” members with the positive reinforcement that validates our love of the game. Our club leaders are potentially the most important umpiring resource we have.

Oliver Krajacic, Captain of the Austrian Avalanche had these thoughts to share, “For us Umpiring has been approached mostly the same as Footy – a couple of dedicated blokes who almost knew what they were doing, slowly but constantly improving with time.” It would be fair to say that many leagues have a similar situation locally. Krajacic goes on, “AFL Europe delivered an Umpiring Workshop last year at our home ground in Zwaring, with players from the Croatian League participating as well. For the first time we had a professional tell us not only how to interpret the Rules of the Game in a more detailed way than we ever had before, we also got valuable advice on how to conduct a game, how to position yourself when working with a second umpire and how to communicate on the ground.” The benefits to players and umpires alike were clear to Krajacic, “Apart from drastically improving our umpiring, the workshop also helped players to better adhere to the rules, play smarter and better understand an umpires decisions and the difficulties of umpiring an Aussie Rules game.”

We certainly look forward to seeing Oliver and the Austrian side at this year’s Axios Euro Cup in London, to talk more about how umpiring is developing locally.

Taking it to the next stage, the Level 1 develops further an umpire’s core skills.

In 2013, we ran our first Level 1 course in Dublin, alongside the second European championships. Nearly a dozen umpires took the theory course and, additionally some members the national squads joined our inaugural teleconference. Many umpires involved in both the theory and the teleconference went on to umpire throughout the week in a range of conditions. All involved in the Level 1 programme received on-field feedback and a post-tournament review. As a result, the AFL recognised four umpires, who received their Level 1 accreditation.

Gavin Ward, Umpires Coordinator for DAFL was one of those involved in Dublin, “the past couple of years I have been umpiring on a regular basis. I had been a retired player in Australia for many years, so I’ve really enjoyed learning another side to the game. You learn and understand the game from one perspective as a player; where in umpiring there is a need to understand the rules on a much deeper level.”  Last year, Ward took on the role of Umpires Coordinator for the DAFL, “I was asked to help build a team of umpires. I started looking into what training is available to help other umpires in the league, when I heard about the Level 1 course to be run as part of the European Championships. The preparation needed before the course and focusing on umpiring for a full week proved to be quite beneficial. There were a lot of drills, written materials and coaching during and after games. This, along with setting up a social media forum to support and recruit umpires has really helped me to move forward in my role as Umpires Coordinator.”

It’s great to hear Gavin’s feedback. Our Level 1 course is designed to give developing umpires who desire increased performance the resources and support they need to achieve their aims.

Our approach to the Level 1 is more rigorous, with the pre-requisites being completion of the Level 0 and online theory. Successful Level 1 umpires are then observed in a minimum of three matches competently umpiring to a Level 1 standard, criteria including control, position, composure, confidence, communication, consistent application of the basic laws and have a developing understanding of how to self-assess. The criteria are set down by the AFL, who has recognised our Level 1 programme.

So what happens now?

Following feedback from our umpires like Oliver and umpires coordinators like Gavin, the conversation continues. We’ve expanded our development programme this year, particularly in consideration of the remoteness of our “third team.” We’ve held several teleconferences already this year with more to come. We will also be running two Level 1 courses, one in the UK and one in Eastern Europe. A number of forums are now also available, alongside the longstanding AFL Europe Umpires Facebook page. We already have some exciting plans under discussion here at AFL Europe HQ for 2015, so stay tuned!

Want to join the conversation or invite a friend? Our forthcoming July and October teleconferences and in the remaining Level 0 and Level 1 courses still have places remaining. Registration is via Eventbrite (http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/afl-europe-umpires-6007970449?ref=eorgbtn) and for each, registration closes a few days before the event.

Sorry Elvis, but we’ll have a little more conversation for our third team, please!

#umpiresweek #betterumpiresmeansbettergames #thethirdteam

2014 Umpires Teleconferences

Everybody’s talkin’ at me, but I can’t hear a word they’re sayin’.

So go the famous words of Harry Nilsson. Not so for the umpires of AFL Europe, who in 2014 have so far held three regular teleconferences, with two more still to take place before the season is out. Our conversation about umpiring is gathering momentum, and always in a safe learning environment.

“It has been difficult to visit all of our umpires on a regular enough basis to give them timely and meaningful feedback,” said Shane Hill, Umpires Development Manager for AFL Europe. “The teleconference initiative seemed like a good solution, to enable our umpires to share their ideas and just have a good yak about footy and umpiring in particular.”

AFL Europe started running umpiring teleconferences alongside the European Championships of 2013, in Dublin.

In that inaugural call, both David Levens and Steve Keating were on the line from Australia as were a roomful (and yet more dialling in from around Europe) of our European umpires asking a range of questions. The key aim of the call (and the umpiring course of which it was a part) was to help those involved to become better umpires. Better umpires mean better games, and it was great to hear everyone taking the opportunity to ask as many questions of our coaches as possible.

In 2014, we’ve already held several teleconferences, with still more to come.

AFL Europe commenced this year’s series of calls in late March, with the leadership of the AFL’s National Development Manager of Umpiring, Adam Davis. Adam provided us with his thoughts about the future of umpiring development at AFL Level and development pathways. Simon Harrison provided his extensive community football experience as did Andrew Jones. Shane Hill complemented the trio by giving a flavour to AFL Europe’s umpire development plans and provided input from his umpiring experience in Australia, UK and Europe.

Our umpires have since continued the conversation with Simon, Andrew and Shane in May and June.

“It’s been really great to hear a range of experiences from our umpires in these calls,” says Hill. “Whilst we’re all based quite remotely from each other, we are all facing similar issues and all solving them in slightly different ways. By sharing the issues we face, we’ve been able to talk about possible solutions and I think this is probably the most positive way we can support our ‘third team’ members.”

During our series of calls in 2014, a wide range of topics have been discussed. The list of topics has touched on all the essentials an umpire needs to develop a mastery of the craft. Blow Show Go, common sense umpiring, protecting the ball player, prior opportunity, positioning, developing an umpiring community and seeking feedback are just some of the threads we’ve covered in over 5 hours of conversation this year.

Our umpires have really taken the opportunity to discuss umpiring in a relaxed environment amongst their peers and hopefully have benefited from their participation.

Nilss Lode, Umpires Coordinator for AFLG has been one of our regular participants. “Umpiring in the German league can be demanding when new players first start playing, as the skill level and knowledge of the rules is significantly less than experienced players. The umpires will try to explain the laws and what infringement has been paid for new players. In my role as Umpires Coordinator, my aim has been to improve overall umpiring standards.” Lode had these thoughts about our teleconferences this year, “The teleconferences run by AFL Europe have helped me to improve my confidence and consistency in decision making, by having the opportunity to ask questions about certain incidents during games.”

We thank Nilss and indeed all of our umpires who have dialled in to our teleconferences this year for their important input.

One particular benefit of our discussions this year is that a number of materials have been made available for our umpires portal on the AFL Europe webpage. Your one-stop umpiring shop can be found at http://afleurope.org/be-involved/umpire/. In the coming weeks, you’ll see resources posted here to help you develop as an umpire, and for Umpires’ Coordinators use in their coaching. We welcome your feedback as we develop these resources for you, our umpires.

Do you want to join in the umpiring conversation?

Our next teleconference is set for Wednesday 23rd July at 8pm (UK time) and there will be a “Season Wrap” in the week after Axios Euro Cup. If you want to join the conversation then register via Eventbrite, at: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/afl-europe-umpires-6007970449?ref=eorgbtn. Dialling details are provided to all registered attendees.

If you have further questions about our teleconferences, or if you would like to know more about umpiring where you are, contact umpires@afleurope.org.

#umpiresweek #betterumpiresmeansbettergames #thethirdteam

Picture by Derek Clarke

Training plan and materials for umpires

By Shane Hill

An important part of an umpire’s preparation is a good fitness regime. Along with proper nutrition, hydration, well structured exercise will help to ensure you are able to maintain position throughout the match. Three levels of aerobic and anaerobic exercise are described below.

Typically, you will want to try a mix of these exercises at your level. Combining the right aerobic drills to build up your stamina with one or two of the anaerobic drills to increase your peak performance, you will be able to gradually improve your fitness over the course of a season. As your level increases, try balancing exercises from the differing levels to provide you with some recovery time. Shortening the rest interval between periods of effort is also a good way of maximising your heart rate and your resulting fitness.

It is important not to push yourself too hard through these and if you experience pain, apply the RICE principle and seek treatment from your physio.

There is also a sample training plan for an hour-long training for a group. Though you will notice that it focuses on Field Boundary and Goal umpires, there is no reason that an umpire or umpire’s group can’t integrate this plan with a club’s forwards, centres and backs training.

You will want to vary this plan throughout each session and from week to week. Always commence and end a session with some very light exercise, to prepare the body for exertion and relax it back to rest. Your warm up and cool down periods are critical to avoid serious injury, along with good hydration during and after the session. Importantly, encourage those you are training with. There’s nothing better for developing team camaraderie than good talk during periods of anaerobic effort. Running all the way to the line and not cutting corners in these parts of the session will pay dividends on match day.

Eat a substantial late lunch around 2pm and be mindful of eating anything too heavy between then and your training session to get the maximum effectiveness from your training session.

If you have further questions about these training materials or would like to suggest your own, please contact the Umpires Development Manager for AFL Europe via umpires@afleurope.org.

Training Session Template

Beginner – combined Aerobic and Anaeorbic Sessions

Intermediate – combined Aerobic and Anaeorbic Sessions

Advanced – combined Aerobic and Anaeorbic Sessions

German umpiring on the rise

By Nilss Lode

Australian Football in Germany often faces challenges as far as finding ideal playing venues in a central location as soccer is the dominant sport which requires significantly smaller playing areas. In the past, most games were played in open parks where locals, often taking their dog for a walk or going for a leisurely stroll, proceeded through the football field without noticing that an AFLG game was in process, which was an interesting situation for umpires. The times have changed now and 4 out of the 5 clubs in the AFLG this year have organized official sporting venues to host the games. The leading venue, in my opinion, is in Berlin which is located on the grounds outside the Olympic stadium. The stadium was renovated for the 2006 soccer world cup keeping the original structure, is a majestic monument as a backdrop to a game of Australian rules football. The playing surface is proper turf and large enough for a full size ground. I umpired at the venue in round one this year and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Umpiring in the German league can be demanding when new players to the code first start playing in the first division (AFLG Bundesliga)  as the skill level and knowledge of the rules is significantly less than experienced payers . The AFLG addresses the issue of first game players by the annulment of a law breach once, for each law in the first game. The umpires also quickly explain what the law is and why it was violated.  The ball is thrown up by the field umpire instead of a free kick.

AFL Europe with the help of Shane Hill have helped me to improve my confidence and consistency in decision making  this year through monthly telephone conferences and the opportunity to ask questions about certain incidents which occur during games.

I have been assigned the inaugural role of umpire coordinator for the AFLG this year with the aim of improving the overall standard of umpiring in the AFLG via a development program. Key umpiring focus areas are communicated to all umpires in the AFLG before every round. The players are also informed of the focus areas before the game by the field umpires.

Individual development of the umpires is done when I travel to the clubs during the year and we umpire together on game day. This involves a lot of travel on the morning of the game as the clubs are based in Munich, Berlin. Hamburg, Köln and Stuttgart. The train ride from Munich to Berlin takes 6 and a half hours.

In order to improve the players knowledge of the rules, an umpiring colleague (Harit “Hazza” Khanna) and myself have prepared a footy quiz comprising of 25 multiple choice questions based on the laws of the game. The questions have been formulated to include basic general play questions for new players as well as more advanced (tricky) questions for senior experienced players. The questions were handed out to the Munich Kangarros players on Saturday and raised lots of discussion regarding the answers! Hazza and myself are currently marking the individual responses.

A prize will be given to the player with the highest score, as well as a random ballot from everyone that completed the quiz which was voluntary. The quiz will also be distributed to other clubs once the first trial with the Roos is completed. The players had a 4 hour limit to complete the quiz and should be aware that the umpires need to make these decisions in a split second!

I’m really looking forward to umpiring at the AFL Europe championships in London later this year.

#umpiresweek #betterumpiresmeansbettergames #thethirdteam

AFL Europe Umpires’ Profile

Pictures: Derek Clarke

By Michael McCormick

JOSH DAVEY

What does Dr Karl Kennedy and a street party in Geelong have in common? They both played a significant role in introducing the game of AFL to WARFL Umpiring Coordinator and AFL Europe Umpire, Josh Davey.

Davey, a former player turned umpire, admitted that his first memory of AFL was seeing Dr Karl Kennedy playing it on Australian soap opera, ‘Neighbours.’

It wasn’t until recently however that he explored his interest further by becoming involved with a local club.

“I saw a video online of what seemed like the whole of Geelong out on the street partying after their Grand Final win,” stated Davey. “I then watched a couple of videos on YouTube, discovered I had a local club and went and had a go.”

Davey’s umpiring career began when he volunteered with his local league during weeks in which he was injured. He then took the opportunity to be involved in the 2013 European Championships in Dublin.

“I offered my services to AFL Europe as a volunteer,” explained Davey. “There I discovered they were holding a Level 1 Umpires course and decided to get involved with that.”

Davey continued to grow as an umpire and went from strength to strength after the European Championships.

Being selected as a field umpire for the AIS-AFL Academy vs European Legion Easter Series game stands out as one of his finest moments.

“Having played for the first Legion I knew the skill level of the players would be extremely high and to be considered good enough to umpire them was a huge honour.”

The dream for many European AFL aficionados is to travel to Australia and play the great game at a professional level. Davey however has slightly different endeavours.

“Whilst some players stay after the International Cup to try and work their way up to the very top as players, I’d love the chance to do the same as a whistle man.”

Davey described Australian Football as an exhilarating game to spectate due to its fluidity and the athleticism of the players.

“It is such a beautiful game to watch, and the very best place to watch it is from the middle of the park.”

For those who want to have the same seat on the ground as him, Davey offered these words of wisdom;

“Be confident in your actions and abilities and don’t be afraid to blow your whistle. Think about mistakes after the game, but on the ground, show presence and the players will respond positively.”

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NILSS LODE

Nilss

Taking marks on other players’ shoulders is what makes Australian Football the greatest game in the world, at least according to AFL Germany Umpiring Coordinator, Nilss Lode.

Melbourne born Lode, who grew up playing Australian Football in his lunch breaks at primary school, began his umpiring career as a result of an AFL Europe initiative to develop local umpires.

“I initially didn’t even consider attending or umpiring,” he said. “One of my team mates enjoyed umpiring more than playing, and that kind of sparked enough interest to see what it is all about.”

During his Level 0 course he was thrown in the deep end, being made to umpire a practice match for the German national team.

“There were so many decisions to be made quickly and I really enjoyed the challenge and decided that I wanted to pursue umpiring further.”

Since that initial experience, Lode has improved his skill and expertise to the point in which he is now sought out for major events across Europe.

A high level of commitment and an eagerness to learn at the highest level has enabled his steady improvement.

“Umpiring at three Euro Cup tournaments enabled me to work alongside more experienced umpires than myself and learn from their advice.”

Lode is currently working towards Level 2 accreditation to further develop his own skills and those of the umpires he coordinates.

He encourages aspiring umpires to go to a local match as a spectator and make the umpiring decisions in their head to compare with what the umpire decides.

“Know the actual official rules, rather than what commentators explain on TV as they are, in my opinion, often wrong.”

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NIELS SCHONNEMANN-ROSBERG

Niels

Combining a passion for travel and a love of the great game makes umpiring Australian Football more than just a hobby for Danish umpire, Niels Schønnemann-Rosberg.

He came across Australian Football after a chance meeting with his cousin at the ripe age of seventeen.

“I bumped into one of my cousins during the summer of ’99 and he invited me down to the local footy club,” he said. “The rest is history.”

His history as a player is extensive however his umpiring career is still in its infancy.

“I started to umpire full time in 2010 as I needed a challenge other than playing football,” he stated.

“I wasnt quite ready to leave, so I thought that umpiring could be a way to stay in the game.”

As most local games in Denmark are umpired by players in their bye rounds, the professionalism of umpiring isn’t a major focus.

Because of this, Schønnemann-Rosberg had to make special efforts to progress his umpiring ambitions.

“Andrew Jones and Shane Hill helped me go through the AFL level 1 program via some travelling and a lot of skype sessions.”

After completing his Level 1 AFL Umpiring course, Schønnemann-Rosberg has been called upon for some of the biggest events in Europe and the world.

“My initial goal was to umpire at the 2011 International Cup, which I did,” he said. “I then got to umpire the Grand final of the 2013 Axios Euro Cup in Bordeaux.”

Despite being a rising star of the umpiring fraternity, Schønnemann-Rosberg remains humble about his ambitions.

“At the moment I like to umpire locally and then travel to the European tournaments where I receive feedback from other umpires on my performance.”

Despite having already accomplished a great amount, he doesn’t underestimate the importance of continuous learning and refining.

“Your performance will improve significantly if you learn and apply great positioning and communication to players and officials during a game,” he said.

“They will trust or at least respect your judgement, if you do this.”

#umpiresweek #betterumpiresmeansbettergames #thethirdteam

Umpiring at the Axios Euro Cup

Picture Derek Clarke

By Michael McCormick

The Axios Euro Cup is back again for the tenth installment of this annual fixture on the European footy calendar and it promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Formerly known as the EU Cup, the event will return to its inaugural location – London – for this milestone year.

The fast-paced action that the tournament is becoming renowned for will entice large crowds on the first Saturday in October. As it is just one week after the AFL Grand Final, footy fever is sure to be high and the best 9-a-side teams will be looking to wrestle the trophy away from the hosts.

Every great match of football requires exceptional umpiring and hence we will need a strong panel of local umpires to enforce the rules of the game.

Umpires are of upmost importance throughout these events as they encourage safe, fair and free flowing play. In previous years we have seen all-European umpiring panels take the big stage and exceed our expectations and we hope for much the same in 2014.

We are currently looking for field and goal umpires to umpire this lightning tournament across a number of fields and groups.

AFL Europe Umpire Development Manager, Shane Hill explained that the demand for local umpires at marquee events increases with each passing year.

“With the number of local players ever increasing, now is a great opportunity for our indigenous umpires to demonstrate their ability to competently and confidently conduct matches of Australian Football,” stated Hill. “With better umpires come better games.”

If you would like to register to umpire this event, then please click through to Eventbrite.

“Field and goal umpires involved at this tournament may one day go onto umpire a future International Cup in Australia or the Easter Series right here in Europe,” continued Hill.

If you will be in London for this great event, come down and support the third team – the umpiring team – as they seek to ensure safe, fair and flowing play throughout the tournament.

As a reward for excellence, the 2014 Golden whistle will also be awarded to the best all-round umpire of the tournament.

If you have further questions about getting involved in umpiring in Europe for this event or with your local competition, please contact umpires@afleurope.org. Alternatively, you will find additional information in the umpiring portal on our website.

#umpiresweek #betterumpiresmeansbettergames #thethirdteam

Umpiring AFL in Europe

Michael McCormick

The men in white who run out alongside the players every game often get overlooked, or even taunted, for their decisions on the field, but without them, the game would simply not be.

While the 2010 inaugural European Championships was a milestone for AFL in Europe, it also paved the way for the ‘stewards’ of the game – the umpires – to stamp their mark on the competition.

Three years on and the umpiring fraternity has gained momentum and a list of enthusiastic Europeans to govern fair play in this great game.

AFL Europe Umpires Coordinator, Shane Hill, suggests that developing and nurturing competent European umpires will stand the game in good stead for continued growth.

“Umpires of Australian Football in Europe now have a structured development pathway they can follow, enabling Europe’s finest whistle blowers to reach their true potential,” explains Hill.

The new breed of European umpires is acknowledged for their achievements through internationally recognised certification and appointment to local, national and international competition. Hill explains that the more exposure to the game and education of its rules the umpires in particular can get, the better off the competition will be.

“In terms of education, umpires and players alike have benefitted from attending our introductory ‘Level 0’ courses held across the region,” states Hill.

The aforementioned Level 0 course is a one day workshop in which participants learn all the fundamentals of being an umpire. Attendees aren’t expected to have any prior knowledge of the game and hence, the course seeks to provide a “safe learning environment where everyone feels free to ask the ‘silly’ questions,” according to Hill.

As of August 2013, close to 100 umpiring hopefuls had completed the course, some of whom have gone on to umpire in marquee events such as the European Championships. Several others have also completed the Level 1 accreditation course, which provides a more in depth understanding of an umpire’s role.

Confidence building is a major aspect of the course as the freshly certified umpires are encouraged to trial their new found knowledge in a practice game on the day.

Once certified, they may be called upon to officiate local matches in their region or even national or international competitions. One Bordeaux local, Alexandre Garandel, who made his boundary umpiring debut at the Euro Cup in September, 2013, experienced just that.

“I was nervous, I didn’t want to make mistakes because it’s important for AFL in France,” he stated.

Many locally sourced umpires took to the field in the 2013 Euro Cup alongside Garandel and more experienced Australian and European officials. This was a great sign for not only the status of AFL umpires in Europe, but also the game at large.

The development of AFL in Europe depends heavily on collaboration between players, umpires and officials, who are all striving towards the same goal. The support provided through the Umpiring Association is imperative to the longevity and continued growth of the game the world over.

Words from Shane Hill:

With understanding of the game and respect for the role of our umpires in Europe at an all-time high, umpiring is truly everybody’s business. If you would like further details about the game or how to become an umpire in your local league, please email umpires@afleurope.org. Alternatively, follow our somewhat irreverent updates via the AFL Europe Umpires Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/afleuropeumpires) and on Twitter (@AusFootball).

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