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By Ben Pollard  

THE FIVE BEST THINGS ABOUT BEING AN SMJFL UMPIRE

1.    It helps you keep fit.

2.    You get paid to keep fit!

3.    It helps you better understand the game, which can help make you a better player.

4.    Being in control of a game of football improves your self-confidence and gives you valuable life experience.

5.    You’ll meet plenty of new friends!

The SMJFL Umpiring Department is a team of extremes.

If the department was a football squad, you’d say it was in a rebuilding phase: There are a few seasoned veterans and lots of emerging talent.

But umpiring director Lawrence Hinrichs says the balance of experience and youth is perfect.

“The older coaches are good. Obviously they can help guide me and guide the rest of the team, but having a good mix is important as well,” he says.

“I think with a junior league, you need to have younger coaches to attach to the younger umpires, so we’ve really made that a priority this year.”

At 19, Lawrence heads the young brigade. He has already umpired for nine years and coached other umpires for four. Backing him up are fellow youngsters Mark Rogers, Scott Rainey, James Rainey, Scott Learmonth, Sam Bridges, Nick Bridges, Thomas Grundy, Gal Landau and Will Johns, the majority of whom hold key umpire coaching positions.

The experience comes from Mick Bridges, Andrew Straughair, Earle Orenstein, Bernadette Vaux and Laura Hinrichs, and the more hands on deck, the better – the SMJFL currently has over 450 registered young umpires in need of training.

Lawrence says the current numbers are “just enough”, but more umpires are always welcome.

The recent launch of the SMJFL’s Northern Umpiring Academy at Stanley Grose Reserve in East Malvern is one development designed to boost those numbers.

Lawrence says the new umpire training base, serving the northern and eastern regions of the SMJFL, will complement the existing base at Moorleigh Reserve in East Bentleigh.

“We have such a big league, so being able to stretch umpire training further out is a big plus,” he says.

“It’s also about getting as many kids involved as possible.”

Lawrence says there are many benefits to being involved in junior umpiring.

“Being in charge of 44 players on the field, I think it really builds up a lot of life experience.

“I’ve seen umpires who start out as an 11- or 12-year-old and if they continue umpiring through to 15, there’s a big jump in how they appreciate the game,” he says.

“Keeping fit as well. You get paid to keep fit; to enjoy yourself.”

Lawrence believes the work SMJFL umpires put in behind the scenes is greatly underestimated.

“When I say umpires train, I get a lot a funny faces saying: ‘Umpires train?’” he says.

“Parents just take it for granted that we know how to umpire, but I think it’s really important they know umpires do train, and that it’s an important feature in the development of umpires.”

According to Lawrence though, the perception of umpires in the SMJFL is indeed changing for the better.

“I think it’s really good that the parents and all the coaches encourage the players after the game to give three cheers for the umpires and shake the umpires’ hands; that’s always something that makes the umpires feel good,” he says.

“My main message for players, parents or anyone involved in the game is to respect the umpire, because in the end, they’re doing their job and they make mistakes just like any player does.”

* For further information on becoming an SMJFL umpire, contact umpiring director Lawrence Hinrichs on 0421 170 756 or umpiring@smjfl.com.au.