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Netball hurdle

Sherrylyn A. Toppin

Netball hurdle

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Even as the Americas region is moving to get more umpires on the international netball circuit, the route to the top is about to become even harder.
By June next year, the dreaded “beep” test which makes or breaks an umpire’s career by assessing his or her fitness, will be increased from level 7 to 9.1.
All netball umpires who wish to gain the International Umpires Award (IUA) have to pass the beep test.
This involves doing a number of repetitions in a specific time. As the levels increase, it becomes faster and more intense as umpires are required to do more reps in the same time.
Marion Johnson-Hurley is Barbados’ lone IUA recipient. Overall, the region is struggling to produce IUA holders, with two in Trinidad and Tobago and four in Jamaica.
“Taking the beep test to level nine makes no sense to me,” Johnson-Hurley told NATIONSPORT.
“Getting extremely fit as an umpire is only part of it. My problem I am encountering is that we are trying to get the umpires so fit, that we are not concentrating on what is important – the rules of the game.
“That is basically my concern with the fitness, but the fitness is not really the problem. The problem is that we are running fast and missing a lot of calls.”
Instead, Johnson-Hurley said she wanted to see more fairness in the selection of umpires for international tournaments.
“They pick people for name’s sake, not the one who is umpiring the best. You are going out there and because of your name or your country, you get to do games
“It’s not easy coming from the Caribbean to umpire. [If] you don’t have anyone there to push you, that is where our problem is.
“We don’t have any help like how they have people on the panel that will put people in place whether they are doing well or not,” she added.
Still, the physical education teacher, who has been at IUA level since 1998, can boast of having done some of the top games in her career.
Johnson-Hurley carried the final of the 2003 World Netball Championships in Jamaica, the 2005 World Youth Netball Championships in Florida and the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia.
She was reserve umpire for the 2007 World Championships and also officiated at this year’s World Championships in Singapore.  
But the frustrations of the years are also starting to take their toll and she said her days as an International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA) umpire were numbered.
“I am holding on because we don’t have anything down here. If I decide to quit what am I doing? It is going to get even worse because they are not really sending up anyone from down here.
“As soon as I can see the doors opening to get more regional umpires – Caribbean, America, Canada – that is [the] only way I can leave,” she said.
The Americas Federation of Netball Associations has taken note of the lack of umpires and the issue was discussed at the meeting of the body last month.
International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA) director and regional representative Octavia Gibson said IFNA/AFNA president Molly Rhone had lamented the lack of IUAs and TIDs [Talent Identified umpires] who are to be trained to go to the next level.
She added that AFNA had received some money through IFNA’s net effect grant to develop umpires in the region.
“We are also looking at exploring online theory exams for umpires and setting up a regional database for questions like a test bank, so that they can do mock tests and by the time they get to the exams, they should be better prepared,” Gibson said.
The use of video analysis is also being recommended.