Former national league player Andrea Booth, third from the left above, is among a group of umpires on the cusp of joining Australia’s elite umpiring ranks.
Six participants from the Emerging Talent Umpire Program – the second tier of the Netball Australia National High Performance Umpire Pathway – are in Canberra for a professional development camp aligned with the national 19/U squad camp.
Booth has been joined by New South Wales trio Bronwyn Adams, Hayley Burgess and Emma Davey, pictured right, fellow Victorian Ashleigh Anderson and Natasha Tassone (WA) at the camp.
Booth said her skills have developed by being part of the Emerging Talent Program – especially having current ANZ Championship umpires Michelle Phippard and Rachel Ayre as their mentors.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have had very good umpiring coaching in Victoria and it is quite special to have elite umpires involved in ANZ Championship being your coaches,” Booth said.
“They’ve got current experience.”
Booth said the umpires in the Emerging Talent Program help drive each other to improve.
“It’s really motivating to be in a squad. When you’re a player, everything is team-based,” she said. “At this year’s (21/U) nationals we stayed together, we did our recovery together and we prepared together so you get back that feeling of being in a team.
“When you see others striving for that next level, it motivates you as well and it’s nice to have that shared passion among the group you’re involved with.
“Umpiring is something I value.”
Booth spent seven years playing with the two Melbourne sides in the former national league, a year at the AIS and then at state league level in Victoria before a serious knee injury brought that career to an end.
After doing some coaching, she wanted to find a way to stay involved in the sport while also keeping her fit and active.
Having been an umpire in her teenage years while involved with her local association, Booth picked up the whistle again.
“Umpiring is as close as you can be to being out on the court and you also get the physical benefits of being involved in game,” Booth said.
Booth qualified for her `B’ badge in 2011 and got her `A’ badge the next season. She’s umpired in the ANL the last two seasons and this year’s 21/U nationals in Adelaide. Her next goal is to achieve her `AA’ badge and progress to the ANZ Championship panel.
“The nationals was the first time I realistically considered that was a goal I could work towards,” Booth said.
“Unfortunately I got injured and have been unable to umpire since. In the second half of this year I want to do what needs to be done to give myself the fitness base to be ready at start of next year.”
Booth believes encouraging umpires at every level to improve their skills enhances the game experience for players and spectators.
“For me, wanting to be a good umpire is wanting to see the best standard of netball played,” she said.
“I want to feel that I’ve contributed to the best game I possibly can, by letting the players showcase their skills and talents.”