Elite sportspeople know the feeling.
Some days they’re just not “feeling it”, and they’ve got to find a way to put out a decent performance in a game where – for whatever reason – things aren’t quite clicking.
It’s no different for the cream of Australia’s umpiring fraternity, who train and prepare as thoroughly as any of the athletes they’re charged with officiating each weekend, but aren’t immune to nerves and the occasional “off” night.
So it’s a credit to Australia’s newest elite umpire Tim Marshall that when the occasion got to him during the dress rehearsal for the game when he was to be tested for his All Australia umpire badge, he was able to refocus within 24 hours and turn in a blinder on the big day.
On Saturday night, Marshall was awarded his AA badge after being assessed during the Deakin University Australian Netball League clash between the Canberra GIANTS and Queensland Fusion.
Keep an eye out for Marshall at Suncorp Super Netball games and on your TVs in the coming months – as an All Australia umpire, Marshall is now included in the pool of umpires who can officiate Super Netball matches.
I think the amount of effort and work that goes into the umpires behind the scenes, that people don’t usually see, is tremendous
But that culmination of years of hard work and personal development came after he’d battled to be at his best the previous evening when the teams faced off for the first time, with nerves and the emotion of the weekend taking an early toll.
“The Friday night game, to be honest, was actually horrible,” Marshall reflected this week.
“I was told during the week that I was going to be tested, so it was all the emotion around that, and then just kind of the stress and the nerves of that building up to it. I got to Sydney and I was just thinking about it far too much. It didn’t affect the game, as such, but I just felt a bit uncomfortable on the court. I wasn’t as sharp as I usually would be.”
But the following day and Marshall was a different man and put out one of the best umpiring performances of his career – this time in front of the assessors.
“I just felt totally different. I think having that realisation, going, ‘OK, it’s just umpiring, it’s just another game, I don’t have to think about it that much’. That helped a lot, I think,” Marshall said.
“I actually was speechless,” he said of the moment 15 minutes after the game when he was told he’d been successful, “and people who know me know that I can talk quite a lot.”
“I didn’t know what to say. I just couldn’t believe it had actually finally happened.”
Marshall, who began taking his umpiring seriously the better part of a decade ago in Queensland before moving to Victoria, was fast tracked as a future elite umpire when he was invited into Netball Australia’s Emerging Talent Umpire Program. The program, of which international umpire Michelle Phippard is the head coach, includes a range of professional development opportunities, including annual umpire camps, which help umpires bridge the gap between the Emerging Talent pool of umpires and the High Performance group that officiates Suncorp Super Netball games.
In order to become a better umpire and take the final step in his elite pathway, Marshall said part of his challenge was to scale back the number of games he took on this year, in order to remain focused and allow enough time to assess and reflect on his performances.
I didn’t know what to say. I just couldn’t believe it had actually finally happened
“Last year I had a lot of netball on and the seasons were kind of back to back. It was ANL, Nationals, VNL (Victorian Netball League), and I think I probably had done quite a lot over that time. I got quite burnt out, I suppose, so then I was just a big focus on making sure that that wasn’t going to happen again, and I just kind of needed to adjust my schedule a bit.”
“You can go out there and you can be the best technical umpire there is, but if you aren’t in the right head space, or you know you haven’t prepared well for a match or something, then anything could go wrong.”
Marshall was quick to thank Netball Australia and Netball Victoria for their commitment of time and resources to help umpires at all levels develop their skills and achieve their goals as officials.
“I think the amount of effort and work that goes into the umpires behind the scenes, that people don’t usually see, is tremendous. And just the support that we get from everyone is really good.”
“Over the last few years I’ve seen it getting better and better with the amount of support and the amount of resources that we actually have as umpires, and I think it’s great. So I think there’s a lot of good things to happen in the umpiring space moving into the future.”