Women taking up the challenge of umpiring

The explosive growth seen in women’s football in recent times has led to an increase in the need for more field, boundary and goal umpires, with the Adelaide Footy League keen to see more females take up the challenge of umpiring to assist the demand.

30 year old Nadia Hodgson, who changed her name from Nadia De Bellis after recently getting married, has been involved in umpiring for over 15 years, having been a field umpire at SANFL Reserves level for much of this time. Her love for footy remains as strong as ever – “I love that it brings people together, regardless of their background. It is such an inclusive game that everybody can get involved in.” While currently working shift work as a police officer, Nadia umpires regularly in men’s A grade football on Saturdays with the Adelaide Footy League. “The culture of the League is excellent. It is a very positive environment to be involved in,” Nadia says. “I have never had really any issues umpiring men. I think to most players you are just another umpire. Being female isn’t really a factor. I have been involved in footy now for such a long time that I am used to the general banter and backchat that players dish out. It is part of the game I think and, as long as it is not offensive, then I really don’t have any issues with it.” While the numbers of female umpires are still relatively low, Nadia encourages any woman thinking about doing it to give it a go – “You get to keep fit and get paid for it. It is also character building, especially if you are wanting to move into a career of having to make quick decisions in high pressure situations then this is a great way to develop those skills. Most importantly it is a lot of fun and if playing doesn’t interest you, then it is a great way to still be involved. You truly do get the best seat in the house.”

A more recent convert to the role of field umpire is 31 year old Tess Baxter, who picked up the whistle for the first time last year. She has an extensive history in the sport, having played and coached for many years as well as recently being employed by the Adelaide Footy League as Club Development Officer. “I just love the game. It is exciting, it requires so many different skills and there are so many different ways to contribute on and off the field.” Tess has been excited to see the enormous growth of women’s football – “It has been fantastic. Obviously the introduction of the AFLW has been a huge highlight, but I have really enjoyed seeing the amount of entry level girls and women just coming out for a kick and a catch.” While still involved as a player and coach at Norwood and Adelaide University, Tess finds the time to umpire a game of football each weekend. “More females should take it up because they will genuinely enjoy it. It can be daunting to go into any new space, let alone one where you are a minority. The reality of it is while there are many males, umpires tend be a really diverse and accepting group and you soon feel part of the community.”

The options of boundary or goal umpiring are also available for those who do not feel they are suited to field umpiring and 45 year old Lisa Cotgrove has found her role as a goal umpire something she has thoroughly enjoyed after also doing some boundary umpiring before that. A highlight has been umpiring with her daughter Emma who is currently boundary umpiring with the Adelaide Footy League. Another highlight was being appointed to the 2018 SANFL Women’s Grand Final between South Adelaide and Norwood on Anzac Day. “Footy is a game for everyone – no matter your ability, size or gender, there are opportunities for all to be involved. I would hope that the increase in female players will lead to an increase in female umpires down the track. It’s a great way to stay involved in football, keep fit, and earn some money on the side.”

This weekend is the Adelaide Footy League’s Umpire Appreciation Round, with all those involved in the League’s men’s, women’s and U18 games encouraged to recognise the efforts of the officiating umpires on the day. For more information about umpiring, visit www.adelaidefooty.com.au/umpiring

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