Life as an elite umpire about teamwork

In 2017, Netball Australia is celebrating its 90th Anniversary. In 1931, the first All Australia (AA) Umpire Award was presented to Anne Clark and Elsie Ferris.

They devoted themselves to netball umpiring, coaching and playing. Fast track to 2017 and current Australian umpire, Michelle Phippard is just like Anne and Elsie.

She has spent nearly 20 years umpiring at an elite level and was awarded the prestigious AA badge in 1998. Here she talks about her life as an umpire and receiving the AA award.

Michelle Phippard’s life is a juggling act. She is a top-ranking umpire, a lawyer and a mum of three, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It is a bit of a juggle, but it all works out,” Phippard says. “I have two girls, five and seven and they are very keen on their netball. I think it’s great for them to see me at an elite level.”

She started umpiring in 1983 at the youthful age of 12.

“It wasn’t really a choice. I played for a big club and they had to supply umpires and when you were 11 or 12 you had to have a go.

“As I grew older, I started to get more opportunities with umpiring and saw where it could take me. I realised I could contribute by making the game better.” 

Phippard never believed that one day she would receive the All Australia award.

“When you start on the pathway, you feel the AA badge is totally unattainable. I remember at my association the AA umpires coming out in these shiny tracksuits and I remember thinking it seems an impossible level to reach.”

However, as an A- badge umpire she dreamed that one day she might make it.

“We used to have a board up on the wall at the old State Netball Centre that had all the names of the AA umpires in Victoria. I remember thinking how amazing it would be to get my name on the board.”

“I finally got my name on the board (in 1998) and that was a very exciting thing. The AA award represents a huge goal and achievement.

“I think it is crucial to the game growing and developing. As an umpire, your job is to facilitate the game’s improvement and help the players to the full extent of their ability.”

And just like netball, umpiring is a team sport.

“Umpiring from the outside seems like a very individual thing but really you can only ever umpire as well as the person on the other side allows you to,” she added.

“Being unified and supportive of each other is a huge part of umpiring and a huge part of the netball culture.

“Umpiring is a part of something much bigger. Being part of all the history that has gone before you and a responsibility to maintain the high standard of umpiring.”

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*Article courtesy of Netball Australia