During the first three weeks of September 2011 the AFL undertook an online survey for umpires involved with Australian Football. Five hundred and forty one (541) umpires (93.7% male and 6.3% female) from all States/Territories completed the survey.
The findings follow a similar survey that was conducted in 2007.
“Love of football” (62.4%, down marginally on last survey - 63.0%) and “Fitness” (55.3%. down on last survey - 61.5%) were clearly the two main reasons given for respondents starting umpiring. The next most popular reasons were $$ - earning money (37% up on last survey - 33.6%), “Retired from playing” (21.6%, down on last survey - 26.0%) and reasons related to friends – meet new people 17.7% (not asked last survey) and Friend invited me 15.6%, down from 22.2% in last survey.
Staying in umpiring
The reasons for respondents staying in umpiring are very clear: “Fitness” 48.7% (up from 43.0% last survey), “Participation in sport” 42.8%, (down slightly from (43.0% last survey, “Fun” 39.9%, (up from35.0% last survey), “Friends”35.1% (up from 29.6% last survey), Would like to umpire at State League/AFL level 39% (new question this survey) and “Want to umpire at higher level locally” 34.9% (up from 28.4% last survey).
In ranking the importance “$$ - earning money” was the second lowest ranked at 25.2%, only above “Family is involved”.
Two thirds of umpires were inclined to become a coach/mentor (66.5%).
Improvements in the coaching of umpires
“Improved feedback” 58.5% (up slightly on last survey 57.5%) “More variety at training and coaching sessions” 56% (up slightly on last survey 55.6%), and “Better communication” 45.8% (down slightly from previous survey 46.0%) are clearly areas for improvement in the coaching of umpires.
“More focus on match management”29.5%, (down from 34.2%) and “More positive environment” 27.6% (down from 32.9%) were areas that umpires acknowledged had shown some improvement since the last survey.
Coaching currently received
The ability of the coach to be “Honest” (2.16 average rating) and “Positive” (2.18) were two coaching areas that umpires felt coaches were delivering well. “Variety at training” (2.77) was found to be an area for improvement.
Local Umpiring Group Environment
There was a very positive response from umpires regarding their umpiring group environment. The environment was considered to be friendly (1.78 average rating), supportive (1.92) and welcoming (1.92). The average ratings for each of the environment elements are depicted below.
Umpires are happy to tell their friends and acquaintances that they are an umpire (88.9%). Similarly, 95% of umpires would recommend umpiring to a friend and others. However, only a quarter (25.7%, up from 22.7% las survey) thought umpires were respected in the community. These results indicated a slight improvement compared with the 2007 findings.
This survey gives umpiring personnel at a range of levels including the local umpire coach an opportunity to see how umpires are responding to a number of key umpiring issues.
The responses re-inforce the importance of the umpiring group environment. This is one area where the Umpire’s Coach plays a key role in shaping, influencing and modeling key elements of the local environment. With a healthy environment it is more likely that umpiring groups will not only prosper but thrive.
Umpires have highlighted some areas they believe could be improved by umpire coaches, while acknowledging some areas that had shown some improvements since the last survey.
The survey has re-inforced and strengthened the importance of aspects other than money that attracts people to umpiring and that are also key reasons umpires remain in umpiring.