In all my years of netball coaching I can think of only one game where umpiring decisions directly impacted the result.

That’s thousands of games of coaching across almost every level and age group, and only one time where I can honestly say, “we would have won that game”.

And yet every single week I have coaches, when asked how their game played out, start their summary with “The umpiring….”

Even worse, I hear them turn the torch on the umpires when having their post-game chat with their team.

I don’t know what it’s like at your local association or competition, but at ours the umpire shortage is nothing short of chronic.


Every week there are callouts on social media for umpires to fill holes in dozens of games, just to ensure that players can take the court. Games are routinely delayed while umpires are found to make sure all courts can go ahead. There are even Facebook groups dedicated to finding umpires at the last minute.

I’m sure this isn’t a localised issue.

Netball is as popular as ever, but clearly it is getting harder and harder to get people – and particularly young ones – to don the whites and pick up a whistle.

So when one of the first things that comes out of coaches’ mouths when addressing their players is the performance of the umpires, what chance do you think there is of this situation improving?

The only thing you’ve achieved is to let your nine or 10 young players know that if they ever decide to become an official, there are coaches waiting to tear them to shreds every single week, simply for turning up to do their job.

And don’t get me started on some of the things that are shouted from the sidelines and on court by players, coaches and spectators.

So, some food for thought. The next time you have a tough result as as coach, take a moment to reflect on what your team could have done better.

Think about the five shots your goalers missed in the third quarter. Think about the four bad passes your wing attack had in the first half. Think about the six dropped balls.

And then ask yourself: Did the umpires really cost us the game today?

Or better yet – pick up a whistle.


  1. Down in the Deep South we are fortunate to have a small group of senior umpires that spend time training, mentoring and standing on the sideline supporting and helping to control/train the parents and coaches. This ensures that parents get information on rules and junior umpires are well supported and trained so their confidence and talent can grow and expand.

    1. That’s so great, wish we had this in AKL. My son is a young football ref and he cops a lot of abuse too. They are short of people as well and his mentor doesn’t make it to most games. He was super keen to start with but doubt he’ll last in this environment.

  2. This article needs to be read out to every coach and player of our land before each game until they can recite it word for word.

  3. This article needs to be handed to the spectators who hurl abuse but not in their own lifetime will pick up a whistle themselves

  4. One of the great things in netball is that you can manifest in whatever things you do in netball. But when it comes to game time we tend to complain alot about umpires calls. Try and look at your games structure,players making lot of mistakes. We learnt from our mistakes and improve on it when our next games comes………

    1. As a player, coach and umpire, there are certain message you give your players about the umpire
      1. Play to your umpires, Acknowledge and respect their calls, respect gives respect
      2..if you are a defender understand you will be called out first
      3.they are not gods but they have the whistle and are only human
      4. We can not play the game without them

      1. Play to the rules of the game please! The culture in Nz around play to the umpire, or play to the whistle is wrong. Play to the rules!

  5. I am part of a club who place importance on training, developing and mentoring our young umpires. The frustrating thing for me is watching other clubs young umpires who are not confident or competent to umpire that age or level but worse still no one mentoring and supporting them. They are not teaching their young umpires to the same standard as we strive too. And unfortunately the association don’t follow this up. ….Just a different view of this subject.

    1. Totally agree with you! We’re constantly told that our umpires are doing their best, still “in-training” or “at least they’re trying”! I applaud those people who give umpiring a go and I think Players & spectators should definitely show respect for their Umpires! But I also believe that Umpires should show the same respect for Players who spend a lot of time & money to train and play to be their best, even if its in Div 999!

  6. Essentially agree with everything that has been mentioned above, however I feel the system is setup to fail our umpires before they even start.
    Our game has progressed, players and athletes are more dynamic, our game is quicker, more powerful, more intense and certainly more athletic, yet the umpiring remains the same since inception.
    Only one umpire is allowed to make calls at any one time, depending on where the ball is there could be up to 10 players in that section of the court and one umpire responsible for all 10. At a minimum its 8, and not only are they looking for contact, obstruction, offside, 3 feet, footwork…plus a number of other rulings, they have to ensure the goal is scored. It’s very difficult to watch multiple facets at the same time and yet we expect this from our most junior of umpires as well as those at National level.
    Basketball has 3 umpires to look at all 10 players and even they are each watching for their own things. AFL has introduced a 4th field umpire and they don’t have worry about the ball going out of bounds, there’s another 4 for that or through the goals, add 2 more. 10 officials to look after 36 players versus netball, 2 to look after 14. Yeah, the ground is bigger, but the ball takes longer to travel, yet they have recognised the games development and progression and adjusted accordingly.
    Soccer has one field umpire but the Assistant refs can help out, the game is nowhere near as fast paced and with a lot less rules to be concerned with.
    Netball umpires are the most scrutinised because they have by far the most to do.
    I say give our umpires better support from the top, let’s get up with times and make the changes required. In the meantime, continue to support the umpires, build relationships, get a better understanding of why certain calls are made. We are all part of the game.

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