You don’t need to be fit to get started! Fitness is all relative to the level of football you wish to umpire. The higher level of football, the fitter you need to be! Our umpires train just like other sports, so regardless of where you are starting from, you can achieve greater levels of fitness, if that’s what you want.
Fitness is all about getting what you put into it. As a general rule, umpires need little to no preparation in order to begin training, as the very business of training is about getting people fit enough to go out on match day and do their jobs on the football field.
The level of fitness you will require will depend on a number of things, including:
- what sort of umpire you wish to become;
- what level of umpiring you wish to perform;
- how hard you want to push yourself
Level of Fitness Required
There are many types of fitness, but for umpiring, aerobic fitness (with a focus on endurance and repeated efforts) is the order of the day. During a game, umpires will often cover as much as 10 or 15 kilometres, and boundary umpires may cover 20km.
This is comparable to AFL umpires because while AFL umpires are much fitter than local league umpires (as a general rule), there are also more of them and therefore the distance they have to travel is less. They also tend to do less running as they are able to anticipate better and therefore do not need to retrace their own steps as much, meaning there is less work for them to do in this regard!
Fitness as an umpire involves being able to do extended periods of hard work with periodic short rests in between, and repeated high-intensity efforts ("triggers") when necessary. Throughout this (at least for field umpires) you will need to be able to indicate decisions, blow the whistle, communicate with players, control volatile situations, be mindful of your position and the "next act of play", and help your umpiring partners if they are having difficulty.
That said, at the junior level things are very different, and it's only once you get to the more senior levels that fitness becomes a real factor. At the junior level, so long as umpires can keep up with the speed of the junior game, they will be fine.
Types Of Training
Training on a weekly basis is focussed around three key areas:
- Running and other physical training
- Physical skills work (the drills involved in umpiring)
- Theoretical review and instructional skills work (lectures)
As a general rule, the focus is very much on physical fitness, since without it an umpire will not be able to get to the right positions (since they are not fit enough to keep up with the pace of the game) and therefore not be able to make the best decision possible.
There are also different types of running employed at training. These vary depending on a number of factors, and can alternate from "getting some kilometres into the legs" (pre-season), to working on trigger points, speed and changes of direction (mid-season), to tapering by a mix of the two and a focus on preservation of strength (approach to finals).
Types of running include:
- Long runs (e.g. 30 minutes non-stop)
- Time trials (e.g. 1km or 2km flat out, followed by a break; then repeat)
- 30 seconds on, a minute off, etc. (times may vary)
- Run-throughs (straight line runs, followed by a jog back to the start; then repeat)
- Suicides / shuttle runs
- Team-based running
Running is also often all about staying in your group and supporting the people in your group (who are of similar ability), and most of the time a "percentage of maximum" is used to indicated how fast you should be pushing yourself.
At all times, you should consider your own limitations, in particular if you have injuries or are recovering from any conditions that your training staff are unaware of.
Hydration is incredibly important as football (and umpiring) is a taxing sport which takes a lot of out of not only its competitors but its umpires. You should always be well hydrated for a game and avoid drinking too much alcohol in the lead up to a match. Research has shown that drinking alcohol can lower your performance for up to 2 days after you finish drinking, so you should consider this the next time you decide to have a big Friday night before your next Division 1 game!
Obviously this won't be a concern for the younger umpires, but keeping your fluid levels up is just as relevant. If you're dehydrated on the field you're less likely to be able to concentrate and perform at your maximum capacity, and because your muscles are starved of fluid they are more likely to tear and thus you are more likely to have a soft tissue injury on the field.
Rehydrating after a match is also important, particularly after a hot day or a big game, or both! Make sure you drink plenty of electrolytes and water after a match. Getting rehydrated as quickly as possible will help you recover and ensure you're in the best possible shape for your next training session.
The football season waits for no one!
A solid, sensible, balanced diet is imperative to ensuring that you perform at peak capacity on match day. Also important is ensuring that you eat sensibly on match day itself. You are going to cover a lot of ground at the game - make sure you've had a decent breakfast that morning and make sure that you're not hungry when you go out on the field.
You should have had plenty of carbs the night before. This will help fuel your muscles throughout the game and prevent you from suffering unnecessary fatigue.