It’s been a whirlwind few days for Peter Mair.
The SFNL’s Director of Umpiring was last night announced as the winner of the illustrious Community Coach of the Year at the Victorian Government Sport & Recreation Awards at the MCG.
He was also presented with the prestigious Umpire Coach of the Year (Metro) accolade in front of more than 500 people at Friday night’s AFL Victoria Community Football Awards gala dinner.
Both honours came as a shock to a humble Mair, who said that he was elated to be celebrated for doing what he loves.
“I am (thrilled). It’s great to be recognised for something I really enjoy doing. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it,” Mair said.
“It was a bit of a surprise, but nice to be recognised that’s for sure.”
Mair has been involved in umpiring for over 25 years and took up coaching as a means of maintaining his involvement in the umpiring fraternity after his own career as a whistle-blower was cut short by injury.
He was a field coach with the SFNL for a number of years before taking on the Director of Umpiring role in 2013.
Mair has focussed much of his efforts in trying to build a positive culture within the umpiring group that promotes self-development, which aims to not only help them become more capable umpires, but better people off the field as well.
“The key thing for us would be creating a really positive environment. An environment that umpires – whether they be female, male, new, anyone that’s wanting to umpire – (can) come into (and) know they’re going to enjoy and perform well in,” Mair explained.
“Our philosophy in coaching is based around developing people’s life skills, you know the communication skills, confidence, decision making skills, so that’s going to make them better umpires on-field, but it develops them as people off-field within the community, whether that’s at school or the workplace.”
Mair has also overseen the implementation of a number of procedural changes and technical innovations in 2015 that has vastly improved the overall quality of umpiring within the SFNL.
These include the increased use of video replays as a training tool, an emphasis on skills-based training incorporating match day scenarios and umpire self-assessment, which encourages umpires to be more proactive addressing areas of improvement, rather than simply relying on top-down feedback from coaches.
But the biggest technical change this season was the AFL-style electronic instant feedback, where coaches provide in-game comments from the sidelines via a wireless headset.
“Some of the umpires wear a headset and their coach actually speaks to them on match day… It’s not about their decision making, but it’s about their positioning on the ground, so that allows them to get into better positions to make better decisions as well,” Mair explained.
But despite his desire to develop and improve the skills of officiators, Mair hasn’t lost sight of the foremost reason that people become umpires.
And much like a local football club, he endeavours to maintain a social atmosphere for his group of umpires so they can continue to enjoy their craft.
“We’re like another club, really. It’s fair to say all the umpires are quality people and they’re really keen to learn and develop and I think if you’ve got that willingness to learn and develop it creates a really positive environment,” Mair said.
“In saying that, we want to have – at community level – a lot of fun as well. People join umpiring for a wide variety of reasons… but probably the majority of people at community sport are really involved for the social side of things.”
- Will Hunter
Peter accepts his AFL Victoria Umpire Coach of the Year Award on Friday night.
Photo courtesy of AFL Victoria.