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A Closer Look at Umpires Part 1: What it takes to be an Umpire



Every badminton game is made up of so many different working parts. We tend to focus only on the players when there are also those on the sidelines and behind the scenes that play significant roles in ensuring that the game is held properly so the players can give their best performance. These people are just as important to the game, as the players who compete on court. Without them, there would be no badminton game that would be interesting to see. 


Badminton Asia (BA) had the wonderful opportunity to interview 3 BWF umpires from Indonesia to get to know them better personally, but also to get their insights on the job, challenges and goals. We interviewed Wahyana, Robbertus Tommy Oscariano, and Abdul Latif Jaohari for this special article on the behind the scenes look at badminton umpires. 


“A Closer Look at Umpires” is a three-part series in which we dive into the topic of being an umpire. In this Part 1: “What it takes to be an Umpire” we will have a look at their background, who they are when they are not in uniform, how they got involved and what it takes to become a certified umpire.


The Path to Becoming a World-Class Umpire


All 3 umpires come from very different backgrounds. Outside of badminton, they all lead different lives, from working in education to the private sector. But all of them have one thing in common: a passion for badminton. That is how they all got involved with the sport. Each of them have a distinct story of how they ended up becoming a technical official.


Wahyana never dreamt of becoming an umpire. In fact, back in the day, he was a good volleyball player. Unfortunately, due to injuries, he was unable to play the sport again. But once he recovered, he picked up the racket and started playing badminton. Just as he began enjoying the game, a friend of his offered him to be an umpire at a district level and that led him to participate in an umpire course in 1998. As the year progressed, he took other umpire courses and tests to upgrade his skills.


Within 2000 to 2006, Wahyana completed provincial test, Indonesia’s national B-level test, A-level test until finally he got invited to participate in an Asia accreddication umpire course in Kuala Lumpur. That moment also happened to be his first time ever travelling outside of his home country, which was an incredible experience for Wahyana. 


Two years later in 2008, Wahyana obtained his Badminton Asia license. Four years later in 2012 he participated in a BWF certified test in Japan, where he said there were 12 out of 16 participants that passed including himself. Finally, in 2016 he obtained his BWF certification in China. 

Wahyana’s brief background highlights his long career and involvement in badminton, showing that it’s been something that has been with him for a long period of his life.


Robbertus Tommy Oscariano’s story is different, yet also similar. He, like Wahyana, never expected to become an umpire. It was his colleague in a regional badminton association who invited him to take part in badminton. He began as a line judge for about 1-2 years and transitioned into an umpire role in 2006. He found badminton interesting because in Indonesia, this was the sport that brought the country’s name forward worldwide. The fact that so many famous badminton players come from Indonesia made it an honor for Oscariano to become an umpire and a part of Indonesia’s badminton history. Since then, he’s always been excited about the sport, even now years on.


Abdul Latif Jaohari’s story is also filled with coincidences and was accidental too. It began when he was invited by his college friend to join the sport faculty and help hold a badminton conference and tournament. At that event, he met a BWF umpire and conversed a lot about badminton with him. Funnily enough, despite enjoying watching badminton tournaments on TV, Jaohari had never actually played badminton. He had a dream to be able to watch a live game and meet great badminton players and that’s what convinced him to take the first step into becoming an umpire. At that event, he eventually signed up and that’s how his journey as an umpire began. 


But despite the relatively ‘quick and easy’ introduction, it was Jaohari’s dedication that brought him where he is today. He studied the laws and regulations and in 2009, he participated in the province level. A year after that, he joined the national level and in 2012 he passed the national A-level in 1st place. The Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) then appointed him as a representative from Indonesia to join the Badminton Asia assessment in Korea in 2012. 


What their stories tell us is that all of them became umpires differently and most, coincidentally. Most of them were unexpected. But they all worked hard and studied, to pass all the national and international level courses in order to become the umpire they are today. 



A Labor of Love That Takes Them Worldwide


Throughout their many years of being an umpire, they’ve officiated countless tournaments. These tournaments are held worldwide from Indonesia to China, Japan, Singapore, Australia and also to Europe. 


Every year, they usually participate in at least 6 tournaments around the world. Interestingly, Oscariano says that as his position got higher, the less tournaments he did locally and more tournaments he did internationally. Previously, he would officiate 10-15 times, but once he umpired worldwide, it was around 6-7 times. It wasn’t just badminton that they would officiate in, but Jaohari also mentions that since 2018, he has also joined a para badminton course and would officiate in these matches, too. 



Required Training Needed


It’s important to note that although all 3 of them started their career as umpires almost accidentally, they did not become a good one overnight. 


Jaohari passed his BA certification assessment in 2014 and then attended a BWF course after being selected by BA. It is only after an umpire has passed their national accreditation and Badminton Asia certification assessment they can receive BWF accreditation. 


In preparing for the BWF umpire accredited course, Wahyana had to study the laws and regulations of badminton. He also recorded his voice in order to prepare himself for the practical exam as well. 


Oscariano received his BWF accreditation in 2017 and did all the required preparation as well, and according to him, thanks to the accessors in BA, they know what’s required to be an international umpire: not just the laws and regulations but also how to apply that skill and the presentation of themselves as umpires on court. 


All umpires went through the long journey from being a nationally-certified to an internationally-certified umpire. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to get to where they are today. 




What are the challenges that umpires face throughout their career? How has Covid-19 affected an umpire’s job? Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will dive into the challenges of being an umpire and how to overcome them.



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