A Closer Look at Umpires Part 2: The Challenges of the Indonesian Umpires
Last week, the first part of the three-part series “A Closer Look at Umpires” was released. In that article we discussed in detail on “What it takes to be an Umpire”. Badminton Asia (BA) had the privilege of interviewing 3 BWF umpires from Indonesia: Wahyana, Robbertus Tommy Oscariano, and Abdul Latif Jaohari to share their stories and experiences of their training they did and what their path was to become a world class umpire.
In this article, we go into Part 2: “The Challenges of the Indonesian Umpires”. This time, we will dive into their new experience at the Thailand Open, the difficulties of the job, and the change in landscape of the game.
A New and Historical Experience at the Thailand Open
To begin, let’s look back at what happened back in January of this year. Bangkok hosted back to back to back tournaments, starting from the Yonex Thailand Open to the Toyota Thailand Open and then finally the World Tour Finals -- the first tournaments after almost a year of pandemic break. It was an unprecedented event for everyone involved; badminton has never hosted multiple tournaments at this scale during these conditions.
Many players have shared what their experience was like playing in a tournament where COVID-19 guidelines had to be strictly followed. But how did it look from an umpire’s perspective? How did officiating with COVID-19 guidelines feel like?
According to all 3 umpires that we interviewed, it was both a very new and incredible experience.
“In normal circumstances, being an umpire is relatively easy; it’s not hard,” Wahyana said. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was difficult because there was the mandatory quarantine that all members must abide to, strict health protocols that must be followed, and PCR tests taken every 4 days. He mentions that besides all of these precautions taken, individually, everyone has to also take care of their own body and health. Wahyana even says that to keep themselves from being bored, they had multiple Zoom meetings room to room!
Both Tommy Oscariano and Abdul Latif Jaohari share similar experiences as well as it was the first time for everyone to be in this kind of competition. Jaohari even calls it a “historical moment in badminton tournaments”. He says that the competition itself is the same (except without spectators) but the way everything was prepared, and their daily lives was different from the start. Pre-tournament, they had to follow multiple COVID-19 guidelines and follow through during and after. Oscariano mentions that for safety reasons, they were put in a ‘bubble’ where they were only able to go from the hotel room to the hall and back, and each person had to be in their designated places for the benefit of the people involved. Oscariano believes that this could be the new standard for competitions during the pandemic.
One thing they all also shared with us is that despite the strict rules they followed, it was a fun experience. They were all protected and safe.
Challenges in being an Umpire
Officiating with COVID-19 guidelines was not the only challenge that an umpire has to deal with. Despite the joy and the thrill of being an umpire, it doesn’t come without its own challenges, even before COVID-19 pandemic happened.
Oscariano states that, for him, the biggest challenge was at the very beginning when he first started to learn all the rules and regulations. Once he mastered and comprehended them, his biggest challenge was improving himself and shaping himself into becoming the good umpire he wanted to be. He was honest in saying that he believes that he hasn’t reached ‘that stage’ yet because he still has a few flaws and makes minor mistakes. But with every mistake, there’s a lesson to be learnt. He continues to improve himself to become a better umpire at the international level.
Jaohari says that for him, a challenge is that for umpires they need to ‘seem perfect’ on court. By that he means that umpires must always deliver the right decisions, present themselves as confident, professional at all times and they must be aware. These are expected things of a professional umpire, but Jaohari says that while umpires always strive to do these things, they are also human, with their own problems off court. They might also make mistakes even when they try their best not too. It’s a challenge to be professional all the time, but it is one that must be done.
For Wahyana, fortunately he hasn’t experienced much difficulties in matches, however he offers advice and states that to him, the most important thing is being focused. And not just on the court, but also mastering the rules, and being disciplined, and sportsman like. It’s always good to keep studying and to follow the development of the game because it is always changing, never stagnant.
Officiating a Sport that Evolves with Technology
The 3 umpires have all been involved with the sport for a long time, some more than others. But they’ve all mentioned that there’s been multiple changes over the years. According to Wahyana, due to the development of world players, badminton is not as simple as before. It’s a sport that requires constant updates in the rules and regulations.
As it becomes more updated, it makes badminton a more enjoyable sport to watch for all. Jaohari mentions that the biggest change that he’s seen is not only the rule changes, but the technology that comes with it. An example would be the tracking system ‘Hawk-Eye’ that’s used to determine line calls and instant reviews, hopefully to enhance the experience for all involved.
Oscariano has also recently been a part of a huge milestone for BWF. He was one of the first batch of umpires to have been appointed by BWF as a semi-professional umpire, having officiated at the Asian Leg in January and at the YONEX Swiss Open 2021. His appointment along with the other umpires is significant for badminton as for the longest time, umpiring was voluntary. Now they have taken a big step into making umpiring as a viable career.
Additionally, in the interview he says that as the years go by, badminton as a sport is on a much bigger scale than before. Ever since badminton is played in the Olympics, it is on a much grander international scale. This is also in due part thanks to the rise in social media and live streaming, making badminton more accessible to a wider audience worldwide. As technology adapts, so do the umpires as well. As the more people are watching, the better umpires they strive to be.
What will the situation be like this year for umpires and badminton competitions as a whole? What are the opinions on the possible new scoring systems? Stay tuned for Part 3 where we will dive into these questions.