Jacqui Jashari, Netball

Jacqui Jashari umpiring netball game
Author:  Cathy Reid
Issue: Volume 7 Number 1

Umpire leads the way

Striving for excellence rather than aiming for perfection is the philosophy of top Australian netball umpire Jacqui Jashari.

It is a motto that she is now passing on in her role as a mentor for Netball Australia, as part of the Australian Sports Commission’s National Officiating Scholarship Program.

‘We all make mistakes, but I call them ‘learning's,’ Jashari said. ‘I work at making less of them each time I umpire.’

Jacqui has had a meteoric rise on the national and international umpiring scene since she began blowing the whistle 15 years ago.

‘To start with it was really hard, but I’d been a player and a coach and had a good affiliation with the sport. I knew a lot of the people I umpired and that made it easier, but I still had to earn their respect.’

She took up umpiring so her club didn’t have to pay for one and at first she had no great aspirations.

Her first mentor was Faye Gladstone from Fremantle Netball Association.

‘She influenced my early umpiring through encouraging me and always being honest with me. I’ll never forget the support from Fremantle NA — the people there and the learning environment and opportunities they created for me.’

At first she didn’t know about the pathways that were available.

‘I had no idea that umpiring could one day take me around the world to international events.’

This has included World Championships, World Youth games, Test matches, the Trans Tasman Cup and the highlight — the Commonwealth Games.

‘Just being part of that was fantastic. It was also great to watch the techniques and skills of officials at other sporting events to see what they brought to their competition. It is always good to learn from other sports.’

Walking onto the court for any international match still gives Jacqui goosebumps, particularly when the national anthems are played. But there is one game in particular that is etched in her memory.

‘The most exciting game I’ve umpired was the bronze medal game at the last world championships when Jamaica beat England by one goal. The atmosphere was intense, the play was exhilarating and the crowd was wild.’

However, getting to that level has taken a lot of time, effort and sacrifice.

‘Initially, I set myself small goals each game. If you do that the rest will come.’
Jacqui honed her skills by attending training sessions.

‘I’d go to everything from regional to state and national league training — anything where I could work with players and coaches. I was determined to understand the game at every level.’

Jacqui continued to graduate through the different badges until she achieved her All Australian Umpire accreditation and her International Umpires Award.

And one of the hardest things she has had to work at is overcoming her nerves.

‘I have had to come up with some techniques to deal with them and the main thing I do is have Standard Operational Procedures (SOP). SOPs is about doing everything the same each time, like arriving, starting warm up, drinking and eating pre-match at the same time...it seems to work for me.

‘I always have my bag packed. I re-pack it each time I get back from a tournament and just have to make sure my children don't borrow my whistles and forget to put them back — which has happened on a few occasions. They now know not to touch the 'bag'!’

This helps when things don't always go according to plan.

‘Like in Jamaica when we were picked up to be taken to the court late, because they had the match time wrong. We arrived 10 minutes before the start of a televised match. I had everyone telling me there was no time for a warm-up and trying to get me to run onto the court. So it was a case of being firm and saying I needed at least 10 minutes.

‘When I did step out the players were on the court, the cameras were rolling and the coaches were saying where have you been! I still did SOPs — with a few adjustments of course. This kept me relatively calm.

‘As far as the nerves go — it’s about still having them but controlling them — the old 'getting the butterflies to fly in formation'.

That is more about belief in yourself, confidence and mental toughness — having the strength to say, I have done all the hard work, I can umpire this match and getting down to the business of being there for the players and the game.’

Sometimes a bit of levity can ease the pressure.

‘I remember umpiring a state league game and I was running down court and went to put my whistle in my mouth and it was facing the wrong way. Another time I went to do a hand signal and I flicked the end of my whistle sending it somersaulting through the air until I caught it with my other hand.’

Jacqui has been officially recognised with many awards, including WA Netball Umpire of the Year and the Women SportsWest Official of the Year, but the highlight was being named Official of the Year at the 2007/08 ANZ Sports Star Awards.

‘That was really fantastic as it doesn’t often go to a woman. It was a huge honour to receive it in front of so many sportspeople and officials that I have always admired.’

She would not have been able to get where she has without the support of her family and a great network, particularly mentors such as Chris Burton, Nola Goldman and Maureen Boyle.

Now she’s enjoying being a mentor for the next generation of umpires.

‘I really get a great deal of satisfaction out of it and it’s really nice for me to be able to give something back.

‘Something that I teach and abide by is that no matter what level you are officiating, it is important to be the best you can and to be a good role model for other umpires — but probably the most important thing is to enjoy the experience and have fun.’

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