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Aussie sport officials program looking to go global

Steve Clark says the NOS program has become a significant part of the rugby league development program for officials.

22 Jul 2015

The Australian Sports Commission’s (ASC) National Officiating Scholarships (NOS) program has been assisting sports in Australia to develop their officials for the last 13 years and now international sporting organisations will be offered the same opportunity.

NOS Manager Ash Synnott and NRL Referee Development Manager Steve Clark will travel to the United States this week to meet with and present to major sporting organisations on how the program has benefited Australian sporting officials with the aim of attracting US sports for the newly developed International Elite Officiating Program.

Synnott is not aware of any other program like the ASC program for officials anywhere around the world.

“You see lots of officials academies across the world that provide the basic training but not the in depth well-being focus that we have. 

“We look at each individual on the program and treat them the same way we support high performance athletes by creating opportunities for them to work with specialists in areas such as psychology, nutrition, recovery, vision and media including social media. We even provide muscular- skeletal screenings for each official. 

“The cross pollination of sports is also a critical factor for the program. When you have an AFL umpire, a rugby league referee and a swimming official all sitting together and swapping experiences, that is what I think makes our program valuable.”

Steve Clark says the NOS program has become a significant part of the rugby league development program for officials.

“The NRL referees academy is really borne from the NOS program. It prepares our officials to be well rounded individuals and become more resilient.

“They become tough as the ups and downs of officiating in a high level rugby league competition can be like a roller coaster at times.

“A lot of our academy officials over the last few years have gone on to NRL level and that’s due to the opportunities they receive via the NOS program.

“As an ex NRL referee I would have loved to have a program like this when I was coming up through the ranks.”

What has been particularly pleasing for both Ash and Steve more recently is the emergence of female officials receiving scholarships in the program from what have traditionally been considered male dominated sports. 

“2015 is the first year that we have had female officials in the sports of rugby league, rugby union and cricket so we see that as a huge success, Synnott said.

“Having females in the program hopefully shows the other sports what can be done and inspires young females to follow the same pathway.”

Clark is confident that more he will see more female officials rising up to the NRL in coming years.

“Belinda Sleeman and Kasey Badger who are part of the NOS program this year are outstanding ambassadors and have already achieved NRL status.

“The fact that two females are in the program is demonstrating to young girls that there is real hope and opportunity to achieve your goals and that the best person will be successful whether you are female or male.”

Meetings have been scheduled in the United States with major sports such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and the US Tennis Association. The pair will also provide a keynote presentation at the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) 2015 Sports Officiating Summit in St Louis.           

“We presented in Europe last year and from there the President of NASO invited us to the United States to meet with their major sporting organisations and share our experience and expertise, Synnott said.

“We are also expecting to learn plenty from the sports in the United States and pick up some useful tips and tricks that we can take back home.

“Ultimately we would love for international sporting organisations to send administrators and officials over to us for week-long workshops and we can tailor our program for them.”

Read more about the scholarship program

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